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Gloria Pan's picture

When a toddler falls after taking his first step, mom picks him up so he can try again. When a child struggles with learning how to read, mom works with her every day until she gets it. Perseverance is one of the fundamental lessons moms teach their kids. Well, it’s time for moms to remind lawmakers to keep trying as they finally turn their attention to protecting public health from dangerous chemicals.

After decades of inaction, the U.S. Senate is poised to consider a new bi-partisan bill to overhaul our system of regulating chemicals and toxics. It’s far from certain, however, that lawmakers are committed to seeing the process through to the end so that we end up with commonsense regulations that do what they’re supposed to do: protect the health of families and communities.

Since Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1976, only 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the United States have been tested for safety, and of those, only five have been restricted. That’s right -- chemicals are largely unregulated in the United States, which is why moms have to worry about constant exposure to toxic substances like flame retardants, bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. They are all around us in everyday products like furniture, packaging and household cleaners, and on the fruits and vegetables we eat. Such chemicals have been linked to cancers and learning disabilities, as well as damage to immune, nervous, or reproductive systems, especially in young, growing bodies.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was the United States’ first effort to regulate dangerous chemicals back in 1976, and proved to be largely ineffective. But has Congress ever gone back to fix it? Not yet. That’s why it’s so exciting that something seems to be happening now.

Here's the lowdown: Several weeks ago, just before his death, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) worked with Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) to introduce the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), which helped focus policy makers’ attention on finally trying to fix the shortcomings in TSCA. A lot of work, however, is still needed to ensure the legislation is strong and truly protects public health.

Look at how long it took for Congress to finally try to improve regulation of dangerous chemicals: 37 years! This time around, we have to make sure our lawmakers do it right. The Chemical Safety Improvement Act must include the following commonsense measures to protect children and communities from dangerous chemicals:

  1. Establish clear protections for children, pregnant women, and hotspot communities heavily affected by pollution and toxic chemicals.
  2. Allow states to progress on toxics and support their right to be more protective than federal standards.
  3. Lay burden of proof for chemical safety on manufacturers rather than the public.
  4. Empower EPA to move quickly on the worst chemicals, including bans and phase outs if necessary.
  5. Establish timetables and deadlines to provide guidance and incentives for making quick and thoughtful progress to protect public health from dangerous chemicals.

Congress has a lot of work to do to finally improve the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In order to make sure they actually do it, moms and family members have to be loud and clear about our expectations and join our voices to urge them forward.

Please sign MomsRising’s petition now that tells lawmakers that moms and families expect them to persevere and reform our toxics laws now, and we need it done right this time!

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