Democrats introduce US - REACH bill

20 May 2008 23:29  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Democrat members of Congress introduced a bill on Tuesday to establish a US version of the EU’s REACH, saying industry must prove that some 80,000 chemicals in commerce are safe if they are to continue in use.


Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) said that “it is critical that we modernise our nation’s chemical safety laws”.


Sponsored in the House of Representatives by Democrats Hilda Solis and Henry Waxman, both of California, the “Kids Safe Chemicals Act” would establish a safety standard for each of the 80,000 chemicals that the sponsors said are in US commerce and consumer products.


Like the EU’s programme for registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH), the pending bill uses the precautionary principle approach, requiring that substances be proven safe for human and environmental exposure before they are allowed in commerce.


Existing US chemicals regulatory law, chiefly the 30-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), takes a risk-based approach to chemicals testing.


Lautenberg’s bill also would “shift the burden for proving chemicals are safe from EPA [the Environmental Protection Agency] to the chemical manufacturers”, the senator said.


Under the bill, chemical manufacturers would have to provide EPA with data necessary to determine if a chemical is safe, and EPA would have new authority to bar the production or import of substances that fail to meet safety standards or for which there is insufficient safety data.


The safety of all industrial chemicals would have to be demonstrated by industry under EPA review within 15 years, according to the bill summary.


The agency also would be authorised to require additional testing of chemicals proven safe for commerce if new science or testing methods become available.


Any chemical suspected of causing human health problems and detected in human cord blood “would be immediately targeted for restrictions”, according to Lautenberg.


The senator said that “Recent news regarding bisphenol A in baby bottles underscores the need for significant reform to ensure children are not unnecessarily exposed to chemicals which threaten their health and environment”.


“The Kids Safe Chemicals Act is needed to repair the fundamentally flawed chemical regulatory structure,” Lautenberg said, referring to TSCA, saying that of the 80,000 chemicals in commerce, the EPA has required testing of only 200.


The bill is similar to one that Lautenberg introduced in July 2005 but which was never acted on by the Senate.


US chemical industry officials were not immediately available for comment.


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By: Joe Kamalick
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