Toxic Chemicals Reform Bill Proposed to Better Protect Against Dangerous Toxins

Illustration of legal cases for asbestos and mesothelioma

Linda Reinstein, President and Co-Founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), continues to work with Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to pass a Toxic Chemicals Reform Bill that will provide greater protection to citizens from dangerous chemicals and toxins, including asbestos.

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Director Andy Igrejas said the bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take expedited action on the worst chemicals and establishes a more aggressive schedule for reviewing the remaining chemicals. It also maintains states’ right to protect people from these hazardous toxins.

The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was the last time legislation regarding this matter was updated. It’s widely viewed as a broken and unenforceable law. This 2015 reform has been coined as the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act.

The name comes from two affected victims. The first individual being Reinstein’s late husband who died in 2006 at 66 years of age from mesothelioma, the aggressive cancer affecting the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. The second individual being Trevor Schaefer, a brain cancer survivor who was diagnosed 12 years ago at age 13.

Over 80,000 chemicals go unregulated in homes, schools, and workplaces. The Boxer-Markey bill hopes to ban asbestos and manage the risk of the most hazardous 1,000 as well as represent the thousands of Americans who have become sick or who have died as a result of toxic chemicals. The chemicals can cause cancer, (including types of mesothelioma,) in addition to cardiovascular disease, developmental disorders, respiratory disorders, neurological disorders, endocrine disruption, and a variety of other conditions.

According to the bill’s summary, it better protects public health with much stronger mandates being placed upon the EPA such as requiring swift action on types of cancer-causing asbestos and ensuring its assessments of chemicals are consistent with those of the National Academy of Sciences. The bill also gives the public greater voice, providing citizens the explicit right to make challenges in court. And lastly, the bill continues to allow states to prevent the EPA from preempting state authority and to enforce chemical restrictions of the federal government.

Besides receiving the backing of Reinstein, Boxer, and Markey, 450 other health, safety, and environmental organizations have joined the cause in opposition to the already existing “Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act” supported by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

“The bill doesn’t even mention ‘asbestos’ and would take more than a century to analyze dangerous chemicals,” said Reinstein. Environmentalists said the bill fails to address a ban on asbestos as well as maintain states’ rights to protect against dangerous toxins.

The United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a legislative hearing for the Udall-Vitter bill on March 18. Chairman Jim Inhofe did not allow the Boxer-Markey bill to enter the discussion.

“The fact that the Vitter-Udall bill will not even restrict, much less ban, the deadly substance that claims 30 lives a day is nothing short of a national travesty,” said the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. “Any Senator who supports this industry proposal is in essence supporting the continuation of the toll asbestos has already had on millions of American families.”