The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accepted a draft of a bipartisan amendment bill that will restructure the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a policy that regulates chemical testing laws that determine which substances are “safe” to put in household products like soaps, containers and toys.

The bill hasn’t been changed for four decades and “stakeholders from across the spectrum have agreed for years that it is woefully outdated and needed to be updated,” said Republican Senator David Vitter in a recent press conference. “But of course, there were serious disagreements about exactly how.”

Cleaning products. (Photo Credit: Keith Williamson / Flickr)

Cleaning products. (Photo Credit: Keith Williamson / Flickr)

The update will allow the EPA to monitor, test and determine whether chemicals used in everyday products are safe for humans and the environment. New chemicals will have to be approved by the EPA before they can be sold to the public, and the EPA will be authorized to gather fees from companies to pay for this added duty.

Groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation and the Bipartisan Policy Center supported the legal reform.

The legislation “is a major agreement in terms of protecting the health and safety of American families…[and] is a major environmental reform,” said Democratic Senator Tom Udall, who is a key supporter of the bill.

Why are Republicans supporting the bill? In the words of Senator Vitter, the TSCA “was creating uncertainty that endangered American companies continuing to lead in innovation that makes all our lives better through products we use every minute of every day.”

Some democrats are skeptical of the amendment because the EPA’s ruling will, among other things, supersede state rights to enforce regional, historically more stringent, rules and regulations on chemicals.

Asbestos warning at Bauer Elementary, Miamisburg, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Ktorbeck via WikiMedia Commons)

Asbestos warning at Bauer Elementary, Miamisburg, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Ktorbeck via WikiMedia Commons)

“I stopped this bill dead for years because this bill didn’t do what I thought it should have done,” said California Democrat Barbara Boxer. However, the Senator claims that recent changes make it “better than current law.” Boxer argues that it will help ban dangerous chemicals like asbestos and prioritize safety standards on chemical sites near drinking water.

Overall, the bill will give the EPA more regulatory power to limit harmful toxins from entering our homes. As Boxer says, there’s still work to be done but the law is a step in the right direction towards limiting the human and environmental harm caused by chemical companies.

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