States like California have their own policies in place for regulating the chemicals found in myriad consumer products, but New Mexico does not — and we are not alone.
Most states have not taken such action, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Tuesday in Albuquerque while touting the need for new, uniform federal regulations on chemicals already used in the likes of furniture, carpet and water bottles — some that have been linked to diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s.
“It may surprise you, but the vast majority of states across the country do not have a regulatory mechanism. They haven’t spent the dollars and the time; they’ve relied on the federal scheme which hasn’t been working,” Udall said during a news conference at a local business, Southwest Green Home Center, which sells toxin-free home goods. “Even states like Ohio and Virginia are in the same place as New Mexico. The vast majority of states aren’t protected.”
Udall has sponsored a bill that would give the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to test the safety of the estimated 85,000 chemicals in use and the power to review the approximately 750-1,500 new chemicals that emerge annually before they go on the market. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act would update the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act. It already passed the House by a landslide margin, and Udall said he expected a Senate to pass the bill in the first half of June. It would then go to President Barack Obama, who already has indicated his support.
Udall and a series of speakers said Tuesday that the reform is badly needed, noting that Americans often incorrectly assume the government has OK’d the chemicals used to make the items they find at stores, whether it’s a sofa or a children’s toy.
Caroline Scruggs, an assistant professor at University of New Mexico who studied the safe use of chemicals while earning her doctorate from Stanford University, said her research has shown “a clear and urgent need” to update the 1976 law but that becoming a mother drove the point home. She said she has tried to study the chemicals in products her sons use and worries about exposing them to toxins.
“Americans shouldn’t need to research product ingredients or have training in toxicology or chemical engineering to understand if they’re buying safe products,” she said. “Tens of thousands of chemicals are on the market and only a handful have received safety testing and under current (federal law), and it’s almost impossible for EPA to restrict risky chemicals.”
The chemical industry will contribute $25 million annually to the EPA under the proposed law, bolstering the agency’s toxics-related department budget to about $80 million, Udall said.