Labor and Environmental Partners Urge Passage of Chemicals Reform

The BlueGreen Alliance today urged Congress to pass comprehensive reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act to protect workers and communities from toxic chemicals, enhance public health and promote safer alternatives.

April 14, 2010

BlueGreen Alliance Releases Statement on TSCA Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 14, 2010) The BlueGreen Alliance today urged Congress to pass comprehensive reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to protect workers and communities from toxic chemicals, enhance public health and promote safer alternatives. The labor-environmental partnership released a statement outlining eight provisions for comprehensive reform. This comes as both the House and Senate prepare to release their versions of chemicals reform legislation.

Read the Statement on the Reform of Chemicals Policy in the United States.

“The 30-year-old law regulating harmful chemicals in the United States is woefully outdated and must be modernized,” said United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard, a co-founder of the BlueGreen Alliance. “By reforming TSCA, we have an opportunity to ensure that the government has the tools it needs to enforce this law, which will protect the health and safety of workers in the chemicals industry, and many others, while making our environment cleaner and safer.”

The TSCA reform provisions released by the labor-environmental partnership today include taking immediate action to reduce the public’s exposure to the chemicals that pose the greatest threat, requiring chemicals manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of their products and publicly disclose information about the health and environmental health hazards and potential exposures on every chemical they make, and providing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the clear authority to establish health and safety standards, to evaluate whether a chemical meets such standards, and to take effective action where a chemical cannot be shown to be safe.

“Knowing what is in these chemicals, and knowing that this law has the teeth to enforce clear health and safety standards, is imperative to ensuring the health of our people and our environment,” said Carl Pope, Executive Chairman of the Sierra Club, a co-founder of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Ensuring a cleaner, safer environment as part of a sustainable economy will result in good jobs and safe communities.”

The provisions also encourage the prioritization of the use of green chemistry and engineering, improved coordination among the government agencies that have a responsibility for preventing chemical exposures to workers and the public, and public investment in applied research and the production of safer alternatives, as well as training and transition support for workers, communities and small businesses.

“In the last 30 years, TSCA has been used to require testing on just 200 of the 80,000 chemicals now produced in the United States, and only five have been restricted under this law,” said Charlotte Brody, Director of Chemicals and Green Chemistry at the BlueGreen Alliance. “Reform is necessary to ensure that we have control over the health and safety of our families and our communities.”

“Ensuring that our environment is clean, and that we are free from the burden of hazardous chemicals, must be a high priority,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Building a sustainable economy that creates good, safe jobs and healthy communities is a goal that everyone can get behind.”

The BlueGreen Alliance also released nine principles for chemical and occupational health and safety. The principles included effective reform of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the EPA to ensure the agencies have the clear authority and necessary resources to enforce existing law, establish and implement new rules and standards, and take strong corrective actions when those rules and standards are not met.

Read the Chemical and Occupational Safety and Health Principles.

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The BlueGreen Alliance is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the clean energy economy. Launched by the United Steelworkers and Sierra Club in 2006, the BlueGreen Alliance now includes the Communications Workers of America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Service Employees International Union, Utility Workers Union of America, American Federation of Teachers, Amalgamated Transit Union, and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.