Many years ago, I had the chance to meet the President of the United States. The honor and reverence that the Presidency deserves also applies to other distinctly American offices, buildings, and processes. So, when I had the chance to lobby at The White House before The White House Environmental Council, my patriotism swelled and I took the assignment more serious than any other effort. Speaking of serious, I was fortunate to be discussing one of the most serious and important issues facing our nation and our citizens . . . potential reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed by the United States Congress in 1976. Just to put that into perspective, in 1976 gas was $.59 a gallon, Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford for the Presidency, Nadia Comaneci was winning gold in the Olympics, and some upstart named Sylvester Stallone was in a new movie called “Rocky.”
TSCA was supposed to regulate the introduction of new or already existing chemicals. Many have viewed it as a tremendous failure mostly due to the fact that it grandfathered most existing chemicals at the time – while also giving chemical manufacturers a long period of time to introduce new, untested chemicals before the new law took effect.
Bottom line, it is absurd and scary the lack of impact this legislation has had in protecting our fellow Americans. Seriously… is this a joke… our government leaders haven’t addressed the use of dangerous chemicals in our lives and consumer products in nearly 40 years?
Last year, the bipartisan team of Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation to start the TSCA review process. Tragically, Lautenberg died a short time later but there is still activity in Congress to get something done in 2014 with either modified or new TSCA related bills.
Although these efforts are good news, the devil is in the details and concerned citizens should push for TSCA reform that protects consumers. The chemical industry also claims to be supportive of TSCA reform but that should be greeted with a raised eyebrow. The bad bills that are currently introduced could actually do more harm than good. A bad bill supported by the chemical industry could give them tremendous protections, remove concerns about current state requirements, all the while giving them the chance to feign being a good corporate citizen.
Our company, Naturepedic, is a great story: we make organic crib and adult mattresses. We were founded 10 years ago when our owner, an environmental scientist with a prolific chemical background, went into a baby store to buy a crib mattress for his grandchild. Thanks to his technical science background, he knew it was ludicrous to put a baby on a mattress made with plasticizers, flame retardants and other questionable chemicals.
In a life changing moment, upon his questioning, the clerk stated, “Well, it must be safe or else the government wouldn’t allow us to sell it.” The truth is, there are around 80,000 chemicals in use today with only a miniscule fraction that have truly been tested for their potentially dangerous impacts. Most average citizens have no idea what chemicals they are exposing themselves to and the government has failed them.
The good news is there are some great companies leading the fight. As stated, Naturepedic doesn’t want you or your baby sleeping on a pile of chemicals.
The American Sustainable Business Council is leading the fight to remove harmful chemicals from consumer products. Naturepedic and Lullaby Earth support this initiative. Other responsible companies like, for example, Seventh Generation and Ben and Jerry’s, have also joined with the ASBC to remove harmful chemicals from consumer products.
There are “better” chemicals . . . and there are better ways of doing things without some chemicals . . . and if done correctly, TSCA reform could be one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed. Congress still teeters around 18% approval ratings. Here is a bipartisan effort that both sides could agree on that would mean everything to the safety of our people . . . whether they knew it or not. Editorial boards across the country need to become engaged and use their influence to let Congress know this is one issue they better get right.