Obama signs the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act

Obama signs the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act

On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed into law a long awaited bill that places stronger regulations on chemicals. This new law is called the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Under this new law, asbestos, the known carcinogen once used as a flame retardant and insulation can finally be banned in the United States. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act updates the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that went into effect in 1976 and hasn’t been updated since. It will allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more control over monitoring certain chemicals and hopefully set a standard that all chemicals will be required to meet.

Many Americans believe that once a product is on the shelves and ready for consumers, that it has been fully tested and deemed safe. This is not true, and Americans are continually exposed to chemicals from household items that may actually be doing more harm than good and this is where many believe, that TSCA of 1976 has failed.  With the new law in place, the EPA would have to screen and certify products before they hit the market and become available to the public. The EPA is now able to take into consideration different populations such as children and pregnant women to develop their standard and approve chemicals.

This is particularly big news for those who are for the ban of asbestos. Asbestos was initially banned in 1989 but the ban was over-turned in 1991, and because of this, asbestos can still be found in the framework of homes, children’s toys, and even cars. Asbestos, along with formaldehyde and flame retardants, will be some of the first chemicals to be evaluated under this new law. However, even though we are one step closer to beginning the ban of asbestos in the United States, the new law has its shortcomings – one being the timeline on how long it would actually take to get the carcinogen banned. According to the legislation, it can still take up to seven years for asbestos to be banned. This has environmentalists concerned as Americans are still getting sick and hundreds of thousands of people could lose their lives during the seven-year period.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is not without flaw, but considering the amount of time that has passed without any sort of update to the TSCA, it is a huge step forward into regulating chemicals and correctly determining safety.

Schneider, “Long-awaited, landmark chemical safety legislation is signed into law, but flaws exists,” Andrew Schneider’s Cold Truth, (June 22, 2016). [Link]

Darryl Fears/The Washington Post, “Obama just signed a law the affects nearly every product you use,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, (June 23, 2016). [Link]


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