U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal pledged his support Wednesday for legislation that will require the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate harmful chemicals based on the best available science.
The pledge for the Safe Chemicals Act was made at an event in Bushnell Park.
The Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut joined Blumenthal to express growing concerns about harmful chemicals in the market during a nationwide day of events coordinated by public health group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
“There are 83,000 toxic chemicals in commerce today, and only 200 have been tested and of those only about five have been regulated,” said Anne Hulick, a coordinator for the coalition.
In an effort to regulate harmful chemicals, the state legislature passed a measure earlier this year that bans BPA from paper receipts by 2015.
Hulick said Connecticut’s legislation is a start but the coalition wants tougher legislation to regulate or ban more harmful chemicals.
Blumenthal, who helped remove Bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles as the state’s attorney general, said he aims to continue the state’s work on harmful chemicals on the federal level.
“We led the country in protecting against toxic and unsafe chemicals, we led the country in banning BPA from certain products and now I’m hoping we can lead the nation and I hope the Safe Chemicals Act will lead the nation in making our products and environment healthy,” said Blumenthal.
This legislation, which could go before the Environment and Public Works Committee in the fall, will require the chemical industry to develop and provide information on the health and environmental safety of chemicals in order to enter or remain in the market, according to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
It seeks to update the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 , which allows the Environmental Protection Agency to require tests and restrictions on certain chemicals but excludes several groups including cosmetics, food and pesticides, according to the EPA website.
The Safe Chemicals Act would increase manufacturers’ responsibility to test their chemicals but Blumenthal said those he spoke with stood behind keeping parents and children safe.
While the Toxic Substance Control Act regulates some harmful chemicals, Blumenthal believes the 35-year-old law is outdated and narrowly focused.
“There are new chemicals and many more of them that may be unsafe in ways that we had no inkling of 35 years ago,” Blumenthal said. “The Safe Chemicals Act updates a measure that was good in its time, but certainly brought us chemicals that have good effects if they are treated proper but may be toxic and unsafe if the parents are unaware of the bad effects.”
The problem of determining which products are safe is an issue for parents like Laura Anderson, who is a mother of two and a volunteer for the coalition.
“As a parent I wouldn’t expose my children to anything dangerous especially chemicals and as a society that is what we are doing, we are exposing ourselves and our kids,” said Anderson. She said consumers just buy products with dangerous chemicals sometimes because it is too difficult to avoid all the products.
More than a dozen children from Hartford Recreation Department’s program signed a card for U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman that said “Senator, protect me from harmful chemicals.”
All the children who signed the card received a free ride on the Carousel in Bushnell Park, according to Hulick.
The letter included information from a Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families report that linked harmful chemical exposure with an increase in cases of several forms of cancer, birth deficits, asthma and Autism-spectrum disorder.
Hulick said the coalition reached out to Lieberman’s office several weeks ago for support but have not heard from him on the matter.
The legislation was introduced with little fanfare in April. The only media attention it received was in May when actress Jessica Alba announced her support for it during a visit to Capitol Hill.