New chemical safety bill from Lautenberg, Vitter may finally strengthen regulations

    A new bill co-sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and David Vitter (R-La.) could break more than two decades of Washington gridlock over updating the nation’s chemical safety standards.

    Health advocates have long wanted to grant the Environmental Protection Agency more power to regulate potentially dangerous chemicals in everything from water bottles to crib mattresses.

    Updating the Toxic Substances Control Act has also been a long fight for Lautenberg, 89.

    The new proposal, announced last week, now appears to be winning the support of many environmental, health and industry groups.

    “It’s definitely a compromise,” said Andy Igrejas, the director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of public health and environmental advocates.

    The new bill in the Senate would update a chemical safety law that’s 37 years old and widely seen as dysfunctional.

    Igrejas says the compromise isn’t perfect, but it’s a clear improvement over existing regulations. “The good news is you see a coalition of senators that could really make something happen,” he said.

    The proposed bill, known as the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013, was also praised by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a leading industry group.

    “We now have a historic legislative opportunity that can be embraced by both sides of the aisle,” ACC president Cal Dooley said in a statement, “an accomplishment all too rare in Washington today.”

    Chemical safety has long been a pet cause for Lautenberg, who announced earlier this year that he plans to retire at the end of his current term.

    According to a report in the New York Times, the new chemical safety bill stems in part from the Senate’s failure in April to pass mandatory background check legislation for firearm purchases.

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