President Obama on Wednesday signed the first overhaul to the country’s toxic chemicals laws in 40 years, thanks in part to the efforts of two U.S. senators from New Jersey.
Sen. Cory Booker co-sponsored the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, named for the late senator who championed the law before passing away in 2013 at age 89.
The law, which garnered bipartisan support in the House and Senate, gives the Environmental Protection Agency more power to regulate dangerous chemicals in everyday products and test them before they go to market.
“These thousands of chemicals that are being entered into consumer products — from our rugs to our beds to our clothing — they wouldn’t be innocent until proven guilty,” said Booker. “We would prove them as innocent and non-cancer-causing. We’d have a process for testing them to make sure they’re safe before they go into consumer use.”
The law forces the EPA to set safety standards for toxic chemicals including formaldehyde and asbestos, and it aims to further standardize other rules around dangerous chemicals that differ by state.
Booker, an avowed vegan, also pushed for a provision to limit the testing of chemicals on animals, now that the EPA will be conducting more inspections.
“If there are other means of doing this without torturing and injecting bunny rabbits and the like, you have to use those other measures,” said Booker.
Also on hand for the White House bill signing was Lautenberg’s wife, Bonnie, who praised her late husband’s work on protecting consumers from toxic chemicals.
“Seeing this bill finally pass is a dream come true because it meant so much to my late husband,” said Lautenberg. “He was all about saving lives and wanting us all to live in a cleaner and healthier place.”