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Both houses of Congress are moving to reform the notoriously weak Toxic Substances Control Act, which is supposed to ensure the safety of chemicals used in a wide range of consumer and industrial products. The measures under consideration have strong bipartisan support and are thus likely to provide the first significant reforms to the law since it was enacted nearly four decades ago.
The measures are a substantial improvement over the current abysmal lack of enforcement, but neither would provide the public with what it needs most: speedy evaluations of the most worrisome chemicals among tens of thousands that have never been tested for safety. The Environmental Protection Agency has been hindered from regulating them by adverse court decisions, a lack of resources and weak provisions in the law itself.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bipartisan bill on April 28 by a hefty 15-to-5 vote despite strenuous objections by Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, whose stronger bill gained no Republican support. The bill approved by the committee has attracted 40 co-sponsors, 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats, a remarkable feat in a Congress that is typically gridlocked by partisan warfare.
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