Six years ago, a California environmental group learned that certain baby bibs were made with potentially dangerous amounts of lead. A lawsuit followed, asserting that the bibs violated California's sweeping environmental toxins law. As a result, Wal-Mart and
The federal law has been, for all intents and purposes, out of commission since the
The bill that would replace it — the Chemical Safety Improvement Act — would call on the EPA to review all new chemicals; existing ones are optimistically presumed to be safe. But there still would be too little testing before such chemicals could be brought to market, and there would be no deadlines for regulating any of them in a timely way. A stronger law is needed, one that empowers the EPA to demand safety tests on chemicals before it is asked to review them and mandates reviews of some existing chemicals as well.
But the worst part of the bill is the provision that would preempt state laws such as California's that have been protecting the public in the absence of meaningful EPA regulation. Under the bill, once the EPA identified a chemical as being a priority for possible regulation, the chemical would be considered part of federal jurisdiction, and any state laws governing it would cease to have any authority. The EPA could then leave the chemical untested and unregulated for years. It's a gift to industry.