The House of Representatives is starting to move legislation that would fundamentally overhaul chemical laws for the first time in over three decades.

The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act, H.R. 5820, introduced last week by Reps. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), seeks to reform the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, enacted under President Ford in 1976.

toxic-chemicals-featured.jpgAccording to the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based consumer and environmental advocacy group, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act would make a number of significant changes in the current approach to chemical regulation, including:

-Establishing a framework to ensure that all chemicals to which the American people are exposed are reviewed for safety and restricted where necessary to protect public health and the environment.

-Requiring the chemical industry to develop and provide to the Environmental Protection Agency essential safety data, and improving EPA’s authority to compel safety testing where necessary.

-Ensuring that non-confidential information about chemicals submitted to EPA is readily available to the public and that critical confidential information is shared among regulators, state officials, and workers in the industry.

-Establishing an expedited process enabling EPA to reduce exposure to chemicals that are known to be persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.

-Promoting research to advance understanding of children’s vulnerability to the harms of chemicals.

“Not as much as a speed bump dots the current regulatory path that toxic chemicals travel to get on the market, in products and ultimately into people.” said Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook. “The House plan, along with legislation introduced earlier this year in the Senate, will finally bring some order to the free-wheeling, ‘wild west’ approach industry has enjoyed for more than 30 years, sending thousands of chemicals through the EPA’s toothless review program faster than a bullet through a barrel.”

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced his proposal for reform, titled the Safe Chemicals Act, in April. The House and Senate bills are similar in their approach, asking industry to prove that a chemical is safe before it can be introduced into the marketplace.

The Grocery Manufacturers of America said last week the group welcomes the legislation.

“We agree with the Chairmen that it is time to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act, and have been working with Congress, the Administration, and stakeholders to enhance the way chemicals are reviewed and managed,” said Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the the Grocery Manufacturers in a statement. “We hope to continue working with the committee as they further refine the bill.”

“The food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry is committed to helping enact meaningful [Toxic Substances Control Act] reform based on sound science that will ensure consumer confidence, while promoting jobs and innovation,” said Bailey.

A summary and text of the House bill were available on the Energy and Commerce Committee Website.