Unlike Industry Bill, Boxer-Markey Bill Protects Health, Families

Unlike Industry Bill, Boxer-Markey Bill Protects Health, Families

March 13, 2022

The two chemical safety “reform” bills introduced this week provide a clear choice for members of Congress.

One bill, introduced by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., would require that chemicals be safe, set clear deadlines, provide needed resources, preserve a role for the states and provide an expedited process to ban asbestos. The chemical industry-backed bill, introduced by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and David Vitter, R-La., would not.

Here are the 10 key differences between the two bills:

  1. Boxer-Markey bill strengthens chemical safety reviews – Toxic industrial chemicals that end up in people’s bodies – and even contaminate babies before they are born – should be at least as safe as pesticides. The industry bill would retain the very weak “no unreasonable risk of harm” safety standard rather than the “reasonable certainty of no harm” standard applied to pesticides on produce and to food additives. By contrast, the Boxer-Markey bill applies the “reasonable certainty of no harm” standard.
  1. Boxer-Markey bill puts health first – The industry bill is at best ambiguous about whether the EPA must consider costs and benefits when determining whether a chemical poses a risk. While one section seems to exclude consideration of costs and benefits, the section that defines how the safety of chemicals will be regulated does require consideration of costs (Sec. 6(d)(4)). What’s more, the bill explicitly requires a cost-benefit analysis if industry wants one if EPA seeks to ban or phase out any chemical (Sec. 6(d)(5)(D)). The Boxer-Markey bill only requires that a cost-benefit analysis be part of the safety assessment if the effect on the economy is likely to exceed $100 million a year (Sec. 6(d)(6)(A)).
  1. Chemical spills included – The industry bill requires consideration of “reasonably foreseeable” chemical exposures, but there is no requirement for safety assessments of the exposures and risks that might result from a spill. About 10,000 tons of chemicals are spilled every year in the U.S. The industry bill also lacks explicit environmental justice protections for communities that bear the brunt of the harm from events such as last year’s West Virginia spill. The Boxer-Markey bill addresses this problem head-on by requiring consideration of “reasonably foreseeable but unintended exposure conditions from unplanned releases into the environment” –such as chemical spills.
  1. Boxer-Markey bill sets tough deadlines – The EPA estimates that roughly a thousand chemicals need immediate health and safety reviews. Under the industry bill, that process could take hundreds of years. It would give the EPA up to five years just to start safety reviews of 25 chemicals and would allow the agency up to seven years to assess each one. Under the Boxer bill, deadlines are much tougher. The EPA would have to start evaluating 75 chemicals within five years and would allow only up to six years for each one. In addition, the Boxer-Markey bill would require expedited safety reviews of asbestos and chemicals that persist in the environment and build up in our bodies.
  1. No pay-to-play for safety reviews – The industry bill would allow manufacturers to get expedited reviews of their favored chemicals for a fee, but it would not require expedited review of asbestos or extremely dangerous chemicals that persist in the environment and build up in people. There is no such pay-to-play provision in the Boxer-Markey bill. Boxer would only provide expedited consideration of asbestos and toxic chemicals that are persistent and build up in our bodies.

Read the other 5 key differences between the two bills here.