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Protect Families from Toxic Chemicals

Date: 
06/30/2014

Every day, we use products that contain toxic chemicals with little or no understanding of how these chemicals impact our bodies.  Today, Citizen Action/Illinois and the Safer Chemicals / Healthy Families Coalition are working to remove these chemicals from everyday products. 

The Safer Chemicals / Healthy Families Coalition represents more than 11 million individuals and includes parents, health professionals, advocates for people with learning and developmental disabilities, reproductive health advocates, environmentalists, and businesses from across the nation. The coalition of diverse groups is united by their common concern about toxic chemicals in our homes, places of work, and products we use every day.


Take Action

We need the nation's largest drugstore chain - Walgreens - to get serious about protecting us from toxic chemicals.  Please take a second to sign onto our petition.  


The Root of the Problem

The root of the problem lies in the flawed Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), which hasn’t been updated since Gerald Ford was president.  Even the chemical industry agrees that the TSCA needs to be reformed. Our coalition will work to update the TSCA and will continue to pressure major retailers to take action on their own.

TSCA (toss-ka) stands for the Toxic Substances Control Act. Passed in 1976 under President Gerald Ford, it is our nation’s main law aimed at regulating chemicals used in everyday products. The Safer Chemicals / Healthy Families coalition is calling for an overhaul of TSCA based on the law’s inability to protect the health of the American public from exposure to harmful chemicals. By updating TSCA, Congress can create the foundation for a sound and comprehensive chemicals policy that protects public health and the environment, while restoring the luster of safety to U.S. goods in the world market.

Why TSCA is flawed

  • Toys and food containers sold in the U.S. are NOT regulated and tested for safety.
  • Over 80,000 chemicals have been placed on the market and made available for use since the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976. The EPA has required very few of these to be tested for their impact on human health and the environment.
  • TSCA allows chemical manufacturers to keep the ingredients in some chemicals secret — nearly 20 percent of the 80,000 chemicals are secret, according to the EPA.
  • Instead of requiring chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are safe before they go into use, the law says the government has to prove actual harm in order to control or replace a dangerous chemical.

Congress is working to fix TSCA

It’s clear we need to fix our broken federal chemical safety system. But what’s most critical is that we make sure TSCA reform is done right. We can’t afford to make the same mistakes we did in 1976.

  • In March of 2014, Rep. Shimkus introduced the Chemicals in Commerce Act, a bill that would provide rollbacks for the chemical industry rather than advancing protections for public health. The serious flaws of this bill can be seen here and underscores the need to get reform done right.
  • In May 2013, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013. The bill showed the bipartisan nature of this issue, but is deeply flawed and as drafted would not protect public health from toxic chemicals. Read more of our critique here.
  • In April 2013, Senators Frank Lautenberg and Gillibrand introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2013” (S. 696) with 28 co-sponsors. The Lautenberg-Gillibrand bill sought to require that chemical manufacturers demonstrate the safety of industrial chemicals used in everyday household products.
  • In July 2012, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee “marked up” the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. This was the first congressional vote on updating TSCA in 35 years.
  • Former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson stated on several occasions that updating TSCA is a priority for the Obama Administration, and unveiled principles for reform that closely mirror the recommendations of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition.
  • Growing market demand for safer chemicals and an increasing number of state laws to restrict toxic chemicals continue to drive the need for federal TSCA reform.
  • The chemical industry now acknowledges the need for federal reform of chemical policy to restore public confidence in the safety of their products and to create a more predictable business environment.

The 113th Congress has signaled their commitment to chemical policy reform, and senators on both sides of the aisle in the Senate EPW committee are working to strengthen the Chemical Safety Improvement Act. Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer has pledged to hold a hearing on chemical policy reform this summer. 

Mind the Store Campaign

In 2014, Citizen Action/Illinois joined the Mind the Store campaign, which has the goal of working with leading retailers (10 in total) to remove and eliminate toxic chemicals from their supply chain. With our wealth of experts in the field, we pulled together the Hazardous 100+, a list of toxic chemicals identified by authoritative bodies that are of concern. This is a roadmap for where chemicals will be restricted at the state, federal and international level and creates a way for retailers to get ahead of the game.

Within the past year both Target and Walmart have come out with comprehensive policies on chemical ingredients, both of which take different approaches, and in some ways has been a game-changer.  Both retailers have created lists of more than 1,000 chemicals of high concern, which includes our Hazardous 100+ list. Walmart, for example, is encouraging suppliers to reduce, restrict and eliminate these chemicals using informed substitution principles.  They are also encouraging suppliers to disclose whether their products contain these chemicals on their websites, and starting January 2018 on the product labels. For the first time, major retailers are showing a responsiveness to their customer base and tackling the problem at a much larger scale than simply responding to the “chemical of the week.”

Walgreens Stays Silent

Many major retailers, including Target and Walmart, are working to remove toxic chemicals from their products. Unfortunately, Walgreens has refused to take action on toxic chemicals. New independent testing of products sold at Walgreens shows a variety of toxic chemicals including hormone-disrupting chemicals in shower curtains, lead in pet chew toys and phthalates in furniture. While other countries and US stores have replaced these chemicals with safe alternatives, Walgreens continues to stall.

What’s even more interesting about Walgreens is they recently bought 45 percent of Alliance Boots, a European drugstore chain that has a robust chemical policy. Walgreens has none. The merging of these two companies is expected to be complete in early 2015. To give you an example, Boots has already phased out many of our Hazardous 100+ chemicals including: phthalates, PVC  plastic, parabens and triclosan. If they’re doing it in Europe, they can do it here in the United States.


Take Action

We need the nation's largest drugstore chain - Walgreens - to get serious about protecting us from toxic chemicals.  Please take a second to sign onto our petition.  


Background on Chemicals 

Here’s a list of chemicals linked to serious environmental and health problems, including cancer and reproductive disorders. Check out our fact sheets which draw from the leading peer-reviewed science.