April 02, 2020

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Major overhaul of toxic chemicals rules in the U.S. signed into law
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Photo courtesy of the White House (Pete Souza) / Maison Blanche (Pete Souza) [Public domain], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABarack_Obama_signs_at_his_desk.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

President Barack Obama signed the first major overhaul of toxic chemicals rules in the United States in 40 years into law on June 22. During the signing ceremony, the U.S. president praised both chemicals industry groups and environmentalists for finding consensus despite the current impasse in Washington between the Democrats and the Republicans.

In addition to updating rules for tens of thousands of everyday chemicals, the law also sets safety standards for dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, asbestos and styrene. The law aims to standardize on the national level what is currently a jumble of state rules.

Congress spent more than three years working on the bill, which rewrites the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and aims to “bring chemical regulation into the 21st century,” according to the American Chemistry Council.

Business groups had sought a single, federal standard to eliminate the complexity of dealing with state regulations that don’t always line up with each other.

Obama said the law meant that for the first time in its history, the U.S. would be able to regulate chemical effectively. He described it as an extension of bipartisan efforts decades ago to start protecting America’s air, water and wildlife.

“If we can get this bill done, it means somewhere out there on the horizon, we can make our politics less toxic as well,” Obama said.

“That doesn’t happen very often these days,” Obama said. “So this is a really significant piece of business,” he said.

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