Democrats Push for Chemical-Law Overhaul Opposed by Industry

Three Democratic U.S. senators said they are seeking support from Republicans in a push for to overhaul regulations of toxic chemicals amid complaints from industry about the legislative proposals.

The Democrats’ measure would require safety testing of all industrial chemicals and force chemical makers to show that new compounds are safe. Under current law, the Environmental Protection Agency can only call for safety testing after evidence is presented showing that a chemical is dangerous.

“What we need to do is get more support,” Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, said today at a Washington news conference with a group of mothers and children backing the measure, which is co-sponsored by 16 other Democrats and no Republicans. “We have the beginnings of a great issue.”

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA requires companies to provide analyses of certain chemicals they make or use. Lautenberg, chairman of the toxics panel of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said rules in place since 1976 need updating.

Dozens of mothers and children headed to congressional offices today where they were scheduled to meet with lawmakers and staff members. They said they were carrying 125,000 signatures in support of the Lautenberg measure.

Advocates for the bill formed in response to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune this month about health dangers from flame retardants in products such as couches, mattresses and pillows.

The American Chemistry Council, a Washington-based group for companies such as Ashland Inc., Dow Corning Corp. and Shell Chemical LP, opposes Lautenberg’s bill, said Scott Jensen, a spokesman. The bill imposes an unworkable safety standard and mandate the disclosure of confidential business information, according to the group.