House subcommittee holds first hearing on Chemicals in Commerce Act.

Today, the House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee held its first hearing on Rep. John Shimkus’ (R-IL) Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA), currently the only legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) proposed on the House side. In his opening statement, Rep. Shimkus emphasized that bipartisan collaboration on the proposal was ongoing and that changes to his discussion draft version of the bill were expected. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, repeated his opposition to the bill in its current state, particularly because of the legislation’s treatment of the state preemption issue. Rep. Waxman also repeated his willingness to work with Rep. Shimkus to find common ground, on which he said there had been little progress made since CICA was released. Witnesses representing industry, unions, and the public health sector testified on their views of the draft, generally agreeing on the need to modernize TSCA, although differing in their assessment of the bill’s overall effectiveness.

Dr. Carolyn Duran, Director of Chemical Risk and Compliance, Global Sourcing and Procurement at Intel Corporation, praised the discussion draft’s Section 6 provisions which would let companies like Intel “develop a technically feasible alternative” that is demonstrably safer within a “reasonable transition timeline.” In particular, Dr. Duran supported the draft’s treatment of articles, which would be regulated by EPA if the agency finds that an unreasonable risk of harm to human health or the environment may result from exposure to a substance in the article and that restrictions on the chemical at issue cannot adequately address the risk presented by the substance in the article.

In his testimony, Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a pediatrician, professor, and Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, called the discussion draft “not satisfactory.” Dr. Landrigan referred to research on the sensitivity of children and fetuses to “even minutely low levels of chemicals,” which can cause injury to developing organs including the brain, and emphasized the need to conduct safety testing for new and existing chemicals. He called for prioritizing the testing of those chemicals “found through biomonitoring to be most widespread” in the population, for which there is evidence of toxicity, and that are persistent and bioaccumulative. Dr. Landrigan also advocated for a safety standard of “reasonable certainty of no harm,” compared to the “unreasonable risk” standard found in current law as well as the CICA draft.

The Environment and the Economy Subcommittee will likely hold at least one more hearing on “an adjusted draft” of the bill, according to Rep. Shimkus.