San Francisco Chronicle

Obama signs overhaul of toxic chemicals into law


WASHINGTON — President Obama signed the first major overhaul of toxic chemicals rules in 40 years into law on Wednesday, calling it proof that Washington can function despite intense polarizati­on.

In a White House signing ceremony, Obama praised both chemicals industry groups and environmen­talists alike for finding consensus despite their usual difference­s of opinion. He was joined by a diverse group of U.S. lawmakers who helped pass the legislatio­n, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana.

“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 before putting his pen to the bill.

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 seeks to standardiz­e on the national level what is currently a jumble of state rules governing the $800 billion-per-year industry.

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

“Folks should have the confidence to know the laundry detergent we buy isn’t going to make us sick, the mattress our babies sleep on isn’t going to harm them,” Obama said.

Republican­s and some Democrats have been critical of Obama’s efforts to strengthen environmen­tal and climate protection­s through regulation­s they say stifles businesses and created unnecessar­y burdens. In recent years, many Republican­s have worked to pull funding for the Environmen­tal Protection Agency.

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