Proposed chemical safety bill not so safe

Senate bill 1009 (the Chemical Safety Improvement Act) now in Committee needs significant modification if it truly going to protect us. Photo: Paul A. Samakow

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2013 – Senate bill 1009, the Toxic Substances Control Act  (also being referred to as the Chemical Safety Improvement Act), now in the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, needs significant modification and improvement. 

The goal of the legislation is to better protect the public from toxic chemicals, mostly in everyday household items.

Almost any household product containing chemicals can be dangerous if swallowed or spilled.  The average American home has products used daily that together contain over sixty toxic chemicals.

Most American women use more than a dozen products every single day including cleansers, toners, moisturizers, sunscreens and other products. Men use, on average, about 6 products every single day. 

Examples of commonly used, potentially dangerous household products are air fresheners, ammonia, bleach, carpet and upholstery shampoos, dishwasher detergents, drain cleaners, furniture polishes, mold and mildew cleaners, oven cleaners, antibacterial cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners.

Products such as these can cause injuries that can range from mild skin irritation to death. Children are more likely to be affected because their smaller bodies are more likely to react to small levels of exposure and because they are more likely than adults to ingest toxins.


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The proposed legislation is faulty for two reasons:

  1. It sets up a Federal standard for review, which is fine. But the standard has eliminated the ability of the states to protect their own citizens. When your state can look out for you, your chances of protection increase dramatically compared to relying solely on the Federal government.
  2. It eliminates chemical industry and manufacturer accountability and civil responsibility.  An injured consumer can no longer file a lawsuit.

Under S. 1009, neither consumers nor survivors, under S. 1009, will have the ability to even attempt to recover for the harms and losses toxic chemicals cause.

The bill needs to be dramatically changed to assure that chemical companies are held to high safety standards and that consumer protections are not eliminated, thus leaving the health, and lives of Americans at risk.


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Only by providing recourse to the courtroom in a state- by-state process can consumers have the potential to keep the playing field level.

In other words, a lawsuit, or even the threat of a lawsuit, keeps businesses honest.

Significant, behavior-changing examples of the civil justice system at work, where victim compensation and damages were sought and obtained, include suits over asbestos, pharmaceuticals like L-Triptophan, and even breast implants.

In one reported case, a manufacturer of a cleaning agent containing ammonia was found responsible for lung injuries a custodian suffered. The custodian used the cleaner every day in his job. The jury found the manufacturer responsible because it failed to establish concentration levels that would be safe for the average person.

A California company, GIB, settled another case with the California Attorney General after the state sued them. The settlement required product container labeling and warnings on the company’s popular hair straightening products known as Brazilian Blowout.

The products had high levels of formaldehyde gas, which was released during use. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

In August, 2012, Johnson & Johnson, without any lawsuit being filed or threatened, announced plans to remove trace amounts of potentially cancer causing and other dangerous chemicals from nearly all its adult toiletries and cosmetic products. In November, it was disclosed that Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo, sold in America and several other countries, had small quantities of a chemical that has been linked to cancer. The chemical, quaternium-15, was found in the bottles of baby shampoo in the U.S., but had been removed from the shampoo sold in Europe and Japan.

Johnson’s pledge to remove “chemicals of concern” from its baby products came after a large coalition of health and environmental groups began pressing it more than three years ago to make its personal care products safer.

The promise by J&J to do so is encouraging, and will be completed, according to the company, within 3 ½ years. 

Litigation would have sped up that deadline.

Johnson’s products to be “improved” include its baby lotion, Desitin for diaper rash, adult skin care products Aveeno, Neutrogena and Lubriderm, and others.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention inform us that 133 people in American die each year due to unintentional poisoning. Perhaps this is a relatively small number considering the size of our population, unless you are family to one of them.

Chemical manufacturers produce potentially dangerous household substances. They have a duty to make sure that their products do not present an unreasonable risk of harm to consumers.

One of the things our elected officials are supposed to do is protect us. The current bill involving chemical toxins, if it becomes law, does the exact opposite by removing the potential for litigation and by eliminating state involvement.

Call your state Senator and let him or her know you want this legislation improved. Remind them they have families, too.

 

Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics.  Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, in Washington, D.C., on the Andy Parks show, the featured legal analyst for America’s Radio News Network, heard in 165 markets nationwide, and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.

His book The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You is free to Maryland and Virginia residents and can be obtained by ordering it on his website; others can obtain it on Amazon.

 


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Paul Samakow

Attorney Paul Samakow brings his legal expertise to the headlines from life and real-life experience to The Washington Times Communties. A native Washingtonian, Samakow has been a Plaintiff’s trial lawyer since 1980, with offices in Maryland and Virginia. 

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