Lautenberg's Legacy

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bipartisan agreement, was a welcome surprise from Capitol Hill.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., died June 3 at age 89 due to complications from viral pneumonia, according to a statement posted by his Senate office. It mentioned several of the five-term senator's career highlights, notably passing the law to ban smoking on airplanes and writing the laws that set the nationwide blood alcohol limit at .08 and 21 as the legal drinking age. Lautenberg also should be remembered for his vital support of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, its chair, Rafael Moure-Eraso, said.

One of Lautenberg's final legislative highlights occurred less than two weeks before his death, and at this writing it has not yet been completed. He introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, S. 1009, after working out an agreement on the legislation with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Lautenberg also served on that committee, which is chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

The bipartisan agreement was a welcome surprise from Capitol Hill. The bill would update and improve the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by requiring that all chemicals be screened for safety and securing new health and safety testing for priority chemicals.

"This bill would finally update our laws to protect children and families from toxic chemicals, which is why the editorial boards of some of the country's most prestigious newspapers are calling for its passage," Lautenberg said in May after the bill's introduction. "The current law is completely ineffective, and every minute we wait to move forward puts our families at greater risk." He soon announced more bipartisan co-sponsors and support by former top EPA toxics officials, including the assistant administrator responsible for TSCA implementation during President Obama's first term.

The bill has been referred to the Environment and Public Works Committee. Its co-sponsors include Vitter and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; James Inhofe, R-Okla.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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