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EDITORIAL: Past time to revise Toxic Substances Control Act

In three decades, scientific understanding of the toxic brew of chemicals lurking in our bodies - and our children's - has leaped into the 21st century. But the federal law aimed at controlling the chemicals is mired hopelessly in the past. This has to change, and fast.

When the Toxic Substances Control Act became law in 1976, there was little sense that chemicals in everyday products could accumulate inside us and interact with one another and our bodies in dangerous ways. The bill grandfathered in roughly 60,000 chemicals then in production - and set an impossibly high standard for the Environmental Protection Agency to take action to control dangerous chemicals.

Example: After a 10-year process, the EPA tried to ban asbestos, with its proven link to lung disease. But a federal court struck the ban down in 1991. That crippled EPA enforcement. In all, of today's 80,000 chemicals, it has been able to force testing on only 200 and to regulate only five.

In December, a Senate committee held a hearing, but Republicans used it to ambush EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson over climate change e-mails. In January, the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign issued a report summarizing studies on the health impacts of chemicals and calling for reform.

At a hearing this week, senators must resist squabbling and focus on fixing the law to protect all of us, especially kids and pregnant women. Three decades is enough delay. hN