WASHINGTON, June 8 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency will have increased power over the regulation of thousands of chemicals after President Barack Obama signs into law a bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday.
The bill, which is heading to Obama's desk for signature, is considered by its authors, many politicians and environmental groups to be one of the most significant environmental measures Congress has passed in decades. Obama has indicated he intends to sign the bill into law.
Under the new legislation, the EPA will be be given more information about chemicals manufacturers wish to sell before approving use.
In an update to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, tens of thousands of chemicals will now be under EPA jurisdiction -- from chemicals found in furniture to those found in detergents. The bill has largely been supported by the chemical industry, and public health and environmental groups.
Under the previous rules deemed outdated, the EPA could only demand data or require testing from chemical manufacturers for substances the EPA could prove were a potential risk. The high threshhold meant the agency only required testing for 200 out of thousands of chemicals that have entered the U.S. market. The EPA issued regulations on just five chemicals.
More than 8,000 chemicals are produced in the United States a year, measuring to hundreds of millions of pounds of chemical products.
"When people learn their little baby is crawling on the floor with their nose an inch from the rug, and they are inhaling toxic-laden dust right from birth, they're shocked," Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., told The Washington Post before the vote. "We finally found a way to bring people together to change that."
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., co-author of the bill, said the measure would generate economic innovation as functional oversight would encourage chemical manufacturers to create new products.
"I'm so very glad to have passed a law that strengthens our country's international competitiveness, provides desperately needed regulatory certainty for industry and mandates that the federal government use better science and provide more transparency," Vitter said in a statement.
Critics of the bill argue the regulations will take far too long to implement, citing improper EPA funding and expertise.