After 40 years of lackadaisical regulation of toxic chemicals in the United States, on June 22, 2016, President Obama signedinto law an update of the loophole-riddled Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq.),1 frequently characterized as one of the nation's weakest environmental laws.2 The new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act3 offers marginal improvements, yet has an extraordinary array of supporters. Perhaps that's because there's something for every constituency that has been aching for change. More likely, after decades of fighting for meaningful reform, some advocates took what they could get in the waning days of a sympathetic Obama administration.
Janet Wilson is Director of Special Projects for Strategic Communications at the University of California, Irvine. As an Annenberg Senior Fellow and National Health Reporting Fellow at the University of Southern California, she investigated the impacts of industrial toxics on impoverished Los Angeles neighborhoods.
Oladele (Dele) Ogunseitan is a professor of public health and founding chair of the Department of Population Health and Disease Prevention at the University of California, Irvine. He is also a professor of social ecology. He is currently a Jefferson Science Fellow of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.