House passes legislation to force companies to use safer chemicals

Chemicals that could potentially be used in bioterror attacks will be replaced with safer alternatives following the passing of new legislation.

The House's legislation would give the authority to government to force companies that use chemicals that could be used by bioterrorists in an attack with safer alternatives.

The goal of the newly passed Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009 is to make permanent the authority given temporarily to the homeland security secretary in 2006 to oversee chemical plant security.

The DuPont Company, as well as others in the chemical industry, opposed the measure, which passed by a vote of 230 to 193.

Lobbyists for the chemical industry said that allowing the secretary to mandate substitutions in chemicals and manufacturing processes, which the House measure would do, could lead to shortages of some products.

A similar version of the legislation is under consideration by the Senate, but that legislation is not expected to be taken up until next year.

The Clorox company, prior to the passing of the legislation, announced that it would substitute high-strength bleach for chlorine to manufacture its product. The changes will be instituted within six months at its first manufacturing plant while other plants will convert to safer practices over the next few years.

Greenpeace lauded Clorox's announcement, saying that it eliminates the potential consequences of a catastrophic terrorist attack while providing Congress with new evidence to enact chemical plant security legislation.