WASHINGTON, D.C. - A bill inspired by and named after an Idaho man has finally become law. Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed off on Trevor's Law, a bill that strengthens protections for children and communities from disease clusters.
The bill's namesake, Trevor Schaefer, of Boise, along with his mother and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), was in attendance as the president signed the legislation as part of a larger toxic substances reform bill.
The measure was passed by the House last month, and by the Senate earlier this month. The bill's passage is historic for environmental reform in the United States.
It has been a long road for those pushing for the bill over the last seven years, especially for Schaefer. In a live phone interview during the News at Four Wednesday, he said its just beginning to set in that his years of work have finally paid off.
"I don't think it has quite hit yet," Schaefer said. "It was a pretty historical day and a once in a lifetime opportunity to be there, to meet the president, to see him sign this bill into law that we've been working on for so many years, that will help so many children in communities throughout the country.
"I did wonder a lot of times if I would see this day," he added. "I never could have imagined what it could feel like to get here."
Growing up next to Payette Lake in McCall, Schaefer was diagnosed at age 13 with a brain tumor, which he believes was environmentally caused.
Schaefer beat the cancer and began his long quest to research cancer clusters and to find out why the government had no responsibility to investigate claims that an environmental problem was causing illness in his community.
Trevor's Law, which was attached to the bigger Toxic Substances Control Act reform bill, gives communities an opportunity to trigger a federal investigation into potential cancer-causing problems.
The bipartisan bill was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) back in 2011 and co-sponsored by Crapo, who championed the measure through more than five years of congressional gridlock. Last year, when they attached Trevor's Law to the broader reform bill, the measure gained widespread bipartisan support.
“Today’s bill signing proves again the power of one Idahoan, one American, to bring change that will benefit millions of people who could face cancer one day,” said Crapo, a fellow cancer survivor, in a statement. “Trevor’s Law is the first time we as a nation will document how cancer clusters will be identified, monitored and treated in the United States. Not only have we made history, we did it by Idahoans working together from the ground up, from Idaho to Washington, D.C., and into law.”
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act reforms the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which put a halt to tens of thousands of chemicals in polluting the environment. The reform bill signed by the president Wednesday adds new restrictions on chemicals found in baby mattresses, RVs and common household items. It also bans substances like asbestos and limits the secrecy around chemicals used in manufacturing.