The first overhaul to the nation’s chemical laws in nearly 40 years ended up signed into law by President Barack Obama Wednesday.

“Most Americans would expect that we could come together to fix this law and do a better job of protecting the American people,” Obama said at the signing ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. “Well, here’s the good news: That’s exactly why we’re here today.”

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Introduced last year by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), H.R. 2576 ended up named the “Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act” to honor the late New Jersey senator who spearheaded reform efforts for several years before his death in 2013. President Gerald Ford signed the original legislation, the Toxic Substances Control Act, into law in 1976.

The law gives U.S. EPA new authority to review and regulate chemicals, along with mandating the agency update its inventory of existing chemicals and create a risk evaluation process — all within six months from today.

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“This has been years in the making. You don’t get all these people in the same room without a few late nights on Capitol Hill,” Obama said of the members of Congress who shared the stage with him in the Eisenhower building’s South Court Auditorium.

“I know there were times when folks questioned whether or not all the parties involved would be able to reach this agreement,” Obama said. “But that’s what public service is about: Pushing through disagreements, forging compromise — especially when it’s hard, and especially when it’s about something as important as the health and safety of our kids and our families.”

Now, Obama said, “I’m absolutely confident that we can regulate toxic chemicals in a way that’s both good for our families and ultimately good for business and our economy. Here in America, folks should have the confidence to know that the laundry detergent we buy isn’t going to make us sick, the mattresses our babies sleep on aren’t going to harm them.”

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