CHEMICALS IN COMMERCE: THE IMPACT OF TSCA SAFETY REFORM
While largely seen as a boon for public health and environmental protection, the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has proven at times to be a restrictive reality for the chemical industry. The legislation, enacted in 1976, remains the nation’s primary law for chemicals management and calls for an inventory of all chemical substances manufactured, processed or imported into the United States. As a result, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been tasked with testing chemicals and maintaining an ever-enlarging inventory of 85,000 chemicals, up from the 62,000 chemicals monitored at the law’s inception.
In a major overhaul of federal chemical safety laws, a historic reform of TSCA took effect on 22 June 2016. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is intended to provide the EPA with better tools to obtain testing information on chemical substances. It also eliminates certain statutory requirements that make the restriction or ban of chemicals in US commerce difficult, restructuring the way existing chemicals are evaluated and regulated by directing the agency to use scientific evaluation to guide its decisions.
Before the passage of the TSCA reform, the EPA was unable to restrict or ban a chemical’s use – or even request new toxicity data from its manufacturers – without first proving the chemical carried a certain level of risk to human health or the environment. The EPA was also required to look into the potential costs of regulating a chemical when determining whether it was safe for use and choose the “least burdensome” method of regulation. Those requirements severely limited the EPA’s ability to take action under TSCA.
Oct-Dec 2016 Issue