Even if you’re well-versed in environmental statutes, one you might not spend a lot of time thinking about is the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.  That’s because, with a few notable exceptions (PCBs being a good example), TSCA currently focuses on regulating new chemicals as they are introduced into commerce, or on significant new uses for existing chemicals, issues that are not generally of concern to manufacturers.   That may soon change.

TSCA has not been updated since it was passed in 1976.  There have been efforts at reform, spurred on by both the chemical industry, which feels that TSCA is stymieing innovation, and from those concerned about the extent of possible harmful and unregulated chemicals in the marketplace, who would like TSCA to more robustly regulate existing chemicals.   For many reasons, not the least of which is these competing interests, TSCA has not changed.  But TSCA reform has gotten more attention recently, and adoption does seem possible.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was introduced this week in the Senate by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).  This is clearly a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats. The bill itself is lengthy, and as a rewrite of an existing law, dense.  That said, here are a few key takeaways, excerpted from the Vitter press release.

  • Strengthens the Safety Standard by mandating that EPA base chemical safety decisions solely on considerations of risk to public health and the environment.
  • Mandates safety reviews for new and existing chemicals
  • Strengthens Protections for the Most Vulnerable – specifically infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly
  • Creates additional requirements and sets reasonable limits on Confidential Business Information claims
  • Preserves Existing Private Rights of Action
  • Balances State and Federal Regulations

We’ll be watching the progress of TSCA reform, and considering how this bill, if passed, will impact manufacturers. As a minimum, by changing the way we regulate chemicals in the US, it may result in the removal of certain chemicals from commerce, as too dangerous, and will require anyone who uses chemicals in any process to reevaluate their use.