The U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the primary federal statute governing the safety of chemicals in U.S. commerce. Revising the statute has been debated for many years, but there have been no substantial amendments since its enactment in 1976. However, it now seems probable that Congress will enact new legislation modernizing TSCA.
On April 15, 2010, Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2010.” On the same date, Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a discussion draft of their legislation, the “Toxics Chemicals Safety Act of 2010.”
Senator Lautenberg’s legislation would amend TSCA to, among other things:
- require manufacturers to develop and submit a minimum data set for each chemical that they produce;
- provide EPA the authority to request additional data from a manufacturer when the Agency believes the information is necessary to determine the safety of a chemical;
- require EPA to use the data to identify and prioritize chemicals by their likely risk;
- require expedited action by EPA to reduce risk from chemicals of highest concern;
- require that a safety threshold is met for chemicals to enter or remain in commerce, shifting the burden of proof to manufacturers to demonstrate safety;
- establish a public database that would include chemical information submitted to EPA and the Agency’s determinations regarding safety;
- promote green chemistry and foster the development of “safer” chemical alternatives; and
- narrow the conditions under which data could be claimed as Confidential Business Information (CBI), expand access to CBI for certain stakeholders, and limit the duration of confidentiality.
Over the coming months, stakeholders will have an opportunity to review the proposals and discuss their various elements with key decision-makers. It is too early to tell whether a consensus can be reached on key issues, but the outcome may well depend on the willingness of the sponsors to seek meaningful bipartisan support for the legislation. Copies of the bills, summaries, and other related information are available at the links below: