TSCA Reform – Background

On May 22, 2013, Senator Vitter (R-LA) and the late Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ), and a host of Democratic and Republican Senators introduced S.1009 – the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CSIA).  The CSIA is a bipartisan effort intended to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for the first time in history, a long-sought goal of industry, environmentalist, and public health advocates.   ACA fully supports passage and implementation of the CSIA.

Enacted in 1976, TSCA was designed to protect the public from unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment by regulating the manufacture and sale of chemicals. The main objective of TSCA is to characterize and understand the risks a chemical poses to human health and the environment before it is introduced into commerce.  The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 would:

  • Require all active chemicals in commerce to be evaluated for safety and be labeled as either “high” or “low” priority based on potential risk to human health and the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would have to conduct further safety evaluations of high-priority chemicals.
  • Give EPA authority to take action if a chemical is found to be unsafe.  Such action could range from requiring labeling to the full phase-out or ban of a chemical.
  • Require that safety assessments and risk-management determinations will be made in the context of whether a chemical meets the safety standard according to “its intended conditions of use.”
  • Require EPA to transparently assess risk, determine safety, and apply needed measures to manage risks.
  • Require new chemicals to be screened for safety and give EPA authority to prohibit unsafe chemicals from entering the market. Currently, EPA restricts uses of and manufacturing conditions for new chemicals if it concludes they pose health or environmental concerns, and these restrictions can result in a manufacturer deciding not to make the new chemical.
  • Fix TSCA’s “unreasonable risk” standard.  TSCA’s “unreasonable risk” cost-benefit standard is widely regarded to have failed for two main reasons.  First, it blurs what should be two distinct decisions:  a science-based decision as to whether a chemical poses a significant risk; and a risk management decision as to how to address such risks where they are found.  Second, it forces EPA to engage in paralysis-by-analysis by requiring it to prove that any action it proposes to take is the “least burdensome” of all possible options. 
  • Provide EPA with authority to secure necessary health and safety information from chemical manufacturers, while directing the agency to rely first on existing information to avoid duplicative testing.
  • Promote both innovation and safer chemistry by offering clear paths to marketing new chemicals while protecting confidential business information and intellectual property from disclosure.
  • Require EPA to evaluate the risks posed to vulnerable populations, which is an evaluation requirement not contained in TSCA.
  • Preempt states from regulating low and high priority chemicals, unless the state receives a waiver from EPA.
  • Give states and local governments the opportunity to offer their views on EPA's prioritization, safety assessment, and safety determination processes for chemicals and establish a waiver process to allow state regulations or laws to remain in effect when circumstances warrant it.

The CSIA marks an end to a multi-year partisan fight on chemical management reform, and now increases the chance that meaningful and constructive reforms will be put in place at the federal level.

ACA urges all members to actively participate in advocating for passage and implementation of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013.

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