Thursday, April 15, 2010

Senate & House Release TSCA Overhaul Legislation

Apr 15: U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) announced legislation designed to overhaul the "Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976" (TSCA), which he called "an antiquated law that in its current state, leaves Americans at risk of exposure to toxic chemicals." Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, introduced the "Safe Chemicals Act of 2010" to protect the health of families and the environment.

    Senator Lautenberg said, "America's system for regulating industrial chemicals is broken. Parents are afraid because hundreds of untested chemicals are found in their children's bodies. EPA does not have the tools to act on dangerous chemicals and the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws so that their customers are assured their products are safe. My 'Safe Chemicals Act' will breathe new life into a long-dead statute by empowering EPA to get tough on toxic chemicals. Chemical safety reform is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it is a common-sense issue and I look forward to building bipartisan support for this measure."

    According to a release from Senator Lautenberg, the "Safe Chemicals Act of 2010" requires safety testing of all industrial chemicals, and puts the burden on industry to prove that chemicals are safe in order stay on the market. Under current policy, the EPA can only call for safety testing after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical is dangerous. As a result, EPA has been able to require testing for just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances. The new legislation will give EPA more power to regulate the use of dangerous chemicals and require manufacturers to submit information proving the safety of every chemical in production and any new chemical seeking to enter the market.

    Over the last several months, Senator Lautenberg has chaired a series of hearings to help craft the "Safe Chemicals Act" with dozens of witnesses including business leaders, public officials, scientists, doctors, academics, and non-profit organizations [See WIMS 3/9/10, WIMS 2/4/10]. . Through the hearings, public health groups, environmentalists, industry representatives and the EPA have expressed support for reforms to our nation's toxic substance laws. The "Safe Chemicals Act of 2010" comports with the reform principles laid out by the Obama Administration, the American Chemistry Council and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition.
    According to a summary provided by Senator Lautenberg, some highlights of the Safe Chemicals Act are that it:
  • Provides EPA with sufficient information to judge a chemical's safety. Requires manufacturers to develop and submit a minimum data set for each chemical they produce, while also preventing duplicative or unnecessary testing. EPA will have full authority to request additional information needed to determine the safety of a chemical.
  • Prioritizes chemicals based on risk. Calls on the EPA to categorize chemicals based on risk, and focus resources on evaluating those most likely to cause harm.
  • Ensures safety threshold is met for all chemicals on the market. Places the burden of proof on chemical manufacturers to prove the safety of their chemicals. All uses must be identified and determined safe for the chemical to enter the market or continue to be used.
  • Takes fast action to address highest risk chemicals. Requires EPA to take fast action to reduce risk from chemicals that have already been proven dangerous. In addition, the EPA Administrator is given authority to act quickly if any chemical poses an imminent hazard.
  • Creates open access to reliable chemical information. Establishes a public database to catalog the information submitted by chemical manufacturers and the EPA's safety determinations. The EPA will impose requirements to ensure the information collected is reliable.
  • Promotes innovation and development of green chemistry. Establishes grant programs and research centers to foster the development of safe chemical alternatives, and brings some new chemicals onto the market using an expedited review process.
    In addition to the Lautenberg bill, Representatives Bobby Rush, (D-IL) and Henry Waxman, (D-CA), introduced a parallel proposal, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010, "discussion draft" of chemical protection reform legislation in the House. Rush and Waxman said their draft legislation reflects reasoned consideration of stakeholder and EPA priorities and recommendations. Representative Rush said, "Through the open stakeholder process that we are commencing today, I am optimistic that the discussion draft of my bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act will lead to a number of constructive improvements." Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Waxman said, "For decades, Congress has been told that the Toxic Substances Control Act is failing its mission and is in desperate need of reform. In order to protect all Americans from toxic exposures and the adverse effects they cause, Congress must strengthen this failing law."
    Daniel Rosenberg, Senior Attorney in the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC's) Health and Environment Program said, "Changing the existing law would make a significant difference in peoples' lives by reducing daily exposure to toxic chemicals. These bills provide an excellent starting place to strengthen EPA's authority to protect the public. If this legislation fulfills its promise, we can hope to see a decline in cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, infertility and other disease associated with exposure to these chemicals. Reducing such health problems will improve and lengthen lives as well as reduce the costs of healthcare. Many people assume the protections these bills create already exist, but they don't and they are long overdue. Both bills will need some strengthening to ensure that the promise of meaningful reform is fulfilled and we will work with lawmakers to make that happen."
    American Chemistry Council (ACC) president and CEO Cal Dooley issued a statement saying, "Safety must be the primary goal of chemical regulatory reform, as it is the top priority of our industry. This is a complex issue and we compliment Senator Lautenberg, and Congressmen Waxman and Rush, for bringing focus to the need for modernization of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). While TSCA has been protective of public health and the environment in the past, we should harness the scientific and technological advances made since its passage to assess the safety of chemicals while fostering innovation and preserving hundreds of thousands of American jobs. 

    "We are encouraged that the Safe Chemicals Act (SCA) reflects some aspects of the principles that ACC released last year, which are mirrored by EPA's principles. These include the need to prioritize chemicals for evaluation, a risk-based approach to EPA safety reviews, and a reduction in animal testing. However, we are concerned that the bill's proposed decision-making standard may be legally and technically impossible to meet. The proposed changes to the new chemicals program could hamper innovation in new products, processes and technologies. In addition, the bill undermines business certainty by allowing states to adopt their own regulations and create a lack of regulatory uniformity for chemicals and the products that use them."

    The Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued a release indicating, "Lautenberg, Waxman and other members of Congress sponsored a toxic chemicals policy reform proposal known as the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act in 2005 and again in 2008, but these measures did not have the broad support that has coalesced behind the current initiative. Today, the search for environmental causes of disease is a front-burner issue for scientists, medical professionals, policy-makers and health advocates. President Obama, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, key members of both houses of Congress, the environmental and health communities, countless citizens and the chemical industry itself agree that a new national policy must be crafted to fit the complex realities of the 21st century."

    Access a release from Senator Lautenberg (click here). Access the full text of the "Safe Chemicals Act (click here). Access a full summary of the bill (click here). Access a release from Waxman-Rush with links to the discussion draft, a section-by-section summary, and a discussion draft summary (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the statement from ACC and link to additional information (click here). Access a release from EWG (click here).