The U.S. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is lobbying for updates to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a piece of legislation that hasn’t seen any significant amendments since it was adopted in 1976.
“The main chemical safety law on the books today is simply broken,” says a new EDF position statement.
EDF acknowledges the work of Senator Frank Lautenberg, who it says “worked tirelessly to reform the TSCA” up until his death in June 2013. Lautenberg had joined Senator David Vitter (R-LA) to introduce a new Bill to address the problems with TSCA
The EDF states that the current TSCA:
- has failed to deliver the information needed to identify unsafe — as well as safer — chemicals
- forbids the federal government from sharing much of the limited information it does obtain
- imposes an impossible burden on government to prove harm in order to control a dangerous chemical; and
- thereby fails to provide incentives for the chemical industry to innovate safer chemicals and products.
EDF says notable improvements in the Lautenberg-Vitter compromise include:
- mandating safety evaluations for all chemicals in active commerce
- requiring new chemicals to be deemed likely safe before entering the market
- fixing the key flaws in TSCA’s safety standard that led to EPA’s inability even to ban the deadly carcinogen asbestos
- allowing EPA to issue orders to require testing without the Catch-22 of first having to show potential risk; and
- making more information about chemicals available to states, health professionals and the public by limiting current trade secret allowances.
The environmental community has serious concerns as well. EDF shares these concerns and is working to address them by:
- adding more deadlines and significantly trimming back the bill’s extensive procedural requirements to ensure EPA expeditiously initiates and completes actions
- defining and explicitly protecting vulnerable populations, including infants and children and workers, as well as “hotspot” communities that have disproportionately high exposure to chemicals
- providing EPA with adequate resources to carry out its responsibilities, with a fair share coming from industry
- narrowing the bill’s preemption of state authority to ensure that states can act when EPA does not; and
- ensuring low-priority designations of chemicals are based on sufficient hazard and exposure information and that such designations do not preempt state authority.