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TSCA Reform: Highlights from the Proposal

May 24, 2016

Since first being passed into law in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) hasn’t had any of its core provisions updated. However, congressional lawmakers have recently come to a compromise that would overhaul what many consider the worst environmental law in place.

The new draft hasn’t officially been voted on yet, but it is expected to be sometime soon and, when it is, it will have a significant impact on business owners and Americans in general.

Here are a few highlights from the proposal.

Evaluation of Untested Chemicals

Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required testing for just 200 chemicals and has issued regulations to control just five of them. In the United States, there are currently 8,000 chemicals that produce 25,000 or more pounds on an annual basis.

Under the current TSCA, the EPA has to prove certain chemicals pose potential risk prior to requiring a company to provide them with data, and prior to requiring that testing be done. Additionally, all chemicals are free to go to market after just 90 days.

The new proposal would shake that up a bit.

In the updated version of the bill, the EPA would have the authority to require companies to provide safety and health data for chemicals that have not yet been tested, and to prevent those chemicals from hitting the market if they haven’t been deemed safe. This version would also give the EPA authority to order the testing of chemicals when they feel it’s necessary. To assist with the cost of testing, a user fee would be imposed on the industry.

Depending on your viewpoint, this change could be seen as a positive or a negative.

Human, Environmental, and Animal Health Considerations

In addition to providing the EPA with more power when it comes to the evaluation of chemicals, the proposed bill will also require the agency to consider the impact said chemicals have on human living, environmental health, and the health of animals.

The well-being of vulnerable parts of the population, such as pregnant women, poor communities, industrial workers, and children will all need to be taken into consideration when a chemical is under the EPA’s review.

It’s no surprise, then, that the bill has quite a bit of support from the following organizations, which represent 26 million Americans:

  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  • March of Dimes
  • Moms Clean Air Force
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • North America’s Building Trades Unions
  • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Of course, this list could certainly grow as more become aware of the new proposal and what it entails.

Assessing Asbestos

The reformed bill would give the EPA authority to begin evaluating the risk of asbestos or any other chemicals that it designates high-priority (asbestos would likely meet that requirement). Additionally, the new proposal would remove several obstructions that had previously prevented the agency from regulating asbestos. Those previous obstacles dictated that the EPA consider cost when making the decision on whether or not a chemical was unsafe, and that they adopt the regulatory requirement that was least burdensome.

While costs would still be considered under the new proposal, they would only be considered in relationship to necessary risk management measures and only after an evaluation is complete.

A Uniform Regulatory System

Another key highlight of the new proposal is that it’s intended to create a uniform regulatory system across the entire United States. This area of the bill will ensure interstate commerce isn’t heavily burdened, while still allowing states to play a large role in chemical safety.

Final decisions made by the EPA will take precedence over any existing or future state laws that restrict certain chemicals, or that conflict with EPA actions. This will hopefully create some uniformity in addition to making sure Americans have enough protection.

It’s worth noting that any preempting state restrictions will be limited to the range of the EPA’s risk evaluation.

Furthermore, any new state chemical restrictions cannot be enacted while the EPA performs high-priority chemical risk evaluations without states first obtaining a waiver. However, while said chemicals are under review, states will be allowed to enforce any existing restrictions.

Other requirements which are imposed under state laws, such as reporting and monitoring, will not be preempted.

Added Transparency

One further aspect in which the TSCA proposal hopes to make significant improvements is in regards to transparency.

This section of the new bill will make more information regarding chemicals available to both the EPA and the general public. Companies will be limited in terms of their ability to claim certain information as confidential. Additionally, states, along with health and environmental professionals, will be provided access to confidential information that they need in order to perform their job.

Obviously, the benefits of having things out in the open should be more beneficial than harmful in most circumstances.

An Improvement or a Setback?

There are many more fine details in the bill itself, but some of the aforementioned areas will provide a major change to the TSCA. That being said, are they improvements or are they a setback? Some lawmakers have stated that the new bill, which is almost certainly going to pass, doesn’t go far enough. Others have said the new bill will actually be worse than the original 1976 TSCA.

Given the nature of politics, this sort of division isn’t surprising.

When it’s all said and done, it’s probably safe to consider this new bill a positive considering it had not been updated significantly in 40 years.

If you’d like to speak with an expert about the TSCA, or if you have chemicals that need to be disposed, call Hazardous Waste Experts today at 800-936-2311 or click here to email us.

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.