Safe Chemicals Act of 2010

The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) is EPA’s law that regulates the manufacturing and usage of chemicals. The regulation is antiquated and hasn’t been amended since 1976, despite the many changes in the chemicals industry presently use, and the advances we’ve made in our understanding of toxicology, epidemiology and chemicals testing.

Under the present TSCA regulation, the EPA has the ability to require the testing to determine if a chemical is safe or not of 200 chemicals out of approximately 80,000 chemicals manufactured in the U.S. According to many, this is unacceptable and is a major cause of negative impact to humans and the environment.

On April 15, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010. If this bill becomes law, it will replace the outdate TSCA regulation and shift the burden of proof that a chemical is safe to the chemical manufacturer. The new law would require chemical manufacturers to produce and submit, to the EPA, specified analytical data for each chemical manufactured. After review of the initial data, the EPA can require any additional data necessary to determine if a chemical is safe, or the hazards associated with the chemical. The law will also allow the EPA to act quickly to manage chemicals classified as hazardous and, if necessary, discontinue the manufacturing and use.

Reaction to the bill has been predictable – environmental and public health advocates support the bill, and the American Chemistry Council cautiously praise the bill with concern that the bill’s proposed decision-making standard may be legally and technically impossible to meet.

Experts say the new testing requirements could help protect American exports from being banned under the European Union’s REACH regulations, however, the bill as it stands now could present risks for chemical manufacturers, including having to provide information that is now considered a trade secret, subjecting more chemicals to potential U.S. bans and exposing chemical manufacturers to increased liability.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said common ground among interested parties makes her optimistic that Congress will put new legislation into place. If it does, it will be interesting to watch how the new law affects public perceptions of the chemical industry and the business fortunes of one of the nation’s main exporting industries.