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TSCA Reform - A Milestone to Protect People from Dangerous Chemicals

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on December 12th, 2016

In June 2016 President Obama signed LSCA - a bipartisan bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the first major update to an environmental statute in 20 years. The new law includes necessary improvements such as mandatory requirements for EPA to evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines.

The TSCA Passed in 1976 Was Unsuccessful in Keeping Away Harmful Chemicals from the American Market

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted way back in 1976 with an aim to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the right towards regulation of the use of chemical substances in the manufacturing of day-to-day products such as carpets, household cleaning items as well as automobiles. However, it fell short because some of the requirements were almost impossible to conform to, which in turn left behind EPA without the most needed authority to take this forward.

Even after 40 years of TSCA enactment, thousands of dangerous chemicals are released in the market without undergoing safety evaluation. Only countable numbers of chemicals in the market have been analyzed for the health hazards these cause, and only 5 of these have been banned successfully. During Bush administration, when the EPA decided to ban asbestos under the TSCA, the rule got annulled in court.

By then, it was clear that major reforms to TSCA were the need of the hour, without which the EPA cannot take any actions to safeguard people from the dangers of chemical exposure. Public health experts and environmentalists distinguished the deficits in law and demanded major changes in TSCA.

LSCA - A Promise to Safeguard Americans' Health

In order to successfully meet the needs of the 21st Century, the Congress passed a two-party reform legislation to update and modernize the TSCA. As a result of years of hard work put up by the Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate along with the technical support provided by the EPA staff, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (LCSA) was enacted into law after President Obama signed a bipartisan bill on June 22, 2016.

For the first time in 20 years, we are updating a national environmental statute. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century will make it easier for the EPA to review chemicals already on the market, as well as the new chemicals our scientists and our businesses design. It will do away with an outdated bureaucratic formula to evaluate safety, and instead focus solely on the risks to our health. And it will finally grant our scientists and our public servants at the EPA the funding they need to get the job done and keep us safe. I'm absolutely confident that we can regulate toxic chemicals in a way that's both good for our families and ultimately good for business and our economy -- because nobody can innovate better than folks here in this country and our businesses - stated the president before signing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

The law reform provides the EPA, the authority to safeguard public health from the effects of toxic chemical exposure. American manufacturing industries will now have a sort of certainty over the regulations that are essential for innovation, growth, and the creation of new job opportunities for citizens. Finally, hazardous chemicals can now be kept away to ensure public safety. Thanks to the LCSA - a historic reform.

A Spotlight of LCSA That Improved and Strengthened TSCA

  • All new, as well as existing chemicals, should be subjected to an EPA safety review.
  • EPA should concentrate on the chemicals that come under the highest priority for full risk-based safety assessment.
  • Reinforcement of transparency as well as the quality of science used in making decisions of the EPA.
  • Extension of EPA's ability to demand additional health and safety tests of chemicals.
  • Industries can request EPA to carry out a safety assessment check on a specific chemical substance.
  • EPA is provided with a complete range of options related to addressing the risks of chemicals including the labeling requirements, restrictions on usage, phase-outs, and other appropriate factors.
  • Aggressive and attainable deadlines are set for completion of EPA's work.
  • The national chemical regulatory system is strengthened as the updated law promotes interstate commerce and cooperation between the State and Federal regulators.
  • The new law makes protection for the most susceptible groups such as infants, children, and the elderly even more strong.
  • The EPA has to assess and evaluate chemical substances based on the health risk these cause.
  • To perform its new responsibilities, a consistent funding source is provided, which means EPA can collect funds in the form of user fees from chemical processing and manufacturing facilities.

The introduction of the LCSA has been considered as a huge reform in the field of public health maintenance.