In a bipartisan effort, congress has passed updates to the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), the first changes in the act’s forty-year history.  The bill, signed by President Obama on June 22nd, takes affect immediately. As we’ve outlined previously, the original act, passed in 1979, left many chemicals untested because of EPA review time limits were too short. Many chemicals are used in products without oversight for consumer protection against possible toxic substances. 

The updated legislation, known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, will bring us closer to Europe’s program: Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).  REACH has been widely applauded and followed by other countries as a model for its effectiveness.

The most significant changes to the TSCA are in the regulation of existing chemicals. The EPA will employ a new risk-based safety standard to screen existing chemicals and prioritize “high-priority substances” for evaluation first. These priority chemicals will have to go through risk assessment to determine whether they pose unreasonable risk. Dangerous chemicals will have a risk management plan to assure proper use.

Another important change in the law is in how the EPA handles new chemical approvals.  The new law requires affirmative findings from EPA on all new chemicals or new uses for existing chemicals before they are made available to consumers. There is also a provision for increased transparency of chemical information to consumers.  This limits manufacturers’ ability to claim confidentiality as a reason for non-disclosure.

These positive changes in the TSCA are an important step toward significantly reducing the human health and environmental risks of man-made chemical substances.

Read more about the changes here.