EPA Granted More Authority in New Toxic Substances Legislation

New legislation introduced in both houses of the US Congress would overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 to place the burden of proof on chemical manufacturers to prove the safety of their chemicals. Under the bill, all uses must be identified and determined safe for the chemical to enter the market or continue to be used.

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010and said it will give the EPA greater authority to regulate toxic substances.

“America’s system for regulating industrial chemicals is broken,” Lautenberg said. “Parents are afraid because hundreds of untested chemicals are found in their children’s bodies. EPA does not have the tools to act on dangerous chemicals and the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws so that their customers are assured their products are safe."

The “Safe Chemicals Act of 2010” requires safety testing of all industrial chemicals. Under current policy, the EPA can only call for safety testing after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical is dangerous. As a result, EPA has been able to require testing for just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances. The new legislation will give EPA more power to regulate the use of dangerous chemicals and require manufacturers to submit information proving the safety of every chemical in production and any new chemical seeking to enter the market.

Over the last several months, Sen. Lautenberg has chaired a series of hearings to help craft the Safe Chemicals Ac” with dozens of witnesses including business leaders, public officials, scientists, doctors, academics, and non-profit organizations. The legislation comports with the reform principles laid out by the Obama Administration, the American Chemistry Council and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition.

Highlights of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 include:

  • Requires manufacturers to develop and submit a minimum data set for each chemical they produce, while also preventing duplicative or unnecessary testing. EPA will have full authority to request additional information needed to determine the safety of a chemical.
  • Prioritizes chemicals based on risk. Calls on the EPA to categorize chemicals based on risk, and focus resources on evaluating those most likely to cause harm. 
  • Ensures safety threshold is met for all chemicals on the market. 
  • Requires EPA to take fast action to reduce risk from chemicals that have already been proven dangerous. In addition, the EPA Administrator is given authority to act quickly if any chemical poses an imminent hazard.
  • Establishes a public database to catalog the information submitted by chemical manufacturers and the EPA’s safety determinations. The EPA will impose requirements to ensure the information collected is reliable.
  • Establishes grant programs and research centers to foster the development of safe chemical alternatives, and brings some new chemicals onto the market using an expedited review process.

A full summary of the bill can be found at the link below.

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