08 March 2007 21:06 [Source: ICIS news]
BALTIMORE, Maryland (?xml:namespace>
Robert Sussman, an attorney and a former high-ranking official at the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told a chemicals industry regulatory conference that there are increasing pressures in Congress and elsewhere for an overhaul of the US Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA).
That statute was passed in 1976, he noted, and it is the only federal environmental law never to be amended.
With a new Democrat majority in Congress, he said, there is growing interest in amending that 30-year-old law.
Sussman said that because Congress remains sharply and almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, there is little prospect that an effort to amend TSCA will be successful in the near term.
However, he suggested that it might be in the chemical industry’s interest to support changes to the law because that could help ensure public confidence that the chemicals sector is managing risk prudently and effectively.
TSCA gives the EPA authority to limit or prohibit the use of new chemical compounds that are found in a science-based analysis to pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. However, Sussman noted, the law “has been unable to demonstrate a comprehensive approach to evaluation and management of existing chemicals” that were in commercial use when the statute was enacted.
Lacking the ability to evaluate long-standing chemical products and to assure the public of their safety, he said, TCSA may be overtaken by the European Union’s (EU) programme for registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach). Reach requires evaluation of all chemicals now in commercial use.
Given TSCA’s shortcomings, “Reach could become the focal point for international management of chemicals”, Sussman said.
In addition, he said, state and local legislatures could undermine TSCA by passing their own Reach-like measures. He cited a recent ban of some chemical products by the City of
Sussman also cautioned that market pressures may overtake TSCA, citing moves by Wal-mart and other major retailers to select or deselect consumer products based on their environmental impact. “These marketplace initiatives pose essentially the same threats as state and local legislation,” he said.
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