The newly introduced “Safe Chemicals Act of 2010” by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), which aims to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 was the biggest news in the chemical industry yesterday.
Senator Lautenberg chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health. Here are the highlights of the bill:
- Provides EPA with sufficient information to judge a chemical’s safety. 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. Places the burden of proof on chemical manufacturers to prove the safety of their chemicals. All uses must be identified and determined safe for the chemical to enter the market or continue to be used.
- Takes fast action to address highest risk chemicals. 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.
- Creates open access to reliable chemical information. 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.
- Promotes innovation and development of green chemistry. 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.
The burden of safety testing of all chemicals will now be under chemical producers instead of the EPA, said Lautenberg. The new bill will give EPA more power to regulate the use of considered 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.
Various trade groups ranging from chemicals to downstream consumer products agree that it is time to overhaul TSCA but they also expressed their concerns in allowing states to adopt their own “regulations” concerning chemicals in commerce under the pre-emption provision, as well as the type of standards being proposed for EPA’s decision-making process. (Check out ICIS News article for more on this topic — this one has free access).
Here is one response from the American Chemistry Council (ACC):
A coalition of public health and environmental groups also put out a statement supporting the bill but pointing out some of the areas that need revisions:
- Allow hundreds of new chemicals to enter the market and be used in products for many years without first requiring them to be shown to be safe.
- Not provide clear authority for EPA to immediately restrict production and use of the most dangerous chemicals, even persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals, which already have been extensively studied and are restricted by governments around the world.
- Not require EPA to adopt the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendations to incorporate the best and latest science when determining the safety of chemicals, although the Senate bill does call on EPA to consider those recommendations.