Pace and outcomes of EPA new chemical reviews appear to be on track

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday updated its website to provide a current snapshot of the status of new chemical reviews it has been conducting under last year’s amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The statistics show that, despite being faced immediately with a substantial increase in responsibilities and workload as a result of the major changes made to TSCA, EPA has made enormous progress in implementing the new requirements.

Because the changes made by the Lautenberg Act to TSCA’s new chemicals program were both extensive and immediately effective upon enactment, a temporary backlog developed while EPA implemented the new requirements in reviewing both chemicals that were under review at the time of the law’s passage and those that came in subsequently.

Yesterday's announcement and the related statistics indicate that the backlog has markedly declined since January, falling from 300 to below 150 cases.  In a press release EPA says it is committed to eliminating the backlog entirely by July.

Equally important in the statistics is the fact that many more chemicals are being subject to orders imposing conditions on their commercialization, relative to the old law:  For about half of the reviews completed to date, EPA has issued a consent order.  This is to be expected:  The new law requires EPA to issue such orders whenever it either lacks sufficient information to evaluate a new chemical, or makes a risk- or exposure-based finding that indicates potential concern.  In such cases, the orders must impose conditions sufficient to mitigate the concern.

Yesterday’s announcement is welcome.  EPA needs to stay the course.  And the chemical industry needs to recognize that restoring public and market confidence in our chemical safety system requires a robust new chemicals program.

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