EDF welcomes EPA’s announcement of much-needed changes to its TSCA New Chemicals Program

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

Today the Environmental Protection Agency announced it is conducting a thorough review of its policies and procedures for assessing the safety of new chemicals prior to allowing their entry into commerce.

EPA’s announcement flags two immediate changes it is making to restore and realign the program’s practices with the major reforms Congress made in 2016 to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  These changes are critical to better ensure that new chemicals presenting potential risks to workers, the public, or the environment are not allowed onto the market absent restrictions sufficient to mitigate any risk.

First, EPA says it “will stop issuing determinations of ‘not likely to present an unreasonable risk’ based on the existence of proposed SNURs [Significant New Use Rules].”  TSCA requires EPA to review reasonably foreseen uses of a new chemical at the same time it considers a company’s intended uses.  If either type of use presents potential risk, TSCA requires EPA to issue an order restricting the new chemical to mitigate that risk.

We fully agree with EPA that it cannot exclude reasonably foreseen uses of a new chemical from its review by proposing a SNUR.  EPA’s clear statement that when it finds “one or more uses may present an unreasonable risk, or when EPA lacks the information needed to make a safety finding, the agency will issue an order to address those potential risks” is precisely what TSCA requires.   By taking this step, EPA will reverse the illegal and unprotective approach the prior administration applied to hundreds of new chemicals over the last several years.

Second, EPA will take regulatory action by issuing an order whenever it identifies potential risks to workers from a new chemical, instead of simply assuming that workers are protected absent any binding requirement on employers.  TSCA identifies workers as warranting special protection under the law, yet the prior administration illegally allowed hundreds of new chemicals onto the market without any assured protections even where it found risks exceeding its own benchmarks by many-fold.

EDF looks forward to working with EPA to restore legal and scientific integrity to its TSCA program and realign it with the agency’s mission to protect health and the environment.

 

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