Author Archives: Richard Denison

New chemicals under the new TSCA: Growing pains now, but a stronger system going forward

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

In the many conversations I have had over these last many years about the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the single thing that most resonated with people about why the old law didn’t work was about new chemicals. Folks were stunned when they learned that the old law didn‘t require our government to review chemicals and determine they were safe before they were allowed onto the market.  People simply assumed this was the case and were shocked to find it wasn’t.  I heard repeatedly, what could be a more basic need to ensure protection of the public’s health?

That is why many in Congress worked so hard to drive improvements to the new chemicals provisions in the new law – that, and a clear understanding of the many ways in which the old law hamstrung EPA when it came to new chemicals.  In my view, these reforms and robust implementation of them by EPA are absolutely essential to the task of restoring public and market confidence in our national chemical safety system – the shared objective that allowed disparate stakeholders and lawmakers to come together to support the Lautenberg Act.

For too long, economic factors have dominated over the public’s right to expect that chemicals to which they may be exposed will not be allowed into use without adequate assurance of their safety.  That has undermined consumer confidence in our chemical safety system.  The public understands that the most efficient and effective stage at which to provide assurance of safety is before commercial production and use begins, rather than waiting and then having to try to mitigate risks that arise after a new chemical is embedded in commerce.

I have blogged previously about why the new chemicals reforms in the new law represent a balanced approach, on the one hand, ensuring that the safety of new chemicals is carefully examined and a reasonable assurance of safety is provided before market entry; and, on the other hand, ensuring an efficient process that doesn’t unduly slow or create too high a bar for market entry.

Of course, even as it has supported the new law’s balanced reforms, the chemical industry did and continues to assert that the old new chemicals system worked just fine.  I’ve always maintained that’s because it rarely required much of them.   It’s not wholly surprising, therefore, that the industry is expressing angst over EPA’s implementation of the new requirements.  Change is hard.

Bear in mind also that the new requirements of the law not only changed the status quo significantly, they also became effective immediately upon passage of the law, without any time given to EPA to migrate to the new regimen.  That, too, has been a source of the growing pains felt by both EPA and the regulated community.  Abrupt change is even harder.

But a broader and longer view of the new law is called for.  The bulk of this post will describe why EDF believes that EPA’s implementation to date is not only consistent with the new law but in fact mandated by it, and why, despite initial growing pains, the new system will be a major improvement over the long run for both public health and business.  But first …   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , | 1 Response

Bipartisan group of Senators urges new Administration to ensure strong implementation of new TSCA

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

Yesterday a bipartisan group of nine Senators who were deeply involved in passage of the Lautenberg Act wrote to President-Elect Trump’s transition team to urge that EPA under the next Administration “vigorously implement the new law.”  The Lautenberg Act amended the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) and was signed into law by President Obama on June 22, of this year.

The group went on to state that strong implementation “includes moving expeditiously to identify and address chemicals with the greatest potential impact on public health, especially those affecting vulnerable populations.  … Successful implementation of this law will also help ensure there is certainty and restore confidence in the marketplace for manufacturers, consumer product producers, and the public.”

The Senators urged that the transition team work with EPA “to communicate on critical steps that are underway and to get a full appreciation of the new law’s deadlines.  We urge that you view appointments, funding and staffing to this office with the utmost importance.  It is essential to maintain momentum during the Presidential transition and in the early months of the new Administration to ensure that this new law is successful.”

The signatories to the letter are Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM), James Inhofe (R-OK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tom Carper (D-DE), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

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Off and running: EPA identifies first 10 chemical for review under new TSCA

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.  Lindsay McCormick and Jennifer McPartland contributed to this post.

Today, in advance of the December 19, 2016 deadline specified under the new TSCA, EPA has announced the first 10 chemicals to undergo risk evaluations (see list below).

This is a very important early step called for under the Lautenberg Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support.  Early action by EPA was seen by stakeholders across the spectrum as essential to begin the process of restoring public and market confidence in our nation’s chemical safety system.  So EPA’s issuance of this list in advance of the statutory deadline next month is a welcome sign of timely implementation of the new law.

While not every chemical that everyone may have wanted is included among the first 10, that is because there are many more than 10 chemicals that need far greater scrutiny as to their safety.  Indeed, the longer “Work Plan Chemicals” list from which EPA drew the first 10 consists of nearly 100 chemicals that present significant potential risk.

What is most important is that EPA gets started, so that it can complete risk evaluations of the first 10 and move on to the next.  EPA now has 6 months to establish the scope of its risk evaluations for these chemicals, identifying the uses, hazards, exposure and vulnerable populations it will evaluate.   Read More »

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Early disconnect between industry rhetoric and actions under the new TSCA?

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

It was more than a bit heartening that, even post-election, chemical industry representatives have been publicly urging that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementation of the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) should continue apace.

So it pains me greatly to be reading that some in industry are aggressively pressing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to block at least one of EPA’s proposals to restrict certain very high-risk uses of trichloroethylene (TCE), which focuses on TCE’s use in commercial vapor degreasing operations.  As reported late last week by Inside EPA (subscription required), industry representatives have asked OMB not to even allow EPA to issue its proposal for public comment, despite the fact that the industry and the rest of the public have yet to see it.

These are the first risk reduction actions EPA is proposing to take under the Lautenberg Act, which passed earlier this year with strong bipartisan support.  Industry supported the new law, saying it accepted the need to give EPA stronger authority to identify and restrict dangerous uses of chemicals in order to help restore public confidence in the nation’s chemical safety system.  So why are some now seeking to block the very first actions taken under the new law?  This type of behavior— fighting even limited steps by EPA to address even the riskiest of chemicals—is what brought about this crisis in confidence in the first place.   Read More »

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Separating fact from fancy in the TSCA Inventory reset mandated by the Lautenberg Act

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

A key reform under the Lautenberg Act is the requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) generate an accurate, up-to-date list of all chemicals in active commerce.  This is to be accomplished by promulgating a rule to do a full “reset” of the TSCA Inventory that distinguishes between active and inactive chemicals.  It is necessary because the 85,000 chemicals on that Inventory represent a cumulative listing of all chemicals that have been in commerce at some point since its establishment in 1979, but no doubt includes many that are not now in commerce.

I have blogged previously about why it is important that EPA and the public know how many and which chemicals are in use today in the U.S.  Among other reasons, it is essential that we understand the magnitude of the task that awaits EPA under the new TSCA, with respect to prioritization, risk evaluation, risk management, and substantiation and review of confidential business information (CBI) claims.  That has implications for the pace of the program and the resources EPA will need to do its job, which extends ultimately to reviewing the safety of all chemicals in commerce.

EDF provided EPA with our comments on what should be included in EPA’s upcoming rule establishing the Inventory reset.  Unfortunately, comments on that rule received from some in industry indicate that they are seeking to limit the Inventory reset in ways that are not allowed under the new law and are short-sighted or even counterproductive to the purpose of the reset.  I provide a critique here of three of those proposed limitations.   Read More »

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Getting engaged … in shaping implementation of the new TSCA

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

When President Obama signed the Lautenberg Act into law in June, it marked the beginning of a new phase in the long battle to improve chemical safety. Much of the success or failure of the new law now hinges on how well it is implemented. There are both a critical need and numerous opportunities for those who have a stake in improving our chemical safety system to engage in shaping how the law will be implemented.

To that end, EDF has developed an Engagement Guide that provides an overview of some of the key provisions in the Lautenberg Act and associated opportunities for stakeholder engagement, including:

  • Safety Standard and Vulnerable Subpopulations
  • Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals
  • Prioritizing Chemicals in Use
  • Risk Evaluations of Existing Chemicals Deemed High-Priority
  • First Chemicals to be Reviewed
  • Restrictions on Chemicals that Present an Unreasonable Risk
  • New Chemicals Entering the Market
  • Transparency and Information Access
  • Legal Recourses
  • Preemption of State Authority

I hope you find it useful!

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed
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