Selected category: TSCA Reform

TSCA reform legislation: How chemicals are selected for safety evaluations

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 1              Part 2              Part 3

This is the third in a series of blog posts looking at less talked-about, but critically important, elements of bipartisan legislative proposals to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  This post deals with how EPA would select which chemicals would undergo safety evaluations.

Under current TSCA, EPA has no mandate to review the safety of existing chemicals. There are no pacing requirements, such as specifying minimum numbers of chemicals to be examined.  The law provides no criteria for EPA to use in identifying chemicals that may pose risks.  There are no requirements for EPA to establish goals for reviews or schedules for any reviews it does undertake.

Safety reviews are rarely undertaken, and often consume many years (or even decades) – in large part because there are no mandates or deadlines.  As a result of these aspects of the current law, only about 2% of the chemicals that were on the market at the time TSCA was enacted have undergone any sort of safety review.

In 2012, EPA on its own initiative undertook a prioritization process that has led to identification of about 90 so-called “work plan” chemicals, for which EPA is conducting or intends to conduct risk assessments; five have been completed to date.

How would TSCA reform legislation identify chemicals to be subjected to safety reviews?   Read More »

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TSCA reform legislation: EPA review of new chemicals

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 1              Part 2              Part 3

This is the second in a series of blog posts looking at less talked-about, but critically important, elements of bipartisan legislative proposals to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  This post deals with EPA authority to review new chemicals prior to their entry into commerce.

TSCA divided the universe of chemicals into two groups:  “Existing chemicals” are those on the market at the time the first TSCA Inventory was established (1979), numbering some 62,000 chemicals.  These chemicals were grandfathered in by the original law, with no mandate for them to be tested or reviewed for safety.  “New chemicals” are those that entered commerce at some point since 1979, numbering some 23,000 chemicals.  Between 500 and 1,000 new chemicals enter commerce in a typical year.  (Given these large numbers, it’s surprising how relatively little focus there has been on the way bipartisan reform proposals would address new chemicals.  I’ll amplify on this point at the end of this post.)   Read More »

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TSCA reform legislation: Enhancing EPA testing authority

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 1              Part 2              Part 3

While most of the attention around legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has focused on the issue of preemption, it’s important not to lose sight of how new legislation would address fundamental problems in the current law.  This post will be the first in a series examining flaws in TSCA and how recent bipartisan reform proposals would address them.

The Lautenberg Act, S. 697, is the bipartisan TSCA reform legislation introduced in the Senate in March.  A bipartisan process has also begun in the House, leading to last week’s release of a discussion draft of “The TSCA Modernization Act of 2015.”  In this series of posts, I’ll describe how each of these legislative vehicles would address the specific problematic area of the current law I’m discussing.

First up, EPA testing authority.   Read More »

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What’s our best chance of ensuring chemical safety?

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) created the serious problem we face today when it grandfathered in all chemicals in use at the time without requiring any safety testing or reviews.  Nearly 40 years on, we have a daunting task ahead of us to establish a new system that is accountable for the safety of chemicals.  It is essential that we get started as soon as possible.

The Lautenberg Act, which would require safety reviews of all chemicals in commerce, represents a fundamental change in our country’s chemicals policy:  it turns us away from the passive system under current law that simply assumes chemicals are safe and toward an active system that requires evidence of safety for chemicals to get or stay on the market.  It’s a huge paradigm shift, which won’t happen overnight, but is likely to have far-reaching consequences.   Read More »

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EPA identifies another risky chemical: Can it succeed in using TSCA to restrict it?

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

Last week, EPA released a risk assessment on the chemical N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP).  NMP is produced and imported into the U.S. in huge quantities (184 million pounds reported in 2012), and has a variety of uses including petrochemical processing, making plastics, and paint stripping.

Experiments in laboratory animals demonstrate that exposure to NMP during pregnancy leads to adverse developmental outcomes in the offspring, such as low birth weight, skeletal malformations, and mortality (see here and here).

EPA’s assessment focused exclusively on NMP exposure from its presence in products used to remove paint and other coatings.  Because of NMP’s potential to disrupt fetal development, EPA assessed exposures in women of childbearing age.

EPA found that exposure to NMP-based paint strippers in women of childbearing age beyond four hours per day presents risks that cannot be mitigated from use of protective gear such as gloves and respirators.  Risks obviously could be greater, even for shorter exposure times, if protective equipment is not consistently used.   Read More »

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Understanding Preemption in the Lautenberg Act

FRL21 Preemption sidebarRichard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

By far the most difficult and contentious aspect of the debate over reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the extent of federal preemption of state authority.  The range of positions on this is truly gigantic, from zero preemption (Senator’s Boxer’s consistent position) at one end of the spectrum to full-field preemption effective upon enactment (the position espoused by some in industry).

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697) has landed somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, with some stakeholders saying it still goes too far and others saying not far enough.  And wherever you land on that question, it should be acknowledged that preemption in the bill is more extensive than under current TSCA, but much less extensive than it was in the predecessor to the Lautenberg Act, 2013’s Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA).

There has been a lot of confusion surrounding preemption in the Lautenberg Act.  So in this post, I describe how preemption works under the bill, and what is and is not preempted.

In the sidebar is a summary of the key preemption provisions of the Lautenberg Act.  The rest of this post is a deeper dive for those who want one.

Preemption under the Lautenberg Act

The first thing to recognize is that any preemption that applies is always chemical-specific and directly matches the nature and scope of the triggering federal action.  That is, preemption attaches only when EPA acts on the same chemical that has been or would be subject to a state action, and only when EPA considers the need for or takes the same type of action as has been or would be taken by a state.  And preemption is limited to the scope of the EPA action (for example, the specific uses of a chemical considered by EPA).

Outside of these boundaries, states are free to act on chemicals.  The new system would be basically the same as the current system except when EPA decides a chemical is a high priority and may require federal action.

Below I discuss the major components to the preemption provisions of the Lautenberg Act.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, States| Tagged | Read 2 Responses
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