Links to essential reading on the Lautenberg Act

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

The full Senate is expected soon to take up and vote on the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (the Lautenberg Act for short, S. 697), the bipartisan TSCA reform legislation introduced in the Senate in March and passed in revised form out of the Environment and Public Works Committee in April.

In anticipation of this, I am posting here an update to a series of blog posts that examine how the Lautenberg Act would address key flaws in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  I am also posting links to brief and detailed side-by-sides of TSCA and the two bills, and also to two posts that address the contentious issue of preemption of state authority.

These posts compare the Lautenberg Act to current TSCA, and also to the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015, H.R. 2576, the bipartisan legislation introduced in the House in May and passed by the full House in June.

All of these materials (including this post) are available at

  • How would TSCA reform legislation address key flaws in TSCA?  Update of our 5-part series on less talked-about but critically important elements of TSCA reform:
    • Enhancing testing authority
    • EPA review of new chemicals
    • How chemicals are selected for safety evaluations
    • Confidential business information
    • Consideration of costs and other non-risk factors


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

Why is the nanotech industry so intent on keeping EPA from doing its job?

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

Ten years and counting.  That’s how long EPA has been trying to gather the most basic information on nanoscale materials in commerce.  And that’s how long the nanotech industry has been throwing up roadblocks – despite its rhetoric that it supports EPA’s effort, which it sees (in theory) as a means to “favorably and efficiently address unwarranted concerns that have been raised” about the products of nanotechnology.  This “say-one-thing, do-another” approach is both unfortunate and ironic, given that it has stymied getting to a well-informed government oversight system for nanotechnology that the industry should recognize is in its own best interest.

The latest round comes in the wake of EPA’s proposal of a reporting rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that would call on makers and processors of nanoscale materials – those in the size range of 1-100 nanometers (nm) – to provide the agency with information relating to the materials’ manufacture, processing and use, as well as available data relevant to understanding their potential exposures and health or environmental impacts. Here’s EPA’s succinct summary of the rationale for the rule:

Nanoscale materials have special properties related to their small size such as greater strength and lighter weight, however, they may take on different properties than their conventionally-sized counterpart. The proposal is not intended to conclude that nanoscale materials will cause harm to human health or the environment; Rather, EPA would use the information gathered to determine if any further action under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including additional information collection, is needed.

Despite this modest, common-sense objective, the proposal was met with vociferous opposition from the nanotech industry.   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Nanotechnology, Regulation| Read 2 Responses

New chemical reforms are vital to TSCA legislation, says former top official for EPA toxics office

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

In an op-ed published in today’s Roll Call, Dr. Lynn Goldman, Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, makes the case for why TSCA reform legislation needs to include changes to the provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that govern requirements for new chemicals prior to market entry.

The op-ed is notable for two reasons.  First, it addresses a key difference between the Senate and House versions of TSCA reform legislation.  The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697) includes numerous upgrades to Section 5 of TSCA governing new chemicals and significant new uses of existing chemicals.  Dr. Goldman’s op-ed points to the critical improvements the Senate bill would make.  In contrast, the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2576) passed by the House of Representatives would leave Section 5 unchanged.

Second, Dr. Goldman is uniquely qualified to address this issue, having served as Assistant Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency from 1993 to 1998, overseeing the office that implements TSCA.

Dr. Goldman, a pediatrician, stresses the importance to public health of reforming how EPA reviews and regulates new chemicals prior to their entry into commerce.  These provisions have never been amended since TSCA was adopted nearly 40 years ago.  That’s why it’s a vital element to include in any meaningful reform of our nation’s obsolete chemical safety law.

For more on how the Senate and House TSCA legislation compare, see these earlier posts.


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

Walmart Takes Important First Step on Disclosing Product Ingredients

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist, Alissa Sasso is a Research Consultant.

Imagine you’re standing in the shopping aisle looking for a new brand of lotion that won’t irritate your baby’s skin. You find yourself surveying at least a dozen different lotion labels trying to understand and compare product ingredients. The process is frustrating and slow, not to mention confusing—what are some of these things even used for? You’re ready to pull your hair out!

You are not alone. Inadequate access to ingredient information has long been a systemic problem. Fortunately, the situation is improving. In the past few years, more and more companies have taken action to make product information more transparent to consumers, including, importantly, the sharing of ingredients online. Walmart has recently joined the ranks of these companies.  Read more to learn what action the retailer has taken.   Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Markets and Retail| Tagged | Comments are closed

We don’t know how many chemicals are in use today. We should know.

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

No one knows how many chemicals are in use today.  It’s a problem that we don’t.

The TSCA Inventory lists about 85,000 chemicals, but because it is a cumulative list that started in 1979, it lists all chemicals that have been in commerce at some point since then.  It is not a list of chemicals currently on the market.

EPA periodically collects information on chemicals produced or imported above a certain volume threshold (currently set at 25,000 pounds per reporting site in the reporting year).  In the most recent data collected in 2012, companies reported producing or importing 7,700 chemicals.  However, given the volume threshold and the several exemptions from reporting requirements, we know this number is a significant underestimate of the number of chemicals in active commerce.

This means that all we know is that somewhere between 7,700 and 85,000 chemicals under TSCA’s jurisdiction are presently in commerce.  I’ve repeatedly heard industry and environmentalists cite each of these numbers in claims they make about how many chemicals are in use today.  The truth, however, clearly lies somewhere within this huge range.   Read More »

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

How the Senate and House TSCA reform bills stack up against the Administration’s Principles for TSCA Reform

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

In September 2009, the Obama Administration issued its Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation “to help inform efforts underway in Congress to reauthorize and significantly strengthen the effectiveness of TSCA.”  These principles have guided EPA’s testimony and other statements relating to the Senate and House legislative proposals to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Now that the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2576) has passed the House of Representatives, and the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697) is expected to come to the Senate floor in the coming weeks, I'll use this post to take a look at how each bill stacks up against the Administration’s principles.   Read More »

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