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Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

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Scott Openshaw
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Microscope Examining Slide

The passage of the 2016 amendments to TSCA was a watershed moment. Those amendments, known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, were the result of years of work and negotiations between lawmakers of both parties, as well as extensive engagement by stakeholders from industrial, environmental, public health, animal rights, and labor organizations. The law passed both House of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, and it was the first major update to any environmental law in 40 years.

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There are three "framework rules" in TSCA that are designed to work together to set the stage for, and then deliver, efficient and streamlined risk evaluations of chemicals:

Inventory Reset Rule

Process for sorting the TSCA inventory so that EPA can focus on chemicals that are currently active in commerce

  • According to EPA, the inventory contains 86,557 chemicals of which 41,864 are active
  • According to available 2016 Chemical Data Reporting Rule (CDR) information and other production volume data, only about 50 chemicals make up over 70 percent of volume production in commerce
  • Based on that same data, 99.8 percent of volume production can be attributed to approximately 4,000 chemicals

Prioritization Rule

Process for designating low priority chemicals, as well as the high priority chemicals that will undergo risk evaluations

  • Prioritization must be a risk-based screening process in which EPA integrates hazard information with use and exposure information
  • Prioritization designations must be based on the best available science and weight of the scientific evidence as required by Section 26 of the law
  • As EPA has said, designation as a high priority candidate “does not constitute a finding of risk” and should not be cause for concern
  • The agency should consider advances in science and additional information that may have come to light in prioritizing substances since the 2014 TSCA Work Plan list was developed

Risk Evaluation Rule

Process for conducting risk evaluations on high priority chemicals

  • TSCA requires all risk evaluations to use the best available science and the weight of the scientific evidence
  • The law empowers the agency to make case-by-case decisions on the scope of risk evaluations, including the conditions of use chemicals
  • EPA has the ability to obtain relevant information from other jurisdictions (e.g., Canada, Europe) and can rely upon the risk assessments completed by other jurisdictions where uses and exposures are consistent with those in the U.S. and meet TSCA’s scientific standards
  • Manufacturers are able to request that EPA conduct a risk evaluation of a chemical
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