While we at the American Chemistry Council (ACC) are celebrating our 150-year anniversary, the landmark Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is approaching nearly half a century of its own. As we mark these milestones, let’s take a look-back (and look-forward) at TSCA, the vital collaboration necessary between ACC and EPA, and the agency’s implementation of this key statute.
The Early Days
In 1976 Gerald Ford was president, Apple Computer was founded, the classic film “Rocky” was released, and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was created to regulate the production and use of industrial chemicals in commerce. Under the newly formed TSCA any new chemical introduced, or a significant new use of an existing chemical, required notice and/or EPA review before commercialization. All existing chemicals in commerce when TSCA was enacted were “grandfathered” in meaning no new or updated EPA review was required for those chemicals to remain in use.
TSCA gave EPA the authority to review new chemicals before they were manufactured, gather information on existing chemicals in commerce, and provided EPA with the authority to require reporting, record-keeping, and testing requirements. TSCA was an important first-of-its-kind environmental statute, a significant step forward for chemical management in the U.S.
Over the Years
But it wasn’t perfect. And over time TSCA implementation became a source of frustration for regulators, industry, and the interested public. Lawsuits challenged EPA’s authority; delays plagued EPA chemical reviews and determination; EPA was slow to regulate existing chemicals; Advances in testing technology and scientific understanding of chemicals were not reflected in TSCA’s policies and procedures; and despite the new chemicals program’s success, there were calls for additional safeguards.
Into the Millennium
In 2009, ACC put forth a set of principles and called for TSCA reform. Following four years of robust education and outreach, Senators Lautenberg and Vitter introduced the very first bipartisan TSCA reform legislation, with critical support from ACC and many other stakeholders. After years of work and negotiations among lawmakers of both parties, as well as extensive engagement by stakeholders from industrial, environmental, public health, animal rights, and labor organizations, Congress overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act in 2015 to modernize TSCA for the first time since the original law was passed. And the following year President Obama signed the statute, requiring EPA to evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines, requiring EPA to focus on chemicals that are the highest concern, making it easier for EPA to require more safety testing of chemicals, and giving a full range of options to manage risks posed by chemicals.
ACC and its members were key supporters of this historic, bipartisan effort.
Congress knew that human health, the environment, and economic growth are not mutually exclusive. Congress intended the amended risk based TSCA program to protect human health and the environment, while also promoting America’s role as the world’s leading innovator.
Today, Where Do We Stand?
In May, ACC released the “State of TSCA Report.” It outlines six key problems with EPA’s current approach to TSCA implementation, as well as six key solutions to getting TSCA implementation back on track. Unfortunately, in the five months since we released the report, the vast majority of these key problems with EPA’s implementation of TSCA continue and almost none of the key solutions have been adopted by the Agency.
If the U.S. is to remain a global leader in innovation, TSCA must be a dependable and fully functioning program. Promoting the safe use of the essential products of chemistry is a shared responsibility between manufacturers, the government, and those who use or sell chemical products. TSCA can either be a catalyst to addressing our nation’s and the world’s pressing challenges, or it can create an unnecessary barrier to progress. Implementing TSCA in the sensible, risk- and science-based manner the 2016 bipartisan amendments call for is the best way to move forward to a safer, more prosperous future.
ACC is fully committed to doing our part to help the Agency get there.