For the first time in 40 years, Congress passed reform legislation to improve the regulation of chemicals. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 has been long overdue for modernization, and on June 7, 2016, Congress unanimously passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Safety for the 21st Century Act.
This reform should give consumers reason to have greater confidence that manufacturers are safely storing, using and transporting chemicals. It also lowers the amount of state-level chemical initiatives whose inconsistencies encumber interstate commerce and convey mixed messages to consumers.
The reform provides regulatory guarantees to American manufacturers, allowing them to innovate, expand, generate jobs, and compete globally as needed. Simultaneously, consumers and the environment receive greater protection from risks posed by many chemicals.
The Frank R. Lautenberg Safety for the 21st Century Act provides the following reforms to the TSCA:
- All new and existing chemicals will be subjected to the EPA for a safety review.
- High-priority chemicals must pass a risk-based safety assessment by the EPA.
- It will improve the transparency and quality of the science that the EPA uses to make decisions.
- It expands the EPA’s authority to require additional health and safety testing for chemicals.
- The industry can request that the EPA conduct a safety assessment on a specific chemical.
- The EPA will now be provided with a full range of options for labeling requirements, use restrictions, phase-outs, etc. in order to address the risks of substances.
- The Act gives the EPA an aggressive yet attainable timeline to complete its work.
- It promotes cooperation among state and federal regulators, creates a stronger national chemical regulatory system, and ensures that interstate commerce is not hindered.
- It strengthens protections for infants, children, and the elderly, who are more susceptible to health problems from chemicals.
- Lastly, it better protects Confidential Business Information (CBI).
The late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg and Sen. David Vitter introduced the bipartisan reform bill in 2013. Senators Vitter and Tom Udall led negotiations, which culminated in a significantly revised version of the bill introduced in 2014. The bill passed the Senate that December.
The bill was then introduced to the House in May 2015 and passed a month later by an astonishing margin of 398 to 1.
How will the reform affect manufacturers and trade?
With the reform in place, any manufacturer that uses chemicals in its products could be subject to TSCA regulations as opposed to only traditional chemical manufacturers. The three reasons for this are:
The reform includes many new compliance mandates, as well as the potential for increased enforcement and litigation,
The reform now requires the EPA to review all chemicals in commerce, and
The reform has a more defined focus on use and exposure to chemicals.
Examples of manufacturers that must now comply with TSCA regulations include those of personal care products, auto parts, computer and electronic parts, toys, and even athletic clothing.
Depending on the outcomes of the EPAs numerous risk assessments for all the chemicals that previously did not fall under the TSCA’s scrutiny, manufacturers will likely find themselves legally obligated to comply to new restrictions, labeling requirements, and potential bans.
These changes will undoubtedly have repercussions for foreign entities that import from or export to the U.S. Just how much the reform will affect U.S. manufacturers and foreign entities remains to be seen over the next three years as the EPA carries out the implementation schedule.
Visit the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC’s) infographic on the updated Federal Approval Process for Chemicals.
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