The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 has not been reauthorized since it was initiated nearly 40 years ago. A new bill going through Congress aims to update chemical safety laws to today’s standards. The bipartisan compromise would empower the EPA to get more information about a chemical before approving its usage. Chemicals used in detergents, paint thinner, and dry cleaning solutions will be affected.
Under the current Act, the EPA must prove a chemical is a risk before requiring testing, allowing a substance onto the market after 90 days. In the last 40 years, the EPA has requesting testing for only 200 out of thousands of chemicals and regulates only five of them.
The new bill allows the EPA to require health and safety data for untested chemicals, preventing untested materials from reaching the market. User fees will also be imposed for testing. California, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington currently have their own restrictions on chemicals.
Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) have worked on a compromise bill that may come up for vote as soon as next week. Should it pass, the EPA will review at least ten toxic chemicals with community-wide usage, including asbestos, formaldehyde, and flame retardant. These are found in newspaper ink and fabric protector, for example. The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) started working on the bill with Inhofe in 2012, thus the bill is now named the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.
The American Chemistry Council, representing dozens of chemical companies, says members are willing to disclose more information about products in exchange for a more uniform standard. Americans want to ensure they stay on the cutting edge of science and innovation. There are protections for confidential business information and require the EPA to make its determinations based on current science. Environmentalists, however, remain split on the bill.
The compromise allows states to restrict use of a chemical if the review is taking more than three and a half years. The Maryland Public Interest Research Group believes the bill’s time frame is too long and will stall state efforts to block chemicals they consider unsafe.
Eilperin, Juliet and Fears, Darryl. “Congress is overhauling an outdated law that affects nearly every product you own.” Politics. The Washington Post, 19 May 2016. Web. 22 May 2016.