Mike Rogge

TOSCA reform, and what it means

By Mike Rogge

Capitol Update, July 1, 2016 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

In 1976 President Gerald Ford signed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TOSCA) into law. In 40 years, the US-EPA has ordered testing of only about 250 of the 84,000 chemicals in use and banned or restricted 9. Over time, public confidence in the US-EPA’s assessment of chemicals waned, some states passed their own chemical laws, and pressure grew in the manufacturing marketplace to deselect certain products without sound scientific justification. This patchwork of different approaches to chemicals created confusion for consumers and for businesses.

On May 24th, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Lautenberg Act, followed by a June 7th unanimous vote by the U.S. Senate and the President signature on June 22nd.

The Lautenberg Act is a compromise between industry, environmentalists, public health advocates, animal rights activists and labor groups. These are some of the more important changes:

  • Requires a US-EPA affirmative safety finding before a new chemical enters the marketplace;
  • Mandates safety reviews for all chemicals in commerce for the first time;
  • Explicitly protects vulnerable populations: infants, children, pregnant women, workers, and the elderly;
  • Mandates a schedule for US-EPA to conduct risk assessments and prioritize all existing chemicals as high or low priority;
  • Mandates regulation of high priority chemicals;
  • Preempts states from taking actions where US-EPA is already acting on a chemical. States are not preempted from imposing reporting, monitoring or disclosure requirements;
  • Protects confidential business information (CBI), but requires reaffirmation of past CBI claims;
  • Reduces animal testing “to the extent practicable” and replaces with reliable alternatives;
  • State actions taken before April 22, 2016 are not preempted (preserving California’s Prop 65);
  • Sets aggressive yet attainable deadlines for US-EPA to complete its work; and
  • Creates a positive and predictable business environment.

This law gives US EPA authority to immediately begin a risk evaluation of any chemicals it designates as a “high priority.” US-EPA must identify 10 “high priority” chemicals from the Agency’s “Work Plan Chemicals” list and have risk evaluations on them underway within 180 days. The Work Plan Chemicals list includes many chemicals that are frequently mentioned in the media or are currently the subject of scientific scrutiny. US-EPA is required to complete the risk evaluations in three years, with a possible six-month extension. If US-EPA’s risk evaluation determines that a chemical or specific uses of a chemical present an unreasonable risk, US-EPA can apply risk management measures including labeling requirement, use restrictions, phase-outs or bans.

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