- How the Chemical Industry Ducks Regulation of the Most Toxic Substances
- The President's Cancer Panel Report: The Implications for Reforming our Nation's Policies on Toxic Chemicals
- Congress Must Protect People from Toxic Chemicals Known to Cause Harm:
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
- Hexavalent Chromium
- Methylene Chloride
- Flame Retardants TDCP and TCEP
- Tricholoroethylene (TCE)
- Vinyl Chloride
- Now is the Time to Reform the Toxic Substances Control Act
More than 80,000 chemicals permitted in the United States have never been fully assessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment.
Under the current law, it is almost impossible for the EPA to take regulatory action against dangerous chemicals, even those that are known to cause cancer or other serious health effects.
When the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976, it was intended to ensure that chemicals are safe throughout their lifecycle, from manufacture to use and disposal. But weaknesses in the law have left the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) largely unable to act on known health dangers or require testing on specific chemicals that may be unsafe. Other laws, such as those setting air, water, and workplace safety standards, do not adequately regulate exposure to most chemicals, nor do they address the hazards a chemical may pose over its entire lifecycle.
To protect the public's health and allow TSCA to work as originally intended, new legislation must strengthen TSCA by shifting the burden of proof from EPA to the chemical industry; requiring all new or existing chemicals to be tested for safety, and establishing safety standards for chemicals to protect children and other vulnerable groups. It must ensure the public's right to know about the safety and use of chemicals and give EPA the authority to protect the public from unsafe chemicals, including expedited action for the most dangerous, toxic chemicals.
Legislation has been introduced to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. The Safe Chemicals Act would shift the burden back to the chemical industry to prove its products are safe, establish health standards for chemicals to protect children and other vulnerable groups, and strengthen the public's right to know about the safety and use of chemicals.
Why is TSCA Reform Needed?
Under the current law, the EPA must prove a chemical poses an "unreasonable risk" to health or the environment before it can be regulated. The law is widely considered to be a failure. When the law was first passed, 62,000 chemicals were allowed to remain on the market without testing for their effects on health or the environment. In more than 30 years, the EPA has only required testing of about 200 of those chemicals, and has partially regulated only five. The rest have never been fully assessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment.
For the 22,000 chemicals introduced into commerce since 1976, chemical manufacturers have provided little or no information to the EPA regarding their potential health or environmental impacts.
Cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects and other reproductive problems have all been associated to some degree to exposure to toxic chemicals – chemicals found in children's products, cleaning and personal care products, toys, furniture, electronics, food and beverage containers, building materials, fabrics, and auto interiors.
Since 1976, scientists have linked exposure to toxic chemicals to a wide array of health risks. It is now widely accepted that exposure to low doses of certain chemicals, particularly in the womb or during early childhood, can result in irreversible and life-long impacts on health. It is now commonly understood that some toxic chemicals persist in the environment, sometimes for decades, and build up in the food chain and in our bodies. It is now well-recognized that some chemicals are able to disturb our hormonal, reproductive, and immune systems and that multiple chemicals can act in concert to harm health. It's time to give the EPA the authority to protect the public from toxic chemicals, based upon the scientific understanding that has developed over the past several decades.