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More than 80,000 chemicals available in the United States have never been fully tested for their toxic effects on our health and environment.

The country's main chemical safety law -- the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) -- makes it nearly impossible for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take regulatory action against dangerous chemicals, even those that are known to cause cancer or other serious health effects.

When TSCA became law in 1976, the goal was to ensure the safety of chemicals from manufacture to use and disposal. But weaknesses in the law have left the 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 lifecycle.

To protect public health and allow the law to work as originally intended, we need new legislation that will reform and strengthen TSCA by shifting the burden of proof from the federal government to the chemical industry.

Legislation to reform TSCA -- the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S.1009) -- was recently introduced into the U.S. Senate. Although the bill has an impressive list of bi-partisan co-sponsors, it would be in many ways as ineffective as current law and in some regards even worse. While some individual provisions are improvements over the current law, other provisions would mute or erase their impact and the bill as a whole could leave the public with less protection.

What Reform Must Do

  • Require new and existing chemicals to be assessed for safety with mandatory and enforceable deadlines
  • Establish safety standards for chemicals to protect children and other vulnerable groups
  • Ensure the public's right to know about the safety and use of chemicals
  • Give the EPA the authority to protect the public from unsafe chemicals, including expedited action for the most dangerous, toxic chemicals
  • Allow states to maintain laws which exceed federal protections to safeguard their citizens

Why TSCA Reform Is Needed

Under the law now, the EPA must prove a chemical poses an "unreasonable risk" to public health or the environment before it can be regulated. Widely considered a failure, the law allowed 62,000 chemicals to remain on the market without testing when it first passed. In more than 30 years, the EPA has only required testing for about 200 of those chemicals, and has partially regulated just five. The rest have never been fully assessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment.

For the 22,000 chemicals introduced since 1976, chemical manufacturers have provided little or no information to the EPA regarding their potential health or environmental impacts.

These chemicals are found in toys and other children's products, cleaning and personal care items, furniture, electronics, food and beverage containers, building materials, fabrics, and car interiors.

Since 1976 scientists have linked exposure to toxic chemicals to many health risks. There is growing recognition in the scientific community that exposure to even low doses of certain chemicals, particularly in the womb or during early childhood, can disturb our hormonal, reproductive, and immune systems, and that multiple chemicals can act together to harm human health. Some toxic chemicals can even persist in the environment, for decades sometimes, building up in the food chain and in our bodies. Cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, and other reproductive problems are all associated, to some degree, with exposure to toxic chemicals in animals or humans.

It's time to give the EPA the authority to protect us from toxic chemicals.

Learn More

Strengthening Toxic Chemical Risk Assessments to Protect Human Health

Now is the Time to Reform the Toxic Substances Control Act

The President's Cancer Panel Report: The Implications for Reforming our Nation's Policies on Toxic Chemicals

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