Its Official: Strong TSCA Reform Bill Debuts in the House

The TSCA reform bill introduced on Thursday by Representatives Bobby Rush and Henry Waxman, called the “Toxic Chemicals Safety Act” (H.R.5820) will help fix an outdated and barely functioning law that was intended to protect people from unsafe chemicals but failed to do so.  The bill will improve public health protection by establishing a system that moves us toward production and use of safer chemicals.

The bill will enhance EPA’s authority (and responsibility) to regulate toxic chemicals, both those we already know are unsafe, and those for which we currently lack sufficient information to determine safety.

And the bill will expand the public’s right to know about the health and environmental impacts of chemicals used in commerce, as well as where those chemicals are used and how people are likely to be exposed. 

The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act contains many important provisions for reforming TSCA and improving public protection from toxic chemicals.  Here is a Top Ten list of features in the bill:

  • Shifts the burden of proof from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the chemical industry to prove that a chemical is safe to enter or remain on the market;
  • Requires chemicals to meet a safety standard that accounts for those more vulnerable sub-populations like children, the elderly and some workers and considers all exposures to a chemical, as well as information on exposure to other chemicals that can have the same health impacts;
  • Ensures EPA will rely upon the most up to date methods for assessing the safety of chemicals; including recent recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences;
  • Requires the chemical industry to (finally) provide basic information on all chemicals in commerce, including potential effects on health and the environment;
  • Directs EPA to identify those toxic chemicals that are persistent in the environment and build up in our bodies (PBTs) and take immediate action to protect the public from the risks posed by those chemicals;
  • Directs EPA to identify the 20 communities disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals and develop and carry out plans for reducing the exposures in those areas;
  • Expands the public’s right to know about the potential health impacts of chemicals as well as where they are manufactured and used and how people can be exposed;
  • Enables EPA to require testing of chemicals where the agency has concerns or needs additional information to evaluate the safety of a chemical;
  • Promotes the development of safer alternatives to unsafe chemicals and the development of green chemistry;
  • Expands the use of bio-monitoring to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the toxic substances we are exposed to and carry in our bodies.

If enacted into law, this bill would transform TSCA from a toothless, meaningless, nearly forgotten law, into a critical and effective tool for protecting the public from chronic illness caused by exposure to unsafe toxic chemicals. The chemical lobby is going to pull out all the stops to kill this bill.  We should all pull together to make it the law of the land, and save ourselves (even those chemical industry lobbyists) in the process.

About the Authors

Daniel Rosenberg

Senior Attorney, Health & Environment program

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