TSCA Reform Debuts in the 113th Congress.

Last week, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013, which would overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). The Safe Chemicals Act is identical to legislation approved last year by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Safe Chemicals Act grants greater authority to the EPA to:

  • evaluate the safety of chemicals based on risk;
  • update EPA’s TSCA Inventory, first focusing review on priority chemicals;
  • order additional testing of chemicals when existing health and safety data is inadequate;
  • require regular use reporting;
  • impose a broad range of risk-management controls for chemicals that fail to meet safety standards; and
  • establish a public database of safety determinations and health and safety data.

The legislation’s focus on risk combines both hazard- and exposure-based methods of safety assessment. Under the bill’s new safety standard, EPA must determine that there is “reasonable certainty that no harm will result to human health or the environment from aggregate exposure” to evaluated chemicals. Such safety determinations must also follow recommendations on “best available science” from the National Academy of Sciences. EPA would evaluate and make safety determinations for all chemicals in the TSCA Inventory based on a priority classification scheme which uses existing data and considers the following factors: potential impacts on human health and the environment; hazard potential, including “designations of hazard characteristics by other authoritative entities”; potential for exposure; and measurements of exposure for any given pathway, if available. For chemicals that do not meet the safety standard, EPA would be able to implement controls ranging from requiring warning labels to imposing an outright manufacturing ban.

The proposed regular use reporting would apply to manufacturers and processors, and is similar to the existing Chemical Data Reporting rule. The bill also incorporates amendments made in committee to last year’s bill which aim to better protect manufacturers’ confidential business information, including specific protections applicable to certain types of information, like “[p]recise information describing the manufacture, processing, or distribution of a chemical substance or mixture” or marketing and sales data.

Lautenberg, who has announced he will retire in 2014, has introduced several TSCA reform bills during his career, and hopes to make the Safe Chemicals Act his “signature legislation for his final term in office.” Twenty-seven other members of the Senate’s Democratic caucus have joined Lautenberg and Gillibrand in sponsoring this bill. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has already announced his intention to introduce a competing bill for this Congress; he led Republican efforts on TSCA modernization in the 112th Congress.

The full text of the Safe Chemicals Act is available on Sen. Lautenberg’s website.