PDF _ RL34118 - Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA): Implementation and New Challenges
25-Feb-2009; Linda-Jo Schierow; 38 p.

Update: Previous releases:
September 18, 2008
August 3, 2007

Abstract: Title I of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)of 1976 has never been amended, but recent legal, scientific, and technological changes are prompting some policy makers to reexamine the law. TSCA regulates potential risks of industrial chemicals in U.S. commerce, based on three policies: (1) Chemical manufacturers and processors are responsible for testing chemicals to determine their potential effects on health and the environment; (2) EPA should regulate chemicals that present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment; and (3) EPA’s implementation of the law should not “impede unduly or create unnecessary economic barriers to technological innovation.”1 Few have expressed concern about the last TSCA purpose, but TSCA’s progress in achieving the first two goals has been debated: where some see success, others see failure, and both sides of the debate point to EPA’s history of implementation in support of their views. To date, EPA has compiled an inventory of roughly 82,000 chemicals that have been produced in, or imported into, the United States at some time since 1976. The agency has promulgated regulations to restrict production or use of five chemicals under TSCA.

Recently, many states and localities have acted to regulate chemicals not regulated under TSCA using state or local authority. Some large chemical manufacturers, processors, and distributors object to the emerging legal patchwork. Multinational companies also are faced with a variety of national laws restricting international commerce in chemicals. International cooperation to harmonize regulations, and to eliminate certain persistent pollutants, has led to several international agreements that aim to ease the legal confusion, but amendments to TSCA would be required if the United States is to fully implement the agreements. New laws in other nations also have provided alternative models for chemical regulation, which some would prefer to TSCA. Others defend the U.S. approach, arguing that TSCA is based on sound, risk-based science.

Recent changes in science and technology pose challenges to EPA implementation of TSCA. For example, scientists now know that the timing and duration of exposure to a chemical can determine its effects, as can the age, gender, and heritable traits of people who are exposed. New technologies have created bioengineered plants, microbes, and nanoparticles, which EPA must categorize as “existing” or “new” and manage as “chemical substances” under TSCA.

Faced with these challenges to TSCA, some analysts, and most in the regulated community, nevertheless believe that TSCA has performed as intended, and they support TSCA in its current form. They praise TSCA as a flexible, efficient, and effective limit to over-regulation. Other legal commentators and analysts want to amend TSCA, because they think that it has not accomplished the tasks laid out for it by Congress, and is unlikely to do better in the future.

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Topics: Government, General Interest

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