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Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Modernize TSCA

The late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced on May 22, 2013, S. 1009, The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CSIA). This bill would modernize the 37-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). After many years of sometimes contentious one-sided attempts to reform TSCA—Senator Lautenberg introduced the first of many iterations of the Safe Chemicals Act in 2005—the current bill garners an unprecedented level of bipartisanship. The bill was referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee the same day it was introduced.

The key provisions of the bill are described below.

  • Require Safety Evaluations for All Chemicals: All active chemicals in commerce must be evaluated for safety and labeled as either "high" or "low" priority chemical based on potential risk to human health and the environment. For high priority chemicals, EPA must conduct further safety evaluations.

  • Protect Public Health from Unsafe Chemicals: If a chemical is found to be unsafe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the necessary authority to take action. This can range from labeling requirements to the full phase-out or ban of a chemical.

  • Prioritize Chemicals for Review: The Environmental Protection Agency will have to transparently assess risk, determine safety, and apply any needed measures to manage risks.

  • Screen New Chemicals for Safety: New chemicals entering the market must be screened for safety and EPA is given the authority to prohibit unsafe chemicals from entering the market.

  • Secure Necessary Health and Safety Information: The legislation allows EPA to secure necessary health and safety information from chemical manufacturers, while directing EPA to rely first on existing information to avoid duplicative testing.

  • Promote Innovation and Safer Chemistry: This legislation provides clear paths to getting new chemicals on the market and protects trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure.

  • Protect Children and Pregnant Women: The legislation requires EPA to evaluate the risks posed to particularly vulnerable populations, such as children and pregnant women, when evaluating the safety of a chemical—a provision not included in the existing law.

  • Pre-emption of State Regulations: States may not impose new restrictions on substances that have been designated as "high" or "low" priority by EPA until a risk assessment is completed and a safety determination has been issued. Additionally, states may not ban or restrict the manufacture, processing, or distribution of a chemical substance after EPA has issued a completed safety determination for that substance. States may apply for a waiver from the pre-emption restrictions.

Among the groups that support the bill is the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which stated in a press release, "The CSIA takes a balanced, comprehensive approach to updating the law, which will give consumers more confidence in the safety of chemicals, while at the same time encouraging innovation, economic growth and job creation by American manufacturers."

Generally, food packaging materials are exempt from the requirements of TSCA. However, the exemption only applies if the substances' end-uses are limited solely to areas of FDA regulation (e.g., food additives, cosmetics, medical devices). For background information on TSCA, see the article, TSCA: Italian Opera or EPA Regulation?