New Toxic Substances Control Act Signed Into Law

In the first major update to an environmental statute in 20 years,  President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 2576 – the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – which modernizes the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

TSCA was first passed in 1976 to help keep dangerous chemicals off the market and avoid making consumers and employees sick. It particularly focused on chemicals that were known to cause serious health impacts, such as cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm.

TSCA, which was signed by President Gerald Ford, was intended to be one of those foundational environmental laws, but years after TSCA was enacted, there remains thousands of chemicals on the market that have never been evaluated for safety because TSCA did not require it.

According to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the original law set analytical requirements that were nearly impossible to meet, and this left EPA’s “hands tied, even when the science demanded action on certain chemicals.”

The new law requires EPA to evaluate existing chemicals, with clear and enforceable deadlines. Under the old law, thousands of chemicals already in existence in 1976 were considered in compliance, without any requirement or schedule for EPA to review them for safety.

EPA now is required to systematically prioritize and evaluate chemicals on a specific and enforceable schedule. Within a few years, EPA’s chemicals program will have to assess at least 20 chemicals at a time, beginning another chemical review as soon as one is completed.

Finally, the new law provides a consistent source of funding for EPA to carry out its new responsibilities. EPA will now be able to collect up to $25 million a year in user fees from chemical manufacturers and processors, supplemented by congressional budgeting, to pay for increased evaluations of chemicals.