Healthy Legacy Statement on Revision to the Toxic Substances Control Act
By Kathleen Schuler and Deanna White
Healthy Legacy Co-Directors
A bill to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for the first time in 40 years is headed to President Obama’s desk. The bill which has passed both bodies of Congress will not provide the health and environmental protections so urgently needed and will restrict Minnesota’s ability to act quickly on toxic chemical threats.
Due to the work of key legislators and advocates across the nation, the final version of the bill is a significant improvement on the version introduced three years ago. However, the final bill still falls short of what most public health and environmental organizations can endorse.
“We have advocated for reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act for the past decade and we are disappointed that we cannot support the final bill.” Deanna White, Minnesota Director, Clean Water Action. “This bill makes important improvements to current TSCA , but falls short on several key issues that are critical to ensuring that public health and the environment are protected and isn’t the full reform that we need.”
The bill will empower the EPA to tackle the worst chemicals and requires the EPA to address toxic chemical exposures in vulnerable populations, such as workers and children. However, the rate and pace of chemical safety assessments will leave toxic chemicals on the marketplace for decades. With a backlog of over 80,000 untested chemicals, the EPA will only be required to assess 20 chemicals at a time. This is not a serious schedule and will expose countless generations to harmful chemicals. The bill also places new limitations on EPA’s authority to require notification of chemicals used in imported products, including toys clothing and other home products, allowing toxic chemicals to sneak into the marketplace and into our homes.
New restrictions have also been placed on states, undermining current authority. This adds new challenges to states like Minnesota who have been leaders in protecting public health. Minnesota has passed over eight laws in nine years which protect families from toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, triclosan and BPA, in consumer products. This leadership will be weakened under the new law.
“It is clear states will need to continue to play an important role in addressing the widespread use of toxic chemicals and we will continue to use state authority where we have it.” Kathleen Schuler, Healthy Legacy Co-Director, a coalition of 35 Minnesota organizations.
Under the new law, states retain the power to require information about the presence of chemicals in products and to address chemicals that have not yet been identified by EPA for evaluation.