A Safer Future: TSCA Reform Introduced in Senate

A landmark bill was introduced to the US Senate last week, intending to replace the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  As reported by Sustainable Business, the “Safe Chemicals Act” is a response to persistent and vocal warnings from scientific and medical experts who claim that the TSCA has failed to curtail common chemicals, such as asbestos and BPA, that have been linked to various cancers, learning disabilities, infertility, and more.

Specifically, the “Safe Chemicals Act” would

  • Require EPA to identify and restrict the “worst of the worst” chemicals, including those that persist and build up in the food chain
  • Require basic health and safety information for all chemicals as a condition for entering or remaining on the market
  • Reduce the burden of toxic chemical exposures on people of color and low-income and indigenous communities
  • Upgrade scientific methods for testing and evaluating chemicals to reflect best practices called for by the National Academy of Sciences
  • Generally provide EPA with the tools and resources it needs to identify and address chemicals posing health and environmental concerns.

“Under current law, EPA is powerless to act against even the most notorious chemicals,” said Richard Denison, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and a leading expert on TSCA. “The Safe Chemicals Act would provide EPA with the authority it needs to protect public health; the marketplace with the information companies need to innovate safe products; and consumers with the comfort in knowing that their families are being protected,” he concluded.

Once passed in 1976, TSCA’s assumption that chemicals should be considered innocent until proven guilty was starkly different from the approach taken with pharmaceuticals and pesticides.  A large body of science has since showed this presumption to be unfounded.  Published studies in peer-reviewed journals have shown many common chemicals can cause chronic diseases and can be toxic even at low doses.

Many chemicals are used to make everyday products like furniture, plastics and food cans.  There is a risk that these chemicals may migrate from the products into our bodies. The Center for Disease Control found that the blood or tissue of almost every American carries hundreds of the chemicals, sometimes even before birth.  Chemical exposure lives not only in food products, but can be environmental.  Many have unknowingly experienced radon or asbestos exposure while in their home, workplace, or public buildings.  Exposure to asbestos has been linked to diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.  Since the manufacturing of products with asbestos was made illegal, many survivors or their families have filed mesothelioma lawsuits to receive monetary compensation for asbestos manufacturers’ negligence.  Of course, the Safe Chemicals Act would address additional dangerous, loosely-regulated chemicals, not just asbestos, but above all else it would force manufacturers to prove their products are safe for use before any illnesses are inflicted or lawsuits needed.

Under TSCA, EPA can not restrict even the most dangerous of these chemicals and lacks the information it needs to evaluate how this complex mixture of chemicals affects our health. Despite the partisan divide on the issue, advocates believe Congress will take action soon.  Major chemical and consumer product companies such as DOW, BASF, and Procter & Gamble support the reform of TSCA.  Everyone should benefit from this reform, because it is in businesses’ best interest to make safer, healthier products – including, specifically, banning asbestos once and for all.