In an article published on February 1, 2017 by the Daily Environment Report, Tracey Woodruff and Patrice Sutton, public health professionals from the University of California, San Francisco, U.S., discuss “The peril and imperative of TSCA reform.” The U.S. chemicals regulation, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), was amended by the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act (LCSA) in June 2016 (FPF reported). The new law is the first revision of TSCA since its passage in 1976. Strengths of the new TSCA include that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to determine whether a chemical is likely to “present an unreasonable risk” or not, without considering economic costs to industry, Woodruff and Sutton explain. Also, EPA must evaluate the safety of the thousands of chemicals already on the market, and the potential harms of new chemicals must be evaluated before they are commercialized. Weaknesses of the new TSCA include that industry is not required to provide a basic or minimum set of safety data for every chemical in use, Woodruff and Sutton highlight. Where data is available, EPA must “describe the weight of the scientific evidence,” which the National Academy of Sciences declared as “too vague and . . . of little scientific use.” Also, the new law does not require assessment of aggregate risk, i.e. “the impact of multiple exposures to the same chemical from different sources,” the authors note. Further, the time frame for evaluating existing chemicals is considered slow: The EPA must initiate reviews of 30 chemicals within the next three to five years, and thereafter will be required to be reviewing 20 chemicals at a time. Lastly, the new law “preempts the authority of states, cities and other jurisdictions to continue their own unilateral efforts to regulate toxic chemicals.”

Considering these strengths and weaknesses, the authors stress that “public engagement in EPA’s decision-making process as it develops regulations for the new version of TSCA will be critical” to ensure the protection of public health.

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Tracey Woodruff and Patrice Sutton (February 1, 2017). “Practitioner insights: The peril and imperative of TSCA reform.Daily Environment Report (pdf)