Safe Chemicals Act Re-Introduced

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) on April 14 introduced once again a bill intended to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, and Environmental Health, introduced a similar bill (S. 3209) last spring. Like the previous bill, the redrafted Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 aims to require manufacturers and importers to provide documented evidence that their chemicals are safe before they are put onto the US market.

Co-sponsors of the new legislation are Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).
TSCA currently requires EPA to evaluate new chemicals prior to production, but does not address chemicals already in commerce. The Lautenberg Safe Chemicals Act would require that all new and existing chemicals be tested for toxic or other hazardous effects against a risk-based standard. Companies would have to disclose information on the health and environmental risks of their chemicals in order to be able to manufacture, process, or import them.
Senator Lautenberg aims to focus EPA’s limited resources on those chemicals most likely to cause harm. The new bill would require EPA to prioritize substances for action by assigning them to three categories of concern—Priority class 1, substances of high concern, that are or can become persistent, bioaccumulative, and/or toxic; Priority class 2, substances that require testing to determine if they meet safety standards; and Priority class 3, substances that pose no risk of adverse effects to health or the environment under current or anticipated conditions of use. 
Lautenberg’s previous bill set a goal for EPA to classify 300 substances of high concern during the first 18 months of enactment. The new legislation calls for just 20-30 to be listed during that same period of time. EPA would be required to reduce exposures to priority class 1 chemicals within 18 months of their classification. Following that, the Agency would have one year to take additional action if the substance does not meet the safety standard.
Although no goal is proposed for listing Priority class 2 substances, the Agency would be required to deal with them promptly, evaluating those that appear to present the greatest risks to human health and the environment first. 
A rule to define minimum data sets for chemical substances would be promulgated within one year of enactment of the law.  Industry would have 18 months following classification of a chemical to submit the minimum data set, but could do so no later than five years after the bill becomes law.
The bill contains additional provisions that: 
  • Prevent duplicative or unnecessary testing
  • Encourage use of rapid, low-cost, non-animal tests that provide high-quality data
  • Provide broad public, market and worker access to chemical information
    • a public database of chemical information and EPA’s determinations of chemical risks.
    • access to confidential business information for workers and local and state governments, provided under agreements to protect confidentiality
  • Promote innovation, green chemistry, and safer alternatives to chemicals of concern
No corresponding legislation has been introduced in the House.