The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, passed by the US Congress last week, amends the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to increase the powers and duties of the EPA to regulate the approximately 80,000 chemicals that are used commercially in the United States. TSCA has been called a “lapdog” law. The EPA has tested fewer than 300 chemicals and restricted six. An EPA ban on asbestos was halted by federal courts. Chemicals identified as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer are contained in products sold in the US. Seventeen years ago public health surveys reported the presence of many industrial chemicals in
the bodies of Americans. The new law, if signed by President Obama, focuses on the safety of chemicals for human use without regard for the cost of regulation. It sets a standard of “unreasonable risk” for public health. That standard will most likely be a cause for litigation. If the EPA clears a chemical as safe the states will no longer be able to regulate it. However, the bill requires the EPA to review only 20 chemicals in the 5 years after it becomes law.
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