In recent weeks, Health care reform and financial regulatory reform efforts by the Obama administration have been getting the majority of the media and public’s attention, but at the same time reform and updating of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has been in the background.
Yesterday, during a speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the administration’s "Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation". Some of the principles that Ms. Jackson highlighted in her speech are:
First, we need to review all chemicals against safety standards that are based solely on considerations of risk – not economics or other factors – and we must set these standards at levels that are protective of human health and the environment.
Second, safety standards cannot be applied without adequate information, and responsibility for providing that information should rest on industry. Manufacturers must develop and submit the hazard, use, and exposure data demonstrating that new and existing chemicals are safe. If industry doesn’t provide the information, EPA should have the tools to quickly and efficiently require testing, without the delays and procedural obstacles currently in place.
Third, both EPA and industry must include special consideration for exposures and effects on groups with higher vulnerabilities – particularly children. Children ingest chemicals at a higher ratio to their body weight than adults, and are more susceptible to long-term damage and developmental problems. Our new principles offer them much stronger protections.
Fourth, when chemicals fall short of the safety standard, EPA must have clear authority to take action. We need flexibility to consider a range of factors – but must also have the ability to move quickly. In all cases, EPA and chemical producers must act on priority chemicals in a timely manner, with firm deadlines to maintain accountability. This will not only assure prompt protection of health and the environment, but provide business with the certainly that it needs for planning and investment.
Fifth, we must encourage innovation in green chemistry, and support research, education, recognition, and other strategies that will lead us down the road to safer and more sustainable chemicals and processes. All of this must happen with the utmost transparency and concern for the public’s right to know.
Finally, we need to make sure that EPA’s safety assessments are properly resourced, with industry contributing its fair share of the costs of implementing new requirements.
Its been expected for some time that new legislation to update the TSCA will be introduced by Senators Frank Lautenberg, Barbara Boxer, Representatives Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush before the end of the 111th Congress 1st Session. We’ll keep an eye out for when the legislation is introduced and it’s course through Congress.