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Legislation to Reform Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Passes Congress

Chemicals in a lab

Legislation to Reform Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Passes Congress

Jamie McConnell
Jamie McConnell
Director of Programs
& Policy

(Update: President Obama signed TSCA reform into law on June 22, 2016.)

Big news! Legislation to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has passed Congress and is on its way to the President’s desk for the final signature of approval.

By now you know the story: TSCA was passed in 1976 but proved to be a weak law that failed to properly screen chemicals used in everything from household cleaners to furniture, for safety. Case in point, the law was so cumbersome that the EPA only ever evaluated the safety of 200 of the estimated 80,000 plus chemicals on the market. Kind of makes you shudder, right?

For over a decade, groups like Women’s Voices for the Earth and our supporters (YOU!) have been calling on Congress to strengthen this ineffective law. Well, it happened. Your voice made a difference. Democrats and Republicans came together to pass the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. For a detailed analysis of the bill go here. But basically what you need to know is this: the new law gives the EPA the authority it needs to better ensure the safety of chemicals, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean from now on every product you buy on the shelves will be free of toxic chemicals (and the law does not regulate cosmetics—that’s a different piece of proposed legislation that applies to the FDA).

Among other things the updated law sets a stronger safety standard for chemicals that may pose added risk to vulnerable populations such as women and children. It also sets deadlines for the EPA to conduct safety reviews and it expedites action on some PBTs (persistent bioaccumulative toxins—super nasty chemicals that are viewed as the worst of the worst). However, it’s going to take a long time for the EPA to do its job. The EPA is required to review the safety of 20 chemicals at a time until all chemicals in commerce have been identified as a low or high priority (remember, there are tens of thousands of chemicals on the market)—the high priority chemicals are the ones the EPA will spend time doing a safety review on.

So while the passage of this law is good thing—much better than the system we have now—the bottom line is we need to keep fighting for safer products through campaigns like Deep Clean and Detox the Box. It means we must continue to call for ingredient transparency in the products we use (the law does nothing to require product-specific disclosure of ingredients).

The new law to strengthen TSCA would not have happened without your voice calling on Congress to do something. We need you to continue to raise your voice in the years to come and ensure companies are held accountable for the safety of their products. Your voice CAN and DOES make a difference. We couldn’t do this work without you, and thanks to you we are one step closer to making products safe for everyone, regardless of their age, income level, race and gender.


1 Response

  1. John

    I find it difficult to get excited about this law. It does absolutely nothing to protect individuals who are being exposed to toxic chemicals right now. It does nothing in terms of demanding transparency from companies who still, by law, can put neurotoxic chemicals in products such as laundry products, cleaning products, etc. Moreover, it does absolutely nothing to stop environmental pollution from these same toxic products through vented laundry exhaust. What about the clothes that we purchase everyday? They are saturated in pesticides and formaldehyde among other dangerous chemicals. I will not be happy until a law passes that demands companies stop using toxic chemicals, i.e., those on the EPA’s list of hazardous waste materials. Make companies place a skull and a warning on those same products so that consumers can make an educated choice based on transparency, i.e., the truth!

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