TSCA Reform, and the Need for Speed
In my July 31st blog, I concluded that current efforts to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) were not sustainable because EPA is unlikely to move quickly enough to meet the demands of the various stakeholders.
To repeat: There simply are too many chemicals, (thousands if not tens of thousands), each with multiple uses that have to be evaluated, evaluation of each chemical-use combination takes time, and EPA’s track record for speedy evaluation is poor. (GAO estimated a ten-year time frame for EPA to finish risk assessment on just 83 chemicals.)
The process for evaluating chemical safety under TSCA reform is rather straightforward: identify chemicals in need of a safety determination, develop a safety assessment for each, make a safety determination against a safety standard determined by Congress, and regulate those chemical uses that fail the safety determination.
The speediest way to get this done would be the following:
--Require EPA to set guidelines and procedures for prioritization, safety assessment, and safety determinations.
--Limit high priority substances to those that EPA believes may pose both relatively high hazard and high exposure.
--Require industry to undertake a safety assessment for every high priority substance, and make this assessment (or a summary thereof) public.
--Require industry to make a safety determination, and make this determination public.
--Authorize and/or require EPA to review and, if appropriate, change an industry-conducted assessment and/or determination.
--Require EPA to regulate where necessary to ensure the safety standard is met.
--Set aggressive yet achievable deadlines for the completion of each of these steps for all high priority substances.
--Establish user fees to ensure the proper mix of taxpayer/industry funding for any EPA-required activities.
Currently, there are four versions of TSCA reform pending in Congress (Udall-Vitter, Boxer, Shimkus, and Waxman). None follow this approach completely, although each follows at least parts of it.
A recent study by Abelkop and Graham compared the recent experiences of Canada and the EU to inform the TSCA reform debate. Congress should consider their recommendations and those of others as it grapples with the breadth-versus-depth tradeoff inherent in TSCA reform.