Monday, August 9, 2010

Enter Waxman: EPA TSCA Toxic Substances Reform in July 2010

Safer perfumes under new Chemicals Act
96 percent of all manufactured goods are touched by chemistry.  So says the American Chemistry Council home page, and a lot of its literature.
If 96% of all manufactured goods are touched by chemistry -- that's a lot of chemicals touching a lot of things.  Seems regulating them would indeed require some modern, updated, revised toxic substances law, not to mention heavy duty toxic substance management software.

Revised TSCA
Over the last two decades, there has been a growing consensus that the US toxic substances law should be amended.  TSCA stands for the Toxic Substances Control Act -- and chemicals reform legislation is aimed at that Act in particular.

A number of statutory and regulatory barriers to effective implementation of TSCA have been identified.  TSCA is considered a "high-risk" priority, and one of the areas most in need of broad reform.

This is a huge, difficult, exciting moment in U.S. manufacturing history and future.  Chemical cocktailing is out of hand and everyone agrees it needs discipline.  But who dares to go there first?

Enter Waxman
On July 22, 2010, U.S. Representative Henry A. Waxman, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and Representative Bobby L. Rush, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection together introduced the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010.  The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 (H.R. 5820) is a first-go at this major piece of legislation.  The Act is primarily aimed at strengthening and updating the decades-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, the primary statute governing the safety of chemicals in commerce.

Safer workers under new Chemicals Act
"Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act is long-overdue," said Chairman Henry A. Waxman. "Over the past few months, at the request of affected industries, Chairman Rush and I led a robust stakeholder process that involved a serious and candid exchange of views on TSCA reform. This process was extremely valuable and productive. The result is the bill introduced today, which will protect public health and the environment while promoting American jobs and innovation. Under this legislation, all chemicals will be reviewed for safety, dangerous chemicals will be restricted or eliminated, and new, safer chemicals will be developed more rapidly to move our economy toward a sustainable future. There is much work still ahead, but I am confident that today's legislation marks a critical step on the road toward reforming TSCA and enacting a smart and safe chemical policy for America."

"The introduction of this legislation marks a major step forward in our efforts to bring to current industry standards an important statute that, once it becomes law, will permanently shine the bright light of public disclosure on a range of chemicals that consumers encounter in a diverse array of products they use each and every day," said Rush whose subcommittee has jurisdiction over TSCA enforcement. "I appreciate the tremendous work, testimony, analysis and public comments that a variety of stakeholders and consumer groups have shared as we've worked to craft a piece of legislation that both protects consumers while respecting the right of private industry to innovate while protecting businesses' confidentiality, trade secrets and intellectual property rights," said Rush. 

Cal Dooley - Las Vegas
The President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, Cal Dooley, is also President of the Grocery Manufacturers Association which lobbies for food and beverage companies (see list here).  Dooley recently wrote for a Vegas News outlet, saying, "It is fair and accurate to say that our current chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, needs to be updated."  However, his concern is that updating TSCA laws would give product and environmental safety priority over the quantity of jobs in the chemical industry.  Or might give safety priority over the national ability to innovate, not a measurable metric, but we get the idea.

This blog will leave the editorializing to other media outlets.  What jumps out is this statistic:  "96% of all manufactured goods are touched by chemistry," according the ACC.

If 96% of all manufactured goods are touched by chemistry, then we ought to be thrilled at this opportunity to make it a safer, hopefully saner, landscape.  And if it gets testy, let's remember:  we have start somewhere.

REACH-like regulations
Insiders say the legislation is REACH-like, if you are familiar with REACH, the European legislation similar to TSCA.  If not, see: 10 Questions about REACH Compliance  A good article on actio.net web site.

Safer everyday products under new Chemicals Act
Other resources:
TOXIC CHEMICALS SAFETY ACT of 2010
The real thing, the TSCA reform bill in its entirety.  Don't be afraid to browse it, it's not that hard to read.

New TSCA Bill Introduced 
A good bullet-summary of what TSCA reform is trying to do, from ICIS.com.

Let's raise a flask to starting somewhere!