EPA Calls for Chemical Law Reform, More Responsibility on Companies

EPA Calls for Chemical Law Reform, More Responsibility on Companies

Safety equipment - photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/pierrelaphoto/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is calling for changes to the country's chemical management law, and has released a list of principles it and the Obama Administration hope Congress follows as it reviews the law. The EPA has also announced six chemicals it plans to prioritize for analysis and regulation.

In anticipation of legislation meant to strengthen the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the EPA's Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation calls for chemical manufacturers to provide more detailed hazard information related to chemicals and for industry to provide funding to the EPA.

The principles also call for more support for green chemistry and for giving the EPA more strength when dealing with priority chemicals.

"Over the years, not only has TSCA fallen behind the industry it's supposed to regulate, it's been proven an inadequate tool for providing the protection against chemical risks that the public rightfully expects," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco this week.

Many companies, governments and non-government organizations have taken action to reduce or eliminate - or pressure other to eliminate - some of the high-profile chemicals that the EPA wants to first focus on.

The EPA's initial list of chemicals it plans to review includes bisphenol A (used to make hard plastics, can liners and a wide range of other items), phthalates (used to make vinyl and soft plastics), brominated flame retardants (primarily found in electronics), perflourinated compounds (used to make non-stick coating), some parafins (used in lubricants) and benzidine dyes and pigments.

Bisphenol A has received some of the greatest attention as numerous companies have removed it from water bottles and other products, and some electronics companies have been reducing or eliminating brominated flame retardants and phthalates from their products.

The principles announced by the EPA are:

1. "Chemicals should be reviewed against risk-based safety standards based on sound science and protective of human health and the environment."

2. "Manufacturers should provide EPA with the necessary information to conclude that new and existing chemicals are safe and do not endanger public health or the environment." This principle calls for having manufacturers provide a thorough review of chemical hazard, exposure and use data, as well as allowing the EPA to require testing or other information from companies when it feels it has insufficient data.

3. "EPA should have clear authority to take risk management action when chemical do not meet the safety standard, with flexibility to take into account sensitive subpopulations, costs, social benefits, equity and other relevant considerations."

4. "Manufacturers and EPA should assess and act on priority chemicals, both existing and new, in a timely manner."

5. "Green chemistry should be encouraged and provisions assuring transparency and public access to information should be strengthened. The design of safer and more sustainable chemicals, processes, and products should be encourages and supported through research, education, recognition, and other means." The EPA is also suggesting stricter requirements for manufacturers claiming that certain data is confidential business information. The EPA says that data related to health and safety information should not be able to be claimed or treated as confidential information.

6. "EPA should be given a sustained source or funding for implementation." In this case the EPA is calling for chemical makers to support the costs of the EPA implementing chemical management.

Safety equipment - photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/pierrelaphoto/ / CC BY-SA 2.0