Skip to Main Content

Latest News

August 2, 2010
Volume 88, Number 31
p. 11
DOI: 10.1021/CEN072910123201

Mixed Reception For Chemicals Bill

Congress: Legislation would require EPA's safety review of commercial substances

Cheryl Hogue

  • Print this article
  • Email the editor
As the congressional calendar winds down, lawmakers are taking up new legislation to revamp TSCA, which will affect chemical manufacturers. Shutterstock
As the congressional calendar winds down, lawmakers are taking up new legislation to revamp TSCA, which will affect chemical manufacturers.

Text Size A A

Rush
Rush
Waxman
Waxman
U.S. Congress (both)

A new House of Representatives bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has a tough road to travel. The chemical industry says the legislation would impede innovation, whereas environmental groups praise it. And the chance that the House will finish work on the bill, H.R. 5820, this year appears to be slim.

Nonetheless, industry and advocates from environmental and health organizations continue to agree that TSCA, the federal law governing the manufacture of chemicals, needs revision. The statute has remained virtually unchanged since it was signed into law in 1976. Both businesses and activists also generally concur with the major shift H.R. 5820 would make: authorizing EPA for the first time to determine whether chemicals on the market are safe.

“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,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Waxman and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) introduced the bill on July 22 after a series of meetings with industry and advocacy groups to discuss possible provisions to be included in the legislation.

The bill “will reduce chronic disease in this country, a burden that scientists have increasingly linked to toxic chemicals found in our homes and places of work,” says Andy Igrejas, director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of 250 environmental and public health groups. “It will also give American manufacturers and retailers the tools they need to compete in a world demanding safer products,” he adds.

H.R. 5820 would require companies to supply EPA with data on each compound they produce or import, including information about the substance’s hazards, exposure, and use. The agency would analyze the information to determine whether substances are safe and then regulate or phase out those that aren’t.

This bill is “a step toward modernization of the nation’s chemical safety laws,” says Calvin M. Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, an industry group. However, the bill’s requirements for extensive information about potential exposures to chemicals are almost impossible to meet, he maintains.

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates, another industry association, says H.R. 5820 “would significantly hamper innovation and impose stringent regulatory burdens on batch, specialty, and custom chemical manufacturers,” particularly the small and midsized companies that the group represents.

In addition, ACC and SOCMA are worried that the legislation would allow companies’ confidential business information to end up in the hands of competitors. Under the bill, protections for trade secrets submitted to EPA would expire after five years. The protection period should be longer, Dooley says, because it can take about five years for a company to develop a market for a new chemical.

To move the bill forward, the Commerce, Trade & Consumer Protection Subcommittee, which Rush chairs, held a hearing on H.R. 5820 last week that gathered input from chemical producers, users, and activists. Representatives of environmental and industry groups tell C&EN that it’s unlikely Congress will pass a TSCA reform bill before this legislative session draws to a close later this year. In addition, there is “rising aligned industry opposition against unrealistic and onerous provisions” of H.R. 5820 and a similar bill in the Senate, S. 3209, says Lawrence D. Sloan, SOCMA’s president and CEO.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
  • Print this article
  • Email the editor

Services & Tools

ACS Resources

ACS is the leading employment source for recruiting scientific professionals. ACS Careers and C&EN Classifieds provide employers direct access to scientific talent both in print and online. Jobseekers | Employers

» Join ACS

Join more than 161,000 professionals in the chemical sciences world-wide, as a member of the American Chemical Society.
» Join Now!