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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Proposed Amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA): Senate and House Bills Compared with Current Law

Linda-Jo Schierow
Specialist in Environmental Policy

On April 15, 2010, Senator Lautenberg introduced legislation (S. 3209) to amend the core provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Title I. Representatives Waxman and Rush introduced comprehensive legislation to amend TSCA (H.R. 5820) on July 22, 2010. This report compares key provisions of S. 3209, as introduced, H.R. 5820, as introduced, and current law (15 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.). 

Both bills would amend the 35-year-old law to shift the burden of demonstrating safety for chemicals in commerce from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to manufacturers and processors of chemicals. Both bills also would prohibit manufacture, processing, and distribution of any chemical substance or mixture for which safety has not been demonstrated. Although they propose somewhat different safety standards for EPA to enforce, both bills suggest a health-based standard. In contrast, current law requires that a chemical not pose "an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment," and that any regulation should control unreasonable risk to the extent necessary using the "least burdensome" means of available control. This TSCA standard has been interpreted to require cost-benefit balancing. To facilitate safety assessment, the proposals would require data development and submission to EPA for all chemicals in commerce. 

TSCA amendments would direct EPA to target chemicals with particular characteristics (for example, persistence in the environment) for earlier evaluation and possible risk management. Any regulatory action would be expedited, for example, by allowing EPA to issue orders rather than rules. The bills also would add new sections to TSCA. Of particular significance is a section authorizing actions that would allow U.S. implementation of three international agreements, which the United States has signed but not yet ratified. Other new sections would provide authority for EPA to support research in so-called "green" engineering and chemistry, promote alternatives to toxicity testing on animals, encourage research on children's environmental health, and require biomonitoring of pregnant women and infants. A "hot spots" provision would require EPA to identify locations where residents are disproportionately exposed to pollution and to develop strategies for reducing their risks. 

The proposals differ in many details and in several noteworthy ways. For example, for all existing chemicals that have not been placed on a priority list, data sets must be submitted within 14 years of the date of enactment of S. 3209, but within five years of enactment of H.R. 5820. The proposals also treat the identification of chemicals of highest concern differently. H.R. 5820 directs EPA to expedite action for 19 specified chemicals, while S. 3209 leaves identification of such chemicals to the Administrator's discretion. These and other provisions of the two legislative proposals are compared with current law in Tables 1 through 6.

Date of Report: August 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 69
Order Number: R41335
Price: $29.95

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