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The Chemical Safety Improvement Act: Potential Implications for Industry

bergeson, lynn, B&CIn a rare showing of bipartisan support for Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced on May 22, 2013, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), S. 1009.  The bill offers a politically viable framework for TSCA reform.

Background

S. 1009 amends the TSCA title that manages risks from industrial chemicals.  Enacted in 1976, there has been growing recognition by all stakeholders that TSCA needs modernizing.  Many prior legislative efforts have inspired industry opposition based on concerns that earlier efforts were too costly and job and innovation “killing.”  Few were aware that Senator Lautenberg for months was working behind the scenes with Senator Vitter, ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, on a new bill.  Senator Vitter’s interest in joining the TSCA reform effort last year infused new life into legislative efforts to reform TSCA, thought dead absent bipartisan interest.

CSIA in Brief CSIA establishes a new safety standard of “no unreasonable risk of harm to human health or the environment will result from exposure to a chemical substance” under “intended conditions of use.”  The standard is consistent with the current TSCA standard.  This standard embeds the balancing of risks and benefits, a goal pursued by industry groups as essentially non-negotiable.

Chemical Assessment Framework The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required under CSIA to use an evaluative framework for decision-making that employs the “best available science” and “science-based criteria.”  The bill specifies data and information quality requirements and ensures that EPA consider data and information submitted to other governmental bodies.

Chemical Prioritization Screening ProcessEPA must propose a screening process and selection criteria to identify substances as either “high” or “low” priority for safety assessment and determination.  This approach “resets” the TSCA Inventory, another goal industry supports as the total number of chemicals listed on the TSCA Inventory (over 84,000) overstates the actual number of chemicals believed to be in commerce.

Safety AssessmentsEPA is required to conduct a safety assessment for each high priority substance.  Safety assessments must evaluate hazard, use, and exposure information, and must include a weight of the evidence summary.

Safety DeterminationEPA must determine whether the chemical meets the safety standard under intended conditions of use.  The safety standard is based on TSCA’s current “unreasonable risk” standard and balances risks and benefits.

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