Comprehensive legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) passed the House of Representatives on May 24. Now, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is expected to pass the Senate, and President Obama is expected to sign the legislation shortly thereafter. At that point, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin its implementation of the new TSCA.
The single biggest driver for reform is that, under current law, EPA faces significant legal barriers that have prevented it from taking action on chemicals like asbestos. The bill will set new safety standards for dangerous chemicals, including formaldehyde, styrene, BPA, asbestos and others, ones that have gone unregulated for decades. This is the first significant update to federal chemicals safety law Toxic Substances Control Act in 40 years.
The TSCA update was supported by some environmentalists and the chemical processing industry (including trade groups representing Dow Chemical Co., DuPont Co. and others) because they’re eager for a unified national regime rather than the current patchwork of state regulations. The proposed law would give EPA authority to evaluate whether chemicals like the following should remain on the market:
- Trichloroethylene (TCE): Used in dry cleaning, protective coating and industrial degreasers.
- Methylene chloride/Dichloromethane (DCM): Used in paint strippers and removers, spray paint and insect sprays.
- Tetrabromobenzoate (TBB). Used in upholstered furniture and some electronics.
- Trisdichloropropylphosphate (TDCPP). Used in polyurethane foams as a flame retardant in sofas, chairs, baby strollers, car seats and other products.
- N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP). Used in agricultural chemicals, paint and cleaning products.
- Tetrabisphenol A (TBBPA). Used as flame retardant in electronics and circuit boards.
- Bromopropane. Used in aerosol adhesives, asphalt, synthetic fibers, dry cleaning.
- Dioxane. Used in inks, adhesives, resins, waxes and dyes.
- Phthalates. Used in cosmetics, textiles, food packaging, nail polishes, wood varnishes, lacquers.
- Formaldehyde. Used in resins, fabrics and automobile components, including transmissions, door panels, axles and brake shoes.
- Styrene. Used in plastics, resins, and Styrofoam.
- Bisphenol A (BPA). Used in plastic water bottles, sports equipment, CDs and DVDs.
Chemical handling training will prove crucial following the reform.