United States President Barack Obama has signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.
The Act, signed on June 22, 2016, amends the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). Under the TSCA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for regulating the production, importation, use and disposal of chemicals.
Under the new TSCA regime, which updates the US’s chemicals management law for the first time in 40 years, and reflects years of congressional effort to get the law reformed, the EPA has received additional direction, such as the power to collect funding from chemical manufacturers and a mandate to perform a more thorough review of new and existing chemicals within the marketplace.
Some key changes to the law include:
- The EPA must establish a risk-based process to determine which chemicals it will prioritize for assessment, identifying them as “high” or “low” priority substances
- A high priority designation triggers a requirement and deadline for the EPA to complete a risk evaluation on that chemical to determine its safety
- Chemicals are evaluated against a new risk-based safety standard to determine whether a chemical poses an “unreasonable risk”
- When unreasonable risks are identified, EPA must take final risk management action within two years, or four years if an extension is needed
- New chemicals cannot be placed on the market until the EPA has issued an affirmative finding on the chemical
- Manufacturers can request that EPA evaluate specific chemicals, and pay the associated costs
- The reforms establish a new fast-track process to address certain persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic chemicals (notably, these will likely tie to existing European Union REACH data)
- Provides a mandate that the EPA must review new and legacy confidential business information claims for validity and potentially mandate disclosures
- State action on a chemical is preempted when the EPA finds that the chemical is safe, or takes final action to address the chemical’s risk