Podcast: TSCA was reformed 4 years ago. Is the US chemical law living up to expectations?

2020-06-17

This month marks 4 years since the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, was revised to boost confidence in chemical safety in the US by strengthening regulations. The updated law gave the US Environmental Protection Agency sweeping new authority to ensure that the tens of thousands of chemicals in everyday products do not pose unreasonable risks to human health and the environment. In this bonus episode of Stereo Chemistry, host Kerri Jansen and C&EN senior reporter Britt Erickson examine how the EPA is using that authority to evaluate new chemicals before they hit the market and to assess the risks of chemicals that have been in use for decades. Is the EPA protecting public health by sufficiently evaluating the risks of chemicals, or is it giving industry a free pass to market chemicals with little toxicity data?

The following is the script for the podcast. We have edited the interviews within for length and clarity.

Kerri Jansen:Four years ago this month, the US Congress overhauled the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. That’s the law that governs how chemicals in everyday products are regulated in the US. It was originally designed to protect consumers. And the goal of the more recent changes was to help boost consumer confidence in chemical safety by allowing for stricter oversight.

But the process of implementing those changes has not gone exactly according to plan. When TSCA was revised 4 years ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency was required to choose 10 high-priority chemicals already on the market to evaluate for safety. As we near the deadline set for those risk assessments to be completed, it’s clear that the agency is not going to hit its goals. Not only that, but some now question whether the revisions to TSCA have had their intended effect at all.

In this bonus episode of Stereo Chemistry, we’ll hear from C&EN senior reporter Britt Erickson on the impact of those changes to TSCA. We’ll check in on what progress has been made and discuss where we go from here. I’m your host Kerri Jansen.

Thanks for joining us for this bonus episode, Britt.

Britt Erickson: Glad to be here, Kerri. TSCA is really complicated, so we’ll try to get through it together.

Kerri: Let’s start with the basics. What was TSCA intended to do, and what does it cover?

Britt: Well, TSCA is a 1976 law that gives the Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate the commercial distribution and use of chemicals in the US. It applies to both new chemicals and chemicals that are already on the market. Now, it’s the EPA’s job to ensure that chemicals do not pose a, quote, “unreasonable risk” to human health and the environment.

Chemical and Engineering News, 17 June 2020
; https://cen.acs.org/policy/chemical-regulation/Podcast-TSCA-reformed-4-years/98/i24