Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–June 19, 2012. A senior U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official stated recently that the agency is prepared to exercise is long-neglected authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ban or restrict hazardous chemicals. In reference to TSCA, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Jim Jones was quoted as saying that, “We will try and exercise some muscle we have not exercised for decades.” In fact, EPA has not sought to use this authority under TSCA since 1991, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the agency’s attempt to ban asbestos. Speaking on June 7 to a forum convened by The Environmental Council of the States, Mr. Jones was further quoted as expecting a decision from EPA on the matter “in the near future.”
Section 6 of TSCA requires that EPA prove it has substantial evidence that a chemical poses an unreasonable risk before it can ban, restrict, or take other actions to manage that risk. In his comments, Mr. Jones cited EPA’s March 1 announcement that it had selected 83 chemicals or groups of chemicals for risk assessment in the near future. EPA’s work plan identified seven of these chemicals for risk assessment in 2012 with another eighteen scheduled for 2013 and 2014. Chemicals scheduled for review in 2012 include methylene chloride, which is found in some household cleaners, and the carcinogen trichloroethylene, which had its last epidemiological review in 1989. “If the chemical is safe, our work will be done,” Mr. Jones said. Otherwise, the use of Section 6 will be explored, he added. Section 6 also requires that EPA use the least burdensome means to adequately protect against the unreasonable risk.
After two decades of inaction from EPA, many environmental groups and scientists believe that the Toxic Substances Control Act must be reformed for it to adequately protect public health. Introduced in April 2011, the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011” would update and modernize TSCA, and give EPA more power to regulate the use of dangerous chemicals. The legislation would require manufacturers to submit information proving the safety of every chemical in production and any new chemical seeking to enter the market. Introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011” currently has 21 co-sponsors in the Senate.
However, Beyond Pesticides has long called for going beyond risk assessment with alternatives assessment in environmental rulemaking, which creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green. The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from risk assessment in rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives.
Increasing rates of chronic diseases linked to toxic chemical exposure, including cancer, asthma, and infertility, have created an urgency to enact policies to get harmful chemicals off the market. To learn more about how pesticides are linked to serious health concerns, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases database.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.