Leading companies from electronics manufacturers to health care providers are highly motivated to identify and use safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. Recent polling by ASBC confirms that today's business leaders are concerned about the health and business impacts that could arise if the products they use or sell contain toxic chemicals, as well as the toxic chemical exposures that may occur as a result of their supply chains.
By themselves downstream users of chemicals can only make but a small dent in a huge problem. Due to a lack of data, businesses are often unable to identify the chemicals in their products, what hazards they may pose and whether safer alternatives are on the market. The result is a serious market barrier to the development and use of safer chemicals and products. The main federal law that is supposed to ensure the safety of chemicals has not changed in 34 years. The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)—intended to give the United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to identify and regulate dangerous chemicals—simply does not work. The EPA’s power to regulate chemicals under TSCA is much more limited than it was intended to be. 62,000 of 80,000 chemicals currently being produced never faced testing under TSCA because they were already on the market in 1976. The EPA has managed to mandate testing on only 200 chemicals because it lacks power to set safety standards and gain sufficient information from manufacturers.
What's at Stake:
There is a strong business case for comprehensive TSCA reform:
- Leveling the playing field, by requiring existing chemicals to meet the same testing requirements as new chemicals.
- Expanding markets for safer and greener products.
- Creating a more predictable regulatory system.
- Reducing the costs and risks, especially product liability (for example, asbestos), associated with managing toxic chemicals in products across supply chains.
- Lowering expenses from chemically induced employee illness and enhancing productivity from improved employee health.
- Identifying the presence of chemicals of high concern in products.
- Increasing consumer confidence and trust among employees, communities, and investors, leading to a more positive business environment.
- Improving transparency and communication throughout the supply chain, leading to increased confidence for downstream users and reduced risks from supply chain interruptions.
- Creating a more competitive, innovative, and economically sustainable chemical industry in the U.S.
In May of this year, the late Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013, an attempt to overhaul TSCA and improve chemical regulation. The bill would address the most important issues we face on toxic chemicals. Primarily, the bill would attempt to prevent chemicals from entering the market until proven safe, rather than allowing them to enter the market and removing them if proven harmful. The bill has received bipartisan support. However, a key element incentivizing innovation and green chemistry was not included in the compromise, and ASBC will be working to have it added to the bill.
The Senate Environment and Public Works committee held a comprehensive hearing on TSCA reform July 31, 2013. The hearing illuminated a number of issues that need to be resolved in the CSIA for it to be effective.