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Influenced by Chemical Industry, Trump's EPA Undermines TSCA Reform

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Influenced by Chemical Industry, Trump’s EPA Undermines TSCA Reform

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The bi-partisan Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act passed both houses of Congress because lawmakers recognized (as the result of public demand) that TSCA was ineffective in protecting our health from every day exposure to toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, under these rewritten rules, the intent of that law has been severely undermined.

Jamie McConnell
Jamie McConnell
Director of Programs
& Policy

Last year, President Obama signed the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act into law. The law is supposed to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and more strictly regulate chemicals used in the items you bring into your home.

TSCA was passed in 1976 but proved to be a weak law that failed to properly screen chemicals used in everything from household cleaners to furniture for safety. Case in point, the law was so cumbersome that the EPA only ever evaluated the safety of 200 of the estimated 80,000 plus chemicals on the market.

Usually when a law is passed directing the EPA to do something, the agency has to write regulations to implement the law. In January, Obama’s EPA proposed rules to implement the Act passed in 2016. Unfortunately, it was up to the Trump Administration to finalize those rules.

Yeah, you probably get where this is going. The rules finalized by the Trump administration do not match the intent of the legislation. As a result, advocates including Environmental Defense Fund, National Resources Defense Council, and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families are suing the EPA.

They argue that the rules written under the Obama administration were weakened in a re-write by Nancy Beck, who was appointed to the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention under Trump. No surprise that Nancy used to work for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a group representing the chemical industry. Basically advocates contend the rules were rewritten to reflect the interests of the chemical industry.

There are several major areas of the rewritten rules advocates are taking issue with. Some of those include:

  • In risk evaluations the EPA will only evaluate uses intended by the manufacturer and can ignore some of the uses/stages and exposure pathways (the way a person comes into contact with a chemical) of the chemical throughout its life cycle (life cycle meaning the production of the chemical all the way through its disposal).

Why advocates think this is bad:

The rule gives the EPA leeway to disregard some conditions of use and exposure pathways from the risk evaluation. As a result, the EPA will be determining safety passed on a narrow consideration of a chemical. Allowing EPA to pick and choose which uses could potentially underestimate the actual risk posed by a particular chemical.

  • The EPA will not require sufficient toxicity data from manufacturers.

Why advocates think this is bad:

Toxicity data is crucial to filling in data gaps of candidate chemicals and determining how they should be evaluated and prioritized.

  • The EPA’s inventory notification rule has loopholes that will allow companies to make confidential business information claims

Why advocates think this is bad:

These loopholes do not meet the law’s requirements and will undermine the public’s right to know what chemicals are on the market.

In the time of Trump, these lawsuits are among the only tools advocates have to defend public health from being eroded by the interests of the chemical industry. The bi-partisan Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act passed both houses of Congress because lawmakers recognized (as the result of public demand) that TSCA was ineffective in protecting our health from every day exposure to toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, under these rewritten rules, the intent of that law has been severely undermined.

There is a lot more to this story – for details on how the new rules put chemical industry interests ahead of the health of our children and our families, please see this blog, “The devil’s in the details: Trump EPA rules show chemical lobby influence“, from our friends at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

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