Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Summary of New "Safe Chemicals Act of 2010" Introduced by Senator Lautenberg

Well, it's finally here. And it's a doozy. [That's a technical term, trust me] Senator Lautenberg on April 15th introduced the 169-page Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 (SCA) to replace the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Meanwhile Congressmen Rush and Waxman introduced a slightly less bulky "discussion document" version in the House. A first look suggests the House bill is pretty close, especially on the main provisions, so any section numbers mentioned below are based on the Senate version.

First thing to notice is that the SCA will require a baseline data set on all chemicals. Some of the major provisions include:

1) The SCA will require EPA to establish a "minimum data set" for all chemicals and mixtures [this mixture thing will need a closer look]. EPA will have the authority to require testing as necessary using rules and orders.

2) Like TSCA, the SCA would require a PMN-type notification, but the data requirements would be more demanding and notifiers would have to demonstrate that their chemical meets the new safety standard.

3) Chemicals would be prioritized based on risk (not just hazard), and EPA would be required to establish a "priority list" within 18 months of enactment of "not less than 300 chemicals" for which safety determinations will first be made. Chemicals can come off the list as they are deemed safe, and new chemicals will be added for priority review so that the list will always have at least 300 substances.

4) EPA would apply a standard of "a reasonable certainty of no harm" in their determinations of safety, for which they will have a 6 month period to complete.

5) EPA would have authority to take immediate action as necessary to deal with chemicals that are deemed to be of "imminent and substantial" hazard. Actions could include banning, stop sale orders, etc.

6) Section 9 requires that within one year all manufacturers and processers must provide a declaration of current production so that an accurate Inventory of chemicals in commerce can be maintained. With this declaration they will be required to submit existing health and safety studies, information on chemical identity, production volume, uses and exposures, etc., and the declaration must be updated every three years.

7) Section 14 allows EPA to require "substantiation" of all claims of confidential business information, and the EPA is required to set standards on what is eligible for CBI.

8) A new section 29 expedites action on chemicals of highest concern.

9) A new section 30 requires the establishment of a Children's Environmental Health Research Program within 90 days after enactment of the law.

10) Section 31 stipulates that great effort should be put into the reduction of animal testing to support data needs, including the use of QSARs, read-across, in vitro methods, etc.

11) Section 32 provides incentives for development of safer chemical alternatives and greener chemistry.

12) Section 35 creates a new section in which EPA is required to identify, assess and develop action plans to address the disproportionate exposures of certain populations and localities (i.e., environmental justice concerns).

13) The cooperation of the US with international efforts to reduce chemical risk is highlighted. Specifically mentioned (as I have noted here previously) are the Stockholm Convention, LRTAP POPs protocol, and Rotterdam Convention, all of which deal with persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals. The US has signed on to all of these in the past but never ratified them, which puts us in the awkward position of not being able to vote on what other countries want to do with chemicals used in the US.

There are many other sections and provisions, of course, that deal with the nuts and bolts and logistics of implementation. In the following days I will take a look at the reactions of NGOs, the EPA, and industry. I'll also dig into the details and see where the main areas of contention will likely be as the bills are discussed over the following months.

Representatives Rush and Waxman have indicated they expect to have a series of meetings with stakeholders over the next month and a half in an effor to fine-tune the bill. While Lautenberg still hopes that the bill will pass in this Congress, there is a general sense by many that it won't be possible given the incredibly busy Congressional docket and the likely contentiousness of this year's mid-term elections. So we'll have to see what happens. While I believe all stakeholders are interested in getting something passed, it could be that the next several months are focused on getting a bill that both protects human health and the environment and is workable.

Download the Senate bill here

Download the House bill here

Download a section-by-section summary of the House bill here

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