US to expand toxic chemical regulations

Article by Staff Writer

NEGOTIATORS from both parties in the US senate and House of Representatives have agreed on legislation to overhaul laws governing toxic chemicals, allowing around 64,000 chemicals to be regulated for the first time.

In a senate press conference, senators outlined the details of the new legislation that will replace the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which public health advocates and environmental groups have complained is outdated and has gaps that do not cover many harmful chemicals.

The full text of the legislation is yet to be released, however, the senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee circulated a report detailing what is contained in the “final, comprehensive solution to modernise TSCA”.

Details of the agreement include: A risk-based safety standard for all new and existing chemicals, with a “worst-first” approach to substance prioritisation; expanded authority for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require the generation of health and safety data for untested chemicals, while reducing “unnecessary” animal testing; “aggressive and attainable deadlines”; a requirement for EPA to make a definitive finding of safety before a new chemical enters the market.

The law will also require the creation of a more uniform regulatory system between states, while retaining a significant role for states in ensuring chemical safety; increased access to confidential business information for states and health professionals; and funding for EPA to carry out the new law.

The authors of the legislation say the law will be improved, since under the 1976 law, the EPA can evaluate new chemicals introduced to the US market, but not the 64,000 chemicals already on in the market. The new law allows the EPA to evaluate all chemicals and regulate those it designates toxic and hazardous.

A spokesperson from the EPA said in a statement earlier this week that a draft of the agreement it had reviewed is “a clear improvement over current law and is largely consistent with the Administration’s principles for TSCA reform”.

Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma senator for the Republican Party, says the bill is to be voted on by the House by 24 May, and, if passed, will be voted on by the senate shortly thereafter. Inhofe expects the bill to pass both votes, be signed into law, and delivered to President Barack Obama by 27 May.

“We’ll have it passed, signed and on the president’s desk by the end of next week,” he said.

Article by Staff Writer

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