New Chemical Safety Legislation Signed into Law

by Lawton Brothers | Aug 09, 2016

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Just this past June, President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This new bill modernizes the Toxic Substances Control Act and is the first major environmental legislation to be passed in 20 years. The American Cleaning Institute (ACI) and others have been calling for a modernization of the Toxic Substances Control Act, the principal federal chemical safety law, for nearly a decade. ACI President and CEO, Ernie Rosenberg, calls this legislation “the culmination of an incredible journey” and a “huge achievement” in the midst of partisan pressures.

The new law includes many important improvements to chemical safety, including:

  • Requiring the EPA to evaluate the safety of chemicals currently existent in commerce - for the first time ever.
  • Requiring the EPA to use a risk-based safety standard to evaluate new and existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines.
  • Empowering the EPA to require the creation of the chemical information necessary to support safety standard evaluations.
  • Establishing clear and enforceable deadlines to ensure a timely review of prioritized chemicals and timely action on identified risks.
  • Increased public transparency of chemical information by limiting unwarranted claims of confidentiality to allow for the appropriate sharing of information.
  • Providing a consistent source of funding for the EPA to efficiently carry out the responsibilities of the new law.

This new bill works to ensure that the chemicals manufactured and used throughout the United States are safe for the public, their families, and our environment. For nearly forty years, there were fundamental flaws in the Toxic Substances Control Act that limited the EPA’s ability to protect from dangerous chemicals. With the new risk-based safety standard, the EPA and many others believe this new law is a huge victory for the environment, public health, and chemical safety. The EPA is already working towards carrying out its new responsibilities by:

  • Identifying chemicals already active in commerce that threaten public and environmental health.
  • Establishing new procedures to prioritize and evaluate high-priority chemicals and substances.
  • Working with stakeholders to create a fee system for implementation.

The new law took effect immediately upon signature by President Obama on June 22nd, 2016. The most immediate effects of the new law will be on the new chemical review process. The new requirements of the law require the EPA to make an affirmative finding on new chemicals or new uses of chemicals before they can be pushed to market. For companies that submitted their pre-manufacture notices prior to the bill being enacted, the new law reset the 90-day review period. The EPA will make additional information available about new chemical reviews as soon as possible.

This is the first time in 20 years that the United States is updating a national environmental statute. The EPA will now be able to more easily review chemicals already on the market and the new chemicals created by our scientists and businesses. The new risk standard does away with an outdated bureaucratic formula and focuses solely on the risks to our public health. The bill also gives the EPA and scientists the funding they need to keep Americans safe from toxic chemicals in our laundry detergents, cleaning supplies, or other substances many Americans use everyday.

The original Toxic Substances Control Act was signed by President Ford to protect Americans from harmful chemicals in cleaning agents, fabrics, plastics, paint thinners, and more. Though it had good intentions, the law placed unrealistic demands on the EPA without providing them with the proper tools to safely and effectively regulate chemicals in the market. In 1976, around 62,000 chemicals were already on the market and since then only five of those original chemicals have been banned and only a small percentage has been reviewed for health and safety. Prior to this new bill being passed, our country has been unable to have the opportunity to uphold a ban on asbestos - a known carcinogen responsible for the death of almost 10,000 Americans every year.

The passing of this law reflects the hard work of the cleaning industry and many other voices who have been working towards safer and more effective toxic chemical regulation for years. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is a big step forward in the fight to keep our families, environment, and public healthy for years to come.

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