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Philadelphia Inquirer gets it wrong on EPA’s authority under TSCA

It’s clear that there is broad agreement that it is time to update the primary law that regulates chemicals in commerce, the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). For that to happen, we must be sure that everyone has an accurate understanding of the regulations currently in place and how federal agencies use them.

Chemical safety is overseen by six federal agencies under more than a dozen federal laws and regulations. Unfortunately, a recent story appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer might leave readers with the wrong impression when it comes to whether or not the federal government already has the power to regulate chemicals.

According to the article, Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s recently introduced “Safe Chemicals Act of 2013,” one option for updating TSCA, would

[quote]…give regulatory officials the authority to evaluate the safety of the flame retardants in couches, the phthalate compounds responsible for the smell of new vinyl shower curtains, the bisphenol A that protects food in cans, and other chemicals of concern in common household products.[/quote]

Here’s the problem with that statement — federal officials currently DO have the authority under TSCA and other regulatory programs to evaluate and regulate the chemicals mentioned above. And the problem with the Safe Chemicals Act? It would impose requirements on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that are impossible for the Agency to meet, thus rendering many provisions of the law impractical, and ineffective.

Right now, EPA has the authority — and uses it — to regulate chemicals in commerce. As recent as a few weeks ago, EPA announced some additional work plans for reviewing specific chemicals, including some flame retardants. And, ACC continues to support this effort.

As for bisphenol A (BPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been very active in evaluating its use in food contact materials, including cans. In response to concerns expressed in the last few years about the safety of BPA, FDA says it has taken on new studies to help determine whether BPA is safe for its intended use in these products, and the results so far, FDA says, “support [its] assessment that the use of BPA in food packaging and containers is safe.”

While current TSCA does some things well, we can all agree that it’s time to update the law. A modernized TSCA must put the protection of human and environmental health and safety first, while also enabling America to retain its place as the world’s leading innovator. That’s why reform must be done carefully, and it must be done right.

We are greatly encouraged by efforts in the Senate led by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) to develop a new proposal that will improve safety and promote public confidence in our nation’s chemicals management system, while also enabling U.S. industries to innovate and compete in the global economy.

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