US EPA Tackles Tasks of Revised TSCA
Following the revision in June of the US Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – officially known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started to exercise its newly expanded authority for implementing the legislation. In a first step, the agency has banned the US from exporting five mercury compounds as of Jan. 1, 2017, to prevent conversion of the compounds to elemental mercury after they are exported. The compounds are mercury (I) chloride (also known as calomel); mercury (II) oxide; mercury (II) sulfate; mercury (II) nitrate; and cinnabar, also known as mercury sulfide.
In addition, the EPA completed its first decisions in July on seven pre-manufacture notices (PMN) made under TSCA. Before the law’s revision, any company that planned to manufacture or import a new chemical substance for a non-exempt commercial purpose needed to provide the agency with a PMN. However, the updated legislation requires the agency to validate new chemical substances before they can be placed on the market.
TSCA differs from the EU legislation REACH in that it regulates only chemicals sold commercially in the US. For example, it does not regulate pesticides, chemicals used in cosmetics and personal care products, food, food packaging, or pharmaceuticals. Some chemicals with multiple uses may be regulated concurrently by TSCA and other federal laws, however.
In contract to the procedure set down in the old TSCA, the EPA is now required to review the safety of all chemicals used commercially. As a result, it must now look at existing chemicals to see if they pose an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment. If so, the agency may restrict or ban the chemical concerned.
The EPA has a tight schedule to meet. By mid-December – within 180 days of the new bill’s taking effect – it must have started reviewing at least 10 chemicals. Within the first three and a half years, the agency must have 20 evaluations underway. Reviews should be completed within three years but the deadline could be extended by six months.
The first chemicals selected for review will be taken from a list of candidates the agency has already put together. These will include substances that pose concerns for children’s health, are carcinogenic, environmentally persistent, toxic or widely found in biomonitoring programs.
The EPA must give additional criteria for prioritizing chemicals by June 2017, by which time it must have established a rule for its risk evaluation process as well. The US environmental watchdog is setting up a Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) to provide independent advice and expert consultation with respect to the scientific and technical aspects of risk assessments, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures or approaches to implementing the act. The 14-member body will be selected from the existing EPA Chemical Safety Advisory Committee.