Just prior to his recent death, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced new legislation to reform the inherently flawed
Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), an atrocious piece of legislation that over the years has allowed an untold number of toxic chemicals to flood the consumer products industry without being properly safety tested. But its proposed replacement, the
Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CSIA), will likely do little, if anything, to correct the flaws of TSCA, while simultaneously dismantling the freedom of individual states to pass their own chemical safety regulations.
The Center for Environmental Health (CEH), an environmental and human rights advocacy group, recently sounded the alarm about the flaws of CSIA, urging that changes be made now to protect states’ rights with regards to chemical safety regulations. If passed in its current form, CSIA will not only bar states from passing effective chemical safety regulations of their own, but also potentially undo existing state chemical laws, including California’s Proposition 65, which requires that the state publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm in humans.
Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is technically already required under TSCA to assess chemical safety and toxicity for the entire country, the law is so vaguely written that the agency can basically drag its feet indefinitely and never actually complete any of the necessary safety reviews. And while CSIA would admittedly help correct this by requiring the EPA to prioritize its chemical safety review timeline, any final determinations made by the EPA about chemicals, regardless of their accuracy, would basically override existing state restrictions.
“Under the CSIA, once EPA has made a ‘safety determination’ regarding a toxic chemical, all state laws restricting the use or distribution of that chemical in commerce could be preempted,” explains CEH. “If, for example, EPA in its review of the strong neurotoxin lead decides to ban lead in ammunition, but defers action on other uses of lead, industry will argue that California’s Proposition 65 can no longer allow the state to regulate lead in toys, candy, jewelry, or any product.”