This past June, President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The law was designed to reform the previous legislation regulating chemical safety, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was passed in 1976. Critics of the TSCA found flaws in the law’s inability to review chemicals developed and sold on the market because the law mandated that the government had to have evidence proving the risks associated with the chemical before testing could commence. Critics also stated that the TSCA incorporated a trade secrets loophole in legislation which allowed chemical companies to declare chemical information to be proprietary information, prohibiting the chemical information from being released in public.
In order to address these issues, Congress drafted new regulations. The Lautenberg Act bolsters the EPA’s authority to test and regulate chemicals. As a result of these reforms, legislators hope to strengthen health protections for American families.
Addressing the concerns voiced about past limitations in asbestos regulation, the law works combat these flaws these three ways:
1. Creates a new safety standard
Rather than requiring the chemical be evaluated according to a cost-benefit safety standard, the EPA can now use health and environmental factors to determine how a chemical should be regulated.
2. Clarifies the purpose of regulation
As a result of this new safety standard, the EPA will need to locate populations that are at risk for interacting with the chemical. Ensuing regulations of the chemical are then determined by assessing risk of chemical exposure or harm by the chemical. The goal of the new legislation is to protect those communities that could be highly impacted by the presence of the chemical with specific focus on pregnant women and children.
3. Limits the information that may be kept confidential
The Lautenberg Act identifies which individuals and organizations may have access to details regarding components of the chemicals. For the purpose of ensuring public safety, the EPA can share information with first responders and health providers, providing the parties maintain confidentiality. Corporations seeking to protect their information under trade secret status must show that their products fulfill the requirements set forth by the new guidelines that determine what is and is not confidential information.
With these and other regulations set forth in the Lautenberg act, health and environmental activists hope that the new EPA regulations will leave the 20th century and be able to address the challenges of the 21st century.