American Chemistry Council Expresses Concern with Safe Chemicals Act

In testimony before a joint legislative hearing of the full Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO Cal Dooley expressed the Council’s concerns with S. 847, the “Safe Chemicals Act,” and reiterated a desire to continue to work with Congress to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
 
“ACC strongly supports efforts to reform the 35-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA),” said Dooley. “We need an effective and reliable chemical regulatory system that will instill in policymakers, our business partners and the public the same level of confidence in our products that we have.” 

While chemical makers invest significant resources to study and test their products, Americans also need to feel confident that the federal regulatory system is working to protect their families and the environment.
 
The primary law overseeing the safety of chemical products—the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)—was passed in 1976 and provides the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to review and regulate chemicals in commerce. TSCA was designed to ensure that products are safe for intended use. While the law created a robust system of regulations, over time, confidence in EPA’s regulation of chemicals has eroded. 

This lack of confidence has created pressure on individual state legislatures to create their own chemicals management laws and on retailers to pull products from the shelves, often based on the claims of activists rather than scientific conclusions.  

As a result, the regulatory landscape and marketplace have become fractured and contradictory in some cases. After decades of implementation, it has become apparent that TSCA needs updating to reflect advances in science and technology, as well as today’s public expectations of vigorous government oversight.
 
Congress must modernize TSCA to ensure product safety and consumer confidence, as well as to preserve America’s role as the world’s leading innovator.
 
TSCA modernization must place protecting public health as its highest priority, including consideration of safety for children. Modernization must derive from core principles including: make sure chemicals are safe for intended use; make sure safety decisions are cost-effective and expeditious; prioritize chemicals to determine which substances warrant additional review and assessment; utilize all reliable information; and make safety information public while protecting intellectual property. To ensure confidence in safety regulations, EPA’s decisions must be based on a strong scientific framework that uses modern technology, proven safety testing methods and high-quality data. EPA’s program that approves new chemicals enables innovation in American chemistry by evaluating safety information, requiring testing to fill any information gaps and protecting intellectual property. It works well and must be retained.

While the United States should learn from other jurisdictions, Congress must not jump to conclusions about the appropriateness of other chemicals management systems for the United States. For example, the European Union’s REACH program is often cited as a model, but its effectiveness has yet to be proven. Canada’s approach to prioritization and review may provide an effective model for some changes to TSCA.

"In recent months, ACC and other stakeholders have engaged with bipartisan committee staff to discuss our respective positions about legislation to update TSCA,” he said. “Unfortunately, though, today we are discussing a bill that remains very similar to the bill introduced in 2010, which we consider unworkable.”
 
In his testimony Dooley outlined several fundamental flaws with the bill, including an unachievable safety standard, data requirements that would undermine the success of the current program to evaluate new chemicals, the creation of an overly burdensome and unnecessary minimum date set for all chemicals, and the lack of an effective prioritization process.   

“We also believe that S. 847 would compromise the protection of confidential business information, inappropriately expand the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority into the jurisdiction of other federal agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), further complicate issues surrounding national uniformity of standards, and fail to adequately consider animal welfare,” he continued.    

“Even though S. 847 is not the answer, we remain fully committed to TSCA reform,” he concluded. “We believe we can develop legislation that will give consumers confidence, learns from the success and missteps of reforms undertaken by other countries, and fosters innovation and job creation.”

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