The Times agrees: America needs a new toxic chemicals law

Sarah Vogel

When President Gerald Ford signed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1976, the law was intended to increase information about chemical health and safety and give EPA the authority to regulate hazardous chemicals. In practice, however, the bill has proven to be “toothless.”

That is how a recent editorial in The New York Times described TSCA, adding that “it would be hard to design a law more stacked against the regulators.”

The flaws in TSCA make it extraordinarily difficult for EPA to obtain even basic information on the health and safety of chemicals. Without that information, EPA’s regulators can’t regulate harmful chemicals and the chemical industry has no incentive to improve the safety of its products. 

For thirty seven years, TSCA has failed to protect the public from hazardous chemicals in products and the environment. That is why Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently introduced the Safe Chemicals Act, and why the American Academic of Pediatrics endorses it, noting that the bill would: 

  • Require chemical manufacturers to prove that chemicals are safe
  • Protect Americans from harmful chemicals by giving the EPA authority to restrict unsafe uses

Richard Denison, a senior scientist at Environmental Defense Fund, has worked for more than a decade on reforming TSCA. It’s time, he says, to fix the fundamental flaws in TSCA and create a system that will “place the burden on chemical companies to prove their products are safe, rather than on the EPA to prove they are unsafe.”