February 10th, 2010
(This article was first posted on Jan. 25, 2010, by the Natural Resources Defense Council on its Simple Steps website. It is a Q & A with NRDC Senior Attorney Daniel Rosenberg exploring why the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, of which the NRDC is a member, wants tighter controls on toxic substances.)
By Paul McRandle
Q: Quickly, what is TSCA and why does it need to be reformed?
Daniel Rosenberg: TSCA is an environmental law first enacted in 1976 and never updated since, that was intended to regulate the safety of industrial chemicals—that is most chemicals that find their way into the stream of commerce. It is generally regarded to be the greatest failure of all the major environmental laws passed in the early 1970s. This is because there were 62,000 chemicals in use when it was enacted and all of those chemicals were grandfathered in, meaning they didn’t have to be tested or required to meet a safety standard. On top of that, the law makes it extremely difficult for EPA to take action even when they know a chemical is unsafe, like asbestos. The way the law is written, the burden is on the agency to prove a chemical is unsafe rather than the companies who make chemicals having to prove they are safe.