Astonishingly, in an election year and at a time of unprecedented partisanship, this past June, Congress adopted significant reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) with sweeping support from both sides of the aisle. In the words of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act addresses “fundamental flaws” in TSCA that have hampered the agency’s ability to restrict and otherwise regulate dangerous chemicals. Although there are many facets to the new law, perhaps none are more central to its future success than the new standards to be utilized by EPA for evaluating chemical risk and regulating chemicals. The reformed TSCA not only mandates that eventually all chemicals be prioritized for review by EPA, but also changes the standards for evaluating chemical risk and for the promulgation of rules to prohibit and limit the use of chemicals found to present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. When these new standards are compared with the prior law of the past 40 years, it is apparent that major changes in our nation’s chemical regulation are in store.
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