How Can Organizations Prepare for Changes Ushered in by TSCA Reform Efforts?
TSCA reform efforts seek to eliminate the uncertainty surrounding hazardous chemicals in firms’ inventory. | Image source: Flickr CC user John Bell
After months of negotiation, the House of Representatives and the Senate have reached a compromise between their two competing bills that overhauled the outdated Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976. The culmination of TSCA reform efforts spanning decades, President Obama signed the bill into law at the end of June.1 The legislation will result in increased federal oversight of hazardous materials used in the United States.
Previously, federal agencies were considered too weak to exercise any true power to regulate toxic substances—as demonstrated by their inability to limit the usage of asbestos. Now not only will the EPA be able to review the usage of asbestos under the new laws, they will be able to scrutinize other common household chemicals such as formaldehyde and flame retardants.
TSCA Reform Efforts Have Brought Outdated Chemical Legislation into the Modern Age
While most people cite the lack of regulatory power as the primary reason for the overhaul in legislation, other reasons drove TSCA reform efforts. The old version of the TSCA was obsolete in more ways than one. Perhaps most importantly, the law failed to reflect the reality of modern manufacturing—technology has indeed changed drastically in the past four decades.
To reflect current realities, the updated TSCA legislation includes provisions for the following:2
- Grants the EPA more authority and funding to regulate chemicals
- Requires safety reviews for chemicals currently in use
- Mandates greater scrutiny of new chemicals before they can be sold
- Creates more transparency by making chemical rulings public
- Prevents companies from using trade secret claims to avoid regulatory action
When new legislation is passed, organizations can typically depend on a transition period that allows them time to make changes before the laws go into effect. These expectations don’t hold true for the updated TSCA laws. Four new chemicals have already been reviewed under the new standards.3 The speed of implementation is a huge win for advocates of TSCA reform efforts, but caught companies off guard because they thought they’d have more time to adjust.
TSCA Reform Means That Firms Must Be More Vigilant about Chemical Management
These latest TSCA reform efforts reflect a current trend among federal agencies to increase regulatory oversight of commercial industries. Failing to comply with new standards can be costly and, in some cases, deadly. To make the process of regulatory adherence easier, firms can scrutinize their existing chemical management systems and determine whether they support the following aims:
- Transparency: TSCA reform efforts heightened transparency. Companies can no longer claim proprietary information as a means to avoid disclosure, and the EPA must make the details of its safety ruling public. Along those same lines, organizations will need to ensure that information regarding their on-site chemical inventory is up to date, so that they can share that information when needed.
- Hazard communication: The updated TSCA legislation will enable the EPA to determine the potential risks of a hazardous chemical. Informing users of these risks is paramount to avoiding penalties. Although this was necessary even before the reform, the new legislation places even more importance on communicating these risks.
- Proper usage: Depending on safety rulings by the EPA, certain toxic substances can only be used and disposed of under specific conditions. Laboratories will have to be certain that the safety data sheets containing those protocols are up to date. Since the updated legislation also covers chemicals presently in use, firms will need to watch for changes and alter their procedures to comply.
The success of the TSCA reform efforts is a win for both manufacturers and consumers because they eliminate the uncertainty that existed under the previous iteration. Organizations can know where they stand in terms of the hazardous chemicals within their inventory. Now, the only thing left to do is to ensure their chemical management processes can support their aims to comply with these dramatic changes.
BIOVIA CISPro is a powerful chemical management system that can help organizations comply with shifting regulatory guidelines. Its services and tools enable users to track chemical inventory in real-time, and to make sure chemical safety information is both current and accurate. With this system, laboratories are informed of changes to chemical safety and handling information, as well as the conditions under which toxic substances can be used. If your organization is interested in a tool that can aid its efforts to meet federal safety laws, please contact us to learn more or request a demo.
- “ The president just signed a law that affects nearly every product you use,” June 22, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/06/22/obamatoxic/ ↩
- “House Passes Chemical Safety Law Reform,” May 24, 2016, http://www.environmentalleader.com/2016/05/24/house-passes-chemical-safety-law-reform/ ↩
- “EPA issues first decisions mandated under the new TSCA,” July 22, 2016, http://blogs.edf.org/health/2016/07/22/epa-issues-first-decisions-mandated-under-the-new-tsca/ ↩