Updating TSCA: What the United States Can Learn from Europe’s REACH Regulation
In 1976, Fidel Castro became the President of Cuba, Mao Tse-tung passed away, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci won three gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Montreal with seven perfect scores and the United States Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act. Thirty-eight years later: Fidel Castro has retired, China has become more capitalistic than communistic, few democratic cities are willing to host the Winter Olympics, but the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) hasn’t changed much at all.
Now that the dust of the election has settled and Congress is controlled by a single party, there may be an opportunity for them to update the nation’s primary chemical law. Before Congress acts, however, they may want to take stock of the European Union’s experience with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation.
Here are four aspects the new U.S. Congress can learn from Europe’s REACH regulation:
Include the Public – The REACH program recognizes that there are three primary stakeholders in regard to chemical management: the business community, the government and the public. In contrast to the TSCA, the REACH program attempts to include the public by disclosing safety information concerning any registered chemical on a centralized website. Although the TSCA was designed to protect the public, it excludes them from the process by withholding critical information. Any new or modified chemical regulation should include the public disclosure of chemical information, particularly in regard to safety issues.
No Grandfathered Chemicals – When the TSCA was originally enacted, it grandfathered in approximately 62,000 chemicals without really testing to determine if they posed a danger to human health. On the other hand, the REACH regulation requires that manufacturers show proof that their chemicals can be used safely. Any updated TSCA law should reevaluate grandfathered and grandfathering chemicals.
Avoid Pre-Registration – The REACH regulation outlined a pre-registration process, which allowed companies to register a chemical on the government website in order to create groups that would share data regarding a particular chemical. However, there was an overwhelming response to this action with approximately 2.7 million pre-registrations received. Ultimately, 90% of these applications were redundant. A U.S. law could avoid a similar administrative mess by pre-populating a database that identifies all of the chemicals and then opening that database up to businesses. This might save administrative time and money.
Centralize Regulations – The REACH regulation took a number of localized regulations and centralized them into a single legislation. Currently, the U.S. is beginning to fragment in regard to chemical regulations as states begin to implement their own regulations to replace or supplement TSCA. Passing an updated TSCA at the Federal government level will reduce the cost of compliance for companies operating in states with different regulations, like REACH did for Europe.
Although we are not sure what actions the next Congress might take regarding chemical regulation, we know that they will probably do something soon. To prepare for whatever new legislation they propose, laboratories may want to consider implementing a chemical inventory management system to make any transitions easier.
The benefits of a chemical inventory management system include the ability to digitally record chemical information as chemicals are received and stored. This digital record can then be quickly updated to address the needs of a new TSCA bill which may require more public disclosure of chemical information. It can also be used to keep track of chemicals for which proof of human safety has been obtained versus chemical safety information has not been obtained yet.
Despite the gridlock in Washington, there is growing momentum to update and modify the TSCA. A chemical inventory management system can help ensure that your laboratory is prepared for whatever regulatory requirements the new law will require. For more information regarding how BIOVIA CISPro can help your business, please visit our website today.