When Regulations Reboot: How a Chemical Management System Can Help Companies Prepare

chemical management
Congress has proposed three reform bills to overhaul the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act. With changes imminent in the coming years, laboratories can prepare by adopting a chemical management system.
Image source: Flickr CC user ActiveSteve

Passed in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) gave the EPA the ability to regulate new and already existing chemicals. But nearly 40 years later, multiple groups across government, industry and environmental lines agree that the legislation needs an overhaul. In the four decades since it became law, the act has never been updated.

Last month, two competing reform bills were introduced in the Senate. The new legislation requires that chemicals be tested for safety before they enter the market. Decisions determining chemical safety will also be based solely on impacts on health and the environment. In its present form, the TSCA has a stipulation which allows the EPA to consider how much it would cost to control a chemical. To further fuel the reform discussion, another bill was introduced in the House of Representatives last week.

While previous attempts to change present law have failed, it’s clear that people believe the current system needs to be fixed. Even though the proposed bills have different approaches for how to do this, it appears likely that reform is imminent given that all three pieces of legislation were introduced within a month of each other.

Changing regulatory legislation presents challenges to companies, especially in the case of chemicals. Since it will take time for any of the bills to pass and be enacted into law, laboratories can prepare for impending changes now. Adopting a best practices chemical management system is one way to do so.

Keeping Safety Data Sheets Current

Currently, the TSCA states that the EPA must show a chemical’s potential risk before companies have to seek further safety data. Under one of the reform bills, the EPA no longer needs to demonstrate risk before requiring companies to generate additional safety information. This closes a loophole which allows companies to keep some safety data confidential and inaccessible by the public.

If this change is adopted, safety data sheets can be updated at any time with new information. A chemical management system allows laboratories to stay current. Instead of printed copies stored in a binder, digital copies are kept in the cloud. Unlike paper copies, laboratory workers won’t need to worry about the accuracy of the information contained on the safety data sheets. Anyone who has worked in a lab can tell you that keeping those safety binders up to date is a tedious task and with the promised reforms, who knows how often updating would be required? It’s best to minimize that worry from the beginning.

Keeping Vulnerable Populations Safe

The proposed reforms will also require companies to meet standards to protect certain groups of people like children, pregnant women and the elderly. While geared toward the public, these changes will also have an impact on laboratories. For example, it’s common for teratogens to be used in research. In fact, I first learned what a teratogen was during a laboratory relocation many years ago when we were taking chemical inventory.

A chemical’s status as a teratogen is typically information available on its safety data sheet. Through chemical management software, you’ll be able to identify potential teratogens in your lab. This idea extends other special classes of chemicals that impact specific populations.

Keeping Track of Inventory with a Chemical Management System

Depending on the stringency of the reform, it’s entirely possible some chemicals presently allowed for use under the current system may be banned. Laboratories, however, can store thousands of chemicals, making it difficult to keep track of inventory.

A chemical management system makes use of barcode technology to track a chemical from when it arrives on-site to when it leaves. If a chemical ends up on the banned list via the new regulatory process, a quick lookup can determine whether your lab has it. If your lab does have it, the system will also tell you its location. The linked safety data sheets contain information regarding best disposal procedures. And finally, a scan can note when the banned chemical was disposed, which provides a compliance record in the case of an inspection.

The past few decades shown demonstrated how unwieldy the current TSCA is. It’s absolutely time for an overhaul. Unfortunately, changing legislation will affect companies and laboratories that use and store chemicals. Thankfully, digital tools like BIOVIA CISPro can ease the transition. Website our website today to learn more about our chemical management system can help your lab stay on top of the chemicals it uses.

6 thoughts on “When Regulations Reboot: How a Chemical Management System Can Help Companies Prepare

  1. Good to know that there are bills being passed to do more testing on chemicals before they are approved for safe to use. This will prompt companies to ensure the chemical is safe in order to put into testing by the EPA.

  2. Managing dangerous chemicals is a very important task. The best possible technology should be used to protect the public from a tragic accident.

  3. Yong, I’m interested in seeing what form the final bill takes. Each of the proposals have their pros and cons.

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