Multiple Paths to Better Chemical Management: Another Step Forward for TSCA Reform

chemical management
Long overdue for an update, it seems like TSCA reform is finally just around the corner. How can companies prepare for the inevitable?
Image source: Flickr CC user h080

Looks like change is imminent! Last month, the House of Representatives passed their version of a measure that would update the Toxic Substance Reform Act1. Almost four decades old, the TSCA has not been updated since it was enacted in 1976. Times have changed and so has the way companies need to handle their chemical management. The House appears to agree with this sentiment, since the bill passed with an overwhelming majority of 398 to 1.

The move puts pressure on the Senate, which has their own version of a TSCA reform bill. While the legislation has made it out of committee, it has yet to reach the Senate floor. They’ll want to do that soon since there are a few key differences between the House and Senate proposals. If the Senate’s version passes, both branches of Congress will need to come together to hammer them out before sending up a final version to President Obama.

Provisions under the House Bill on TSCA Reform

Forty years is more than enough time for critics to highlight weaknesses of the TSCA. As a result, the House measure has similarities to the Senate proposal. Dubbed the TSCA Modernization Act of 20152, the House bill would update the legislation in the following ways:

  • The EPA must initiate risk evaluations of commercially used chemicals.
  • If a chemical is found to pose an unreasonable risk to human health or to the environment, the EPA must adopt regulations.
  • It expands the EPA’s powers to require manufacturer testing.
  • It adjusts protections on confidential business information.
  • It preempts state law when the EPA determines a chemical poses an unreasonable risk and makes a new rule.

The House bill, however, lacks two things that are included in the Senate version:

  • There is no prioritization scheme for assessing existing chemicals.
  • There is no provision that prevents states from passing restrictions on high-priority chemicals during the period the EPA is making its risk determination.

Without a doubt, these differences will be first on the list to reconcile if the Senate bill passes.

Companies Can Still Prepare Despite Competing Legislation on Chemical Management

Even though the details may differ in the final form, companies can still prepare themselves for impending changes. As demonstrated by the ease with which the House bill passed, TSCA reform has bipartisan support. Even the Senate version has bipartisan endorsement. I come from Washington, D.C. — believe me when I say it’s rare to see this kind of cooperation between both sides of the aisle!

One of the ways companies and manufacturers can prepare for TSCA reform is by adopting a digital chemical management system. Here are some advantages this type of tool would offer:

  • Inventory tracking: The software allows users to track a chemical from the time it comes on site until its end of life via a barcode system. If the EPA determines a chemical poses an unreasonable risk, then users can search to see if they have it in their stock and follow any newly imposed regulations from there.
  • Storage Information: A chemical management system lets users quickly look up how to store their inventory properly. For example, corrosives need to be kept in a separate cabinet from flammables. Even more useful is the ability to generate reports that list what chemicals are on-site along with crucial details like volume and quantity.
  • Safety Data Sheets: With a digital tool, gone are the days of dusty binders stored on shelves. Chemical safety data sheets can be readily linked digitally to chemical inventory. If testing is required, users can easily access safety handling information. Likewise, if handling rules are updated, users can also replace old safety data sheets with new ones without having to deal with the onerous task of printing copies and searching through paper binders.

TSCA reform isn’t going to come about tomorrow, but its enactment looms on the horizon. While there are some questions left to be resolved — such as how will the law deal with states that have tougher chemical safety regulations3 — what remains will boil down to negotiation and semantics. Manufacturers and companies can avoid being caught flat-footed by taking action now. Adopting chemical management software can ease the pain of changes that come hand-in-hand with reform. Contact us today to learn more about how BIOVIA CISPro can support your firm during these times of transition and beyond.

  1. “Chemical Safety Bill Advances,” June 23, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/24/us/chemical-safety-bill-advances.html
  2. “TSCA Reform Nears Enactment with Easy Passage in the House,” July 2, 2015, http://www.natlawreview.com/article/tsca-reform-nears-enactment-easy-passage-house
  3. “House Advances Chemical Safety Reform Bill, Teeing Up Senate Vote,” June 24, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/24/house-chemical-safety_n_7657560.html

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