Chemical Safety 2.0: Will the New Law Improve EPA Risk Assessment Practices?

Last June 22nd, President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century act of 2016. The legislation makes significant changes to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control act (TSCA), which gave the U.S. Environmental Protection agency authority to regulate chemicals in commerce.

Congress has granted the EPA increased powers to identify and regulate existing chemicals in return for greater preemption of state action. Once the EPA makes a final decision on a chemical, states are limited in their ability to control it. States are also “paused” from taking action pending EPA evaluation of a chemical.

The good news is that there is a remedy. Ultimately, governmental risk assessment could benefit greatly from competition. The new law includes a requirement that the EPA “develop guidance to assist interested persons in developing and submitting draft risk evaluations which shall be considered by the administrator.” Congress anticipates that third parties will submit their own risk evaluations to the agency, leveraging the considerable expertise on risk evaluation external to the agency.

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