Forty years after it was first passed in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act has been amended to better protect Americans from toxic chemicals in products. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support and has been signed into law by President Obama. It is named in honor of former New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg was worked to regulate toxic chemicals in the 1980s. It is the most important act of its kind in many, many years and the bipartisan support is encouraging.
The Lautenberg Act is rather far reaching. It requires that both current and future chemicals used in commerce are to be reviewed for consumer safety, with special attention on infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and other vulnerable groups. It uses language that includes both health and environmental concerns. It also bolstering the EPA’s enforcement capabilities, giving the agency different approaches from label requirements on products to banning the use of a chemical. The EPA is also authorized to study cancer clusters, defined by the bill (H.R. 2576) as “the incidence of a particular cancer within a population group, a geographical area, and a period of time that is greater than expected for such group, area, and period”, to find potential links to chemical production or consumption.
Other reforms in the Amendment include the dismissal of cost concerns when a review is needed, the power to review chemicals without finding evidence of harm and assure some level of transparency, and funding these reviews by issuing fees to businesses introducing the chemicals (with reduced fees for small businesses). However, the move away from toxic chemicals in products can be accelerated with consumer demands to be protected from health and environmental hazards rather than waiting on the EPA to test these chemicals over the course of many years.