Reviving TSCA: Safe Chemicals Act Revision 2011

On April 14, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) proposed “The Safe Chemicals Act, Version 2” to Congress.  Reception is lukewarm and the legislation is not expected to pass.  However, all industry persons should be familiar with the basics of the proposal.

SCA 2011 E-Z: articles, mixtures and nanos. In common language, SCA 2011 differs from SCA 2010 in three key ways.

In terms of articles, the new revision would not specifically amend the definition of chemical substance to include chemicals in articles.  “Articles” typically means “finished goods,” like a table, chair, electronic device or other saleable manufactured item for the market.  Under SCA 2011, chemical substances imported as part of an article would be subject to the same requirements as if they had been imported in bulk, with some exceptions.

Mixtures are again a hot topic:  current TSCA allows testing and reporting rules and control actions to be issued for mixtures, although EPA rarely implements related procedures.  SCA 2011 unloads many of last year’s mixture requirements so that it more closely resembles the current TSCA status quo.  SCA 2011 would let EPA take actions relating to mixtures in the same manner as actions relating to chemical substances — in the event that EPA determined that doing so would be reasonable and efficient.

In the realm of nanomaterials, SCA 2011 is similar to SCA 2010 in that it lets EPA determine whether nanoscale versions of existing macroscale chemicals are new chemicals.

SCA 2011 E-Z: in context. The esteemed Washington, DC, environmental law in Beveridge and Diamond aptly commented on the upshot of SCA 2011 by pointing out, “With the Republican majority in the House of Representatives unlikely to consider TSCA legislation this Congress, passage of SCA 2011 is unlikely. Nevertheless, SCA 2011 will probably stimulate efforts by stakeholders to educate Congress and each other on a variety of approaches to overhauling TSCA that can address the deficiencies in the current statute while obtaining sufficient support to be enacted.”

The SCA 2011 aims to endow EPA with sufficient information to judge a chemical’s safety.  It requires manufacturers to develop and submit a minimum data set for each chemical they produce, while also preventing duplicative or unnecessary testing and encouraging the use of rapid, low-cost, non-animal tests that provide high quality data.  Again, the onus of chemical evaluation and disclosure is intended to fall on chemical manufacturers, not manufacturers in general.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and its members have announced they support efforts by the US Congress to modernize chemical management. A modern system, says the ACC, should place protecting the public health as its highest priority, and should include strict government oversight.


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About Kal

Kal Kawar, CIH, PE, has a bachelor's in chemical engineering and a master's in industrial hygiene. His professional experience includes serving as staff industrial hygienist for IBM's New York semiconductor manufacturing facility, and as industrial hygienist for IBM’s US headquarters. Now executive vice president of Actio, Kal taps more than 20 years' worth of chemical engineering, industrial hygiene, and environmental engineering experience. His far-reaching expertise with global regulatory challenges created by EPA, TSCA, REACH, RoHS, WEEE – and hundreds of others – aid in developing Actio software solutions for MSDS management, raw material disclosure compliance, and product stewardship in a supply chain.