The senators of various U.S. states have approved a revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). But the Obama administration must also approve it before it can take effect. The draft significantly expands the scope of the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When the act goes into force, the EPA has a mandate to examine all substances on the market according to new safety standards and, if necessary, to remove substances deemed toxic from the market. Even chemicals that are new to the market must meet the new safety standards.
All those involved in the process spoke of a milestone in the American approach to chemical regulation. About 80,000 chemicals are on the market, but no one knows what these substances do to the human body. Before the vote on the new law, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall said he hopes that the new law would protect children from toxic substances.
A Toxic Substances Control Act was first passed in 1976, but has not been updated since. The Washington Post characterized the law as a paper tiger that gave the EPA too little room to act. In the last 40 years, exactly five chemicals have been taken off the market. In comparison, over 1,300 ingredients in cosmetics and more than 80 ingredients in pesticides has been banned in Europe – while they remain approved in the United States (see Deutscher Naturschutzring).
What does the new law mean for the companies it affects? Downstream users should look into the legal security of their products – especially those that contain asbestos, perfluorinated chemicals, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and other substances that can harm health and the environment.
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