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Policy

Clarifying TSCA

by Robin M. Giroux
September 9, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 36

I wish to clarify a misconception about the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) included in the Aug. 12 editorial (page 3).

The authors correctly state that 60,000 chemicals in commerce were added to the original TSCA inventory because they were assumed to be safe. What they fail to mention is that since then, every new chemical manufactured or imported into the U.S. undergoes rigorous evaluation before it can be included on the TSCA Inventory. This is done by submitting a Premanufacture Notice (PMN).

In my more than 25 years as a consultant, I have filed PMNs with as few as 25 pages and as many as 250 pages. The Environmental Protection Agency reviews them carefully. In a number of cases, my client companies have been asked by EPA to sign consent decrees that greatly limit how a new chemical can be introduced into commerce.

The guest authors of the editorial have insufficient knowledge of how chemicals are employed in industry. They state that “safety evaluations should be conducted not only on individual chemicals but also on the mixtures as marketed.”

What they fail to realize is that certain chemicals—think surfactants and emulsifiers—appear in literally thousands of commercial formulations. Who do they expect to do all these evaluations? This would preclude the introduction of new formulations, which are the lifeblood of the chemical industry. Incidentally, the authors appear not to know about the 2% rule, which states that a new chemical greater than 2% in a mixture must be submitted for PMN review.

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 makes some needed improvements in TSCA, but it is important to approach the subject in a reasonable and rational manner.

Howard S. Bender
Reston, Va.

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