Howard Bender’s letter “Clarifying TSCA” addresses an important fact that has not received adequate attention in the current debate to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (C&EN, Sept. 9, page 9). As he points out, since the closing of the initial inventory, all commercially produced chemical substances within TSCA jurisdiction that have been newly manufactured or imported have been subject to the Premanufacture Notice (PMN) regulations.
In many cases, the PMN review results in the Environmental Protection Agency imposing restrictions on the substance. Often when EPA flags concerns, the manufacturer voluntarily withdraws the PMN and seeks to develop a chemical without such concerns.
And to clarify further, Congress did not assume that the chemicals on the initial inventory were safe. To the contrary, Congress was concerned about whether existing chemicals were safe. It divided the universe of chemical substances into two groups: existing chemical substances, which are those on the initial inventory—manufactured or processed between 1975 and 1979—and new chemical substances. The PMN framework was created for new substances, but Congress gave EPA multiple avenues by which to gather data on and to restrict existing chemicals.
One such provision is self-implementing and requires manufacturers, importers, processors, and distributors of chemical substances to immediately report to EPA information indicating that the substance may pose a substantial risk to human health or the environment. Thousands of reports have been submitted to EPA under that provision.
One can argue whether the original TSCA provisions are strong enough, whether EPA has implemented them effectively, and whether Congress has provided sufficient funding for TSCA programs. But a major purpose of TSCA was to review and, where necessary, restrict existing chemicals. For three decades, EPA has been implementing that purpose through rulemaking and voluntary initiatives to address existing chemicals, as well as conducting the PMN review process on new substances. The extent of both efforts has been downplayed by many in the call for TSCA reform, but TSCA was, and is, by no means an insubstantial statute.