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House Republicans Unveil Draft Legislation To Reform Federal Law On Chemical Safety

The House of Representatives draft bill to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act receives mixed reviews.

by Cheryl Hogue
March 6, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 10

A draft bill by House of Representatives Republicans to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is getting mixed reviews. Chemical industry groups are politely welcoming the draft, while environmental and health activists are speaking out against it.

Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment & the Economy, released the draft measure on Feb. 27. It shares some similarities to a bipartisan bill (S. 1009) introduced last year in the Senate. He says the draft bill, which has not been introduced formally, is a starting point for discussion among lawmakers.

Among other things, the draft bill would require EPA to divide all commercial chemicals on the market into two categories, low or high priority, depending on whether existing information on a substance suggests it might pose a risk to human health or the environment. EPA would assess each high-priority chemical for safety and then either deem it safe for its intended uses or regulate it by requiring labels or restricting or phasing out its use. Low-priority chemicals, for the most part, would not be assessed.

The American Chemistry Council, a trade association, calls the draft a “positive development” toward reforming TSCA. But Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of some 450 environmental and health groups, businesses, and unions, says the draft legislation wouldn’t protect the public from high-risk chemicals.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, the top Democrat on the Energy & Commerce Committee, says the draft bill “would weaken current law and endanger public health.” But he is hopeful that the draft can be modified in bipartisan discussions.


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