TSCA Reform Gets Second Hearing in House Subcommittee


Source: SOCMA
Related Topics: Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection held a hearing November 17th, 2009 on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) entitled “Prioritizing Chemicals for Safety Determination”.  This was the second TSCA hearing this year.

The witnesses included the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) as the minority witness and the EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Center for International Environmental Law, and jointly, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Consumer Specialty Products Association and the Soap and Detergent Association as the majority witnesses.  SOCMA was the only chemical manufacturing association testifying.

Most of the hearing focused on the prioritization of chemicals, with very little discussion of a safety determination. The following provides a brief summary of each witness’ testimony:

Steve Owens, Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) explained that TSCA does not give EPA sufficient authority to collect data on chemicals and highlighted some common examples to support his argument.  He also talked about some of the advancements in science as a reason to strengthen the statute. Short shrift was made of the Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP), which was recently superseded by a new program, which he spoke of.  The recently announced Lisa Jackson principles of legislative reform were reprised.  He said EPA will still meet its commitments with Canada and Mexico under the Montebello agreement with or without an amended TSCA, however, would have to work harder with the status quo.

Eric Sampson, Director of the Division of Laboratory Sciences in the National Center for Environmental Health with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, talked about the science of biomonitoring and some of it’s possible applications in the context of prioritization.  When questioned about the link between the presence of a chemical and disease he acknowledged that detection is ahead of the ability to interpret the findings, that is, the mere presence does not always equate to harm.

Daryl Ditz, a Senior Policy Advisor for the Center for International Environmental Law, really focused on the need to prioritize what he called “the worst of the worst” chemicals.  It was unclear, however, how many chemicals this would be.  He was asked to provide a number and said it should be “several dozen” based on lists found on international treaties, referring to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). When asked if there were currently any chemicals that required immediate removal, he said Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).  He noted that traditional risk assessment has failed to adequately consider chemicals that persist for long periods of time.

William J. Greggs, a consultant for the Consumer Specialty Products Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the Soap and Detergent Association (and formerly with Procter & Gamble), hammered home the need to prioritize chemicals using risk-based criteria.  A flow chart with hazard and exposure on perpendicular axes demonstrated his main points regarding the application of the risk concept in prioritization.

Beth Bosley, Managing Director for Boron Specialties in Pittsburgh, PA, testified on behalf of SOCMA and also emphasized the importance of prioritizing chemicals in the context of risk. She referred to other programs as potential models for reform, as a pragmatic approach to modernizing TSCA without hindering innovation and killing more jobs in an already struggling economy.  Lessons can be learned from Europe’s REACh and models like EPA’s new chemicals program, ChAMP, and Canada’s approach deserve more attention, she explained.  Having brought up EPA’s new chemicals program she faced the question of how she could support the new chemicals program despite the fact that many Pre-manufacture notices (PMNs) do not have test data.  She explained that PMNs are required to have a lot of other information that the can EPA use in decision-making and that the agency makes conservative regulatory decisions using modeling tools, for which, they have pioneered.  She explained to a Congressman risk management, noting that industry has a record of using the chemical phosgene safely, despite its high toxicity.  She concluded that the biggest shortcoming of TSCA is not lack of authority, rather a lack of funding.

SOCMA also testified before this Subcommittee last February on the same issue of TSCA reform.  Now that health care legislation has passed through the House the issue of TSCA is gaining prominence again.  Despite the action on the House side, it still appears a bill will be introduced first on the Senate side, with a House bill to follow.

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