WE ACT, the Just Transition Alliance, and the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice launched an innovative three-year targeted outreach, education, and communications strategy on behalf of the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families (SCHF) Campaign. The goal for our three organizations, as well as SCHF, was to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the nation’s chemicals regulation law, in the interest of the environment and the health of low-income and environmental justice communities across the country.
What was wrong with the TSCA?
The Toxic Substances Control Act allowed 62,000 chemicals that had not been proven safe to stay on the market when it was enacted in 1976. Between 1976 and 2010, the list of chemicals allowed for use in the U.S. swelled to roughly 82,000. But in that time, the Environmental Protection Agency reviewed the toxicity of just 200 chemicals and banned only five. Meanwhile, the scientific evidence of negative health effects associated with TSCA-permitted chemicals has only gotten stronger.
Where are is the TSCA now?
In 2016, the TSCA was reformed for the first time in forty years. The new TSCA requires EPA to review and approve the safety of all chemicals used commercially in the U.S., but the backlog of chemicals needing review could take years. That said, TSCA does not regulate pesticides, chemicals used in cosmetics and personal care products, food, food packaging or pharmaceuticals.
What are TSCA’s implications with respect to environmental justice?
The new TSCA requires the EPA to consider impacts of chemicals on those most susceptible to exposure, “such as infants, children, pregnant women, workers, or the elderly.” How the EPA defines “susceptible” and the impacts to these groups is yet to be determined.