Skip to main content

Summary: Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013

On May 22, 2013, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and David Vitter (R-LA) announced that they were introducing a bipartisan bill to modernize the 37-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CSIA) would, according to the Drafters, "for the first time, ensure that all chemicals are screened for safety to protect public health and the environment, while also creating an environment where manufacturers can continue to innovate, grow, and create jobs."

After many years of sometimes contentious one-sided attempts to reform TSCA – Senator Lautenberg introduced the first of many iterations of a Safe Chemical Act in 2005 – the current bill garners an unprecedented level of bipartisanship. Jointly sponsored by Democratic Senator Lautenberg and Republican Senator Vitter, the bill is co-sponsored by another dozen Senators equally split between Democrats and Republicans. They are: Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and John Hoeven (R-ND).

Besides the sponsors, the bill also appears to have the support of both industry trade associations and members of the public advocacy community. The American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents many chemical manufacturers, issued a press release saying:

Senators Lautenberg, Vitter, Gillibrand and Crapo have demonstrated outstanding leadership by forging a bipartisan compromise to reform TSCA that considers the interests of all stakeholders. The CSIA takes a balanced, comprehensive approach to updating the law, which will give consumers more confidence in the safety of chemicals, while at the same time encouraging innovation, economic growth and job creation by American manufacturers.

Similarly, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) noted in their press release:

The introduction of bipartisan legislation to strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) represents a breakthrough for modernizing chemical regulation in the United States. Senators Lautenberg and Vitter deserve great credit for their commitment to move this measure forward.

According to Senator Lautenberg's announcement, Richard Denison of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a long-time advocate for TSCA reform and improved chemical safety, also expressed his pleasure with the bill:

This bill is both a policy and political breakthrough. it gives EPA vital new tools to identify chemicals of both high and low concern, and to reduce exposure to those that pose risks. And while this bill represents a hard-fought compromise, it opens, at last, a bipartisan path forward to fix our badly outmoded system to ensure the safety of chemicals in everyday use.

Similarly, Andy Igrejas of the public advocacy coalition Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families notes:

Cracking down on harmful chemicals has strong public support across the political spectrum and you see that reflected in this group of Senators. We congratulate them on their work together…We look forward to working with Senators Lautenberg and Vitter, the co-sponsors, and the Environment and Public Works Committee to ensure the strongest possible public health protections.

The key provisions of the bill are stated to:

  • Require Safety Evaluations for All Chemicals: All active chemicals in commerce must be evaluated for safety and labeled as either "high" or "low" priority chemical based on potential risk to human health and the environment. For high priority chemicals, EPA must conduct further safety evaluations.
  • Protect Public Health from Unsafe Chemicals: If a chemical is found to be unsafe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the necessary authority to take action. This can range from labeling requirements to the full phase-out or ban of a chemical.
  • Prioritize Chemicals for Review: The Environmental Protection Agency will have to transparently assess risk, determine safety, and apply any needed measures to manage risks.
  • Screen New Chemicals for Safety: New chemicals entering the market must be screened for safety and the EPA is given the authority to prohibit unsafe chemicals from entering the market.
  • Secure Necessary Health and Safety Information: The legislation allows EPA to secure necessary health and safety information from chemical manufacturers, while directing EPA to rely first on existing information to avoid duplicative testing.
  • Promote Innovation and Safer Chemistry: This legislation provides clear paths to getting new chemistry on the market and protects trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure.
  • Protect Children and Pregnant Women: The legislation requires EPA to evaluate the risks posed to particularly vulnerable populations, such as children and pregnant women, when evaluating the safety of a chemical—a provision not included in existing law.
  • Give States and Municipalities a Say: States and local governments will have the opportunity to provide input on prioritization, safety assessment, and the safety determination processes, requiring a timely response from EPA, and the bill establishes a waiver process to allow state regulations or laws to remain in effect when circumstances warrant it.