control panel with toxic substances

Toxic Substances Control Act

Enforc­ing Tox­ic Sub­stances Con­trol Act Reforms

In 2016, Con­gress amend­ed the Tox­ic Sub­stances Con­trol Act (TSCA) and removed obsta­cles that had pre­vent­ed the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) from play­ing a more active role in pro­tect­ing pub­lic health and the envi­ron­ment by reg­u­lat­ing the use of tox­ic chem­i­cals. Under the reformed TSCA, the EPA is con­duct­ing risk eval­u­a­tions of ten high-pri­or­i­ty chem­i­cals, includ­ing asbestos. As part of that process, the EPA released a prob­lem for­mu­la­tion” doc­u­ment to help fur­ther define the risk analy­sis to be con­duct­ed for each of the chemicals.

2017-2021

  • August 2018

    In August 2018, a coali­tion of 11 attor­neys gen­er­al sub­mit­ted com­ments to the EPA on the prob­lem for­mu­la­tion doc­u­ment. The com­ments not­ed that that the EPA’s pro­posed approach for eval­u­at­ing prob­lem for­mu­la­tions ignores sig­nif­i­cant expo­sure path­ways for the chem­i­cals, result­ing in incom­plete risk eval­u­a­tions that would pre­vent the EPA from ful­fill­ing its statu­to­ry man­date under the TSCA of ensur­ing that none of the chem­i­cals present an unrea­son­able risk of injury to health and the environment.”

Pro­tect­ing Con­sumers from Mer­cury Exposure

Expo­sure to mer­cury at high lev­els can harm crit­i­cal organs in peo­ple of all ages and mer­cury in the blood­stream of infants and young chil­dren can cause seri­ous devel­op­men­tal prob­lems. The 2016 TSCA reform leg­is­la­tion required the EPA to estab­lish an inven­to­ry of mer­cury sup­ply, use and trade in the Unit­ed States. In order to assist in the prepa­ra­tion of this inven­to­ry, the reform leg­is­la­tion also required any per­son who man­u­fac­tures mer­cury, mer­cury-added prod­ucts or uses mer­cury in a man­u­fac­tur­ing process make peri­od­ic reports to the EPA. The EPA was required to issue a rule by June 2018 that laid out what infor­ma­tion was to be includ­ed in the peri­od­ic reports.

2017-2021

  • June 2018

    In June 2018, the EPA released a final rule on the required con­tents of the peri­od­ic reports. The final rule exempt­ed per­sons who use mer­cury-added prod­ucts as a com­po­nent of a larg­er prod­uct and exempt­ed large pro­duc­ers and importers of mer­cury and mer­cury-added prod­ucts from sub­mit­ting peri­od­ic reports to the EPA. The final rule also allowed less fre­quent reporting.

  • Decem­ber 2018

    In Decem­ber 2018, Ver­mont Attor­ney Gen­er­al T.J. Dono­van chal­lenged the final rule as incon­sis­tent with the 2016 TSCA reform leg­is­la­tion. The brief argued that that the rule vio­lates the TSCA by fail­ing to fill gaps in the inven­to­ry of report­ed data on the sup­ply, use and trade of mer­cury. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Dono­van also stat­ed that the rule could pro­hib­it Ver­mont from enforc­ing state laws that ban cer­tain prod­ucts with mer­cury-added components.

  • Decem­ber 2018

    Also in Decem­ber 2018, Ore­gon Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ellen Rosen­blum led a coali­tion of ten attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing an ami­cus brief in sup­port of Vermont’s chal­lenge of the June 2018 rule. The brief not­ed the rule’s exemp­tions are incon­sis­tent with the text of TSCA and that the rule would con­strain states’ abil­i­ty to effec­tive­ly reg­u­late mer­cury by deny­ing states the oppor­tu­ni­ty to access a com­pre­hen­sive and accu­rate fed­er­al inven­to­ry of mer­cury sup­ply, use and trade.

  • April 2019

    In April 2019, the EPA filed its response brief in the lit­i­ga­tion, request­ing that the chal­lenge to the June 2018 rule be denied. The EPA argued that the TSCA reform leg­is­la­tion pro­vid­ed broad dis­cre­tion to the EPA to estab­lish data report­ing require­ments on the sup­ply, use and trade of mer­cury and that the agency had rea­son­ably exer­cised that dis­cre­tion in pro­mul­gat­ing the June 2018 rule. The fol­low­ing month, Ver­mont Attor­ney Gen­er­al Dono­van filed a reply brief that not­ed that the EPA’s argu­ment ignored that the agency had failed to imple­ment data report­ing require­ments for mer­cury sup­ply, use and trade in a man­ner con­sis­tent with Congress’s intent and pur­pose in adopt­ing the TSCA reform legislation.

  • June 2020

    In June 2020, the Sec­ond Cir­cuit court released an opin­ion agree­ing with Ver­mont Attor­ney Gen­er­al Dono­van that the EPA’s fail­ure to include importers of assem­bled prod­ucts with mer­cury-added com­po­nents in their data vio­lates their oblig­a­tions under TSCA. The court reject­ed oth­er mer­cury data report­ing con­cerns, how­ev­er, con­clud­ing that they would impose duplica­tive require­ments on manufacturers.

Requir­ing Report­ing of Asbestos Data

Asbestos is a mate­r­i­al that is wide­ly used through­out the U.S. econ­o­my, but it is high­ly tox­ic. The known car­cino­gen caus­es 15,000 pre­ma­ture deaths annu­al­ly and is linked to life-threat­en­ing or painful dis­eases, such as mesothe­lioma, fibro­sis, gas­troin­testi­nal can­cer and lung can­cer and oth­er lung dis­or­ders. TSCA’s Chem­i­cal Dat­ing Report­ing (CDR) rule requires man­u­fac­tures and importers to report infor­ma­tion about the man­u­fac­tur­ing, pro­cess­ing and use of tox­ic chem­i­cals, includ­ing asbestos. This infor­ma­tion is then used to help the EPA reg­u­late tox­ic chem­i­cals in order to pro­tect human health and the envi­ron­ment. The EPA’s cur­rent asbestos data does not com­pre­hen­sive­ly assess the import­ing, pro­cess­ing and use of asbestos in the Unit­ed States.

2017-2021

  • Jan­u­ary 2019

    In Jan­u­ary 2019, a coali­tion of fif­teen attor­neys gen­er­al led by Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra and Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mau­ra Healey filed a peti­tion with the EPA to devel­op a new asbestos report­ing rule to improve the EPA’s asbestos data by elim­i­nat­ing exemp­tions for the mate­r­i­al under the CDR. The attor­neys gen­er­al request­ed that the new report­ing rule elim­i­nate nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring sub­stance” as an exemp­tion for asbestos report­ing, require proces­sors of asbestos to adhere to the CDR’s report­ing require­ments and require that import­ed arti­cles con­tain­ing asbestos also be report­ed. This infor­ma­tion would enable the EPA to more effec­tive­ly reg­u­late asbestos and ful­fill its TSCA respon­si­bil­i­ty to pre­vent unrea­son­able risk to health and the environment.

  • May 2019

    In May 2019, the EPA pub­lished its denial of the states’ Jan­u­ary 2019 peti­tion. In June 2019, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra and Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Healey led a coali­tion of eleven attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing a law­suit chal­leng­ing EPA’s denial of the states’ peti­tion in fed­er­al dis­trict court in Cal­i­for­nia. The attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that the agency denied the peti­tion because it claimed to already have suf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion avail­able,” despite, by its own admis­sion, not know[ing] the amount of asbestos con­tained in con­sumer prod­ucts” and the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, the source of the EPA’s infor­ma­tion on import­ed asbestos, disclaimin[ing] the com­plete­ness” of that infor­ma­tion. Fur­ther, the law­suit assert­ed that EPA’s fail­ure to require thor­ough report­ing on asbestos expo­sure risk deprives the states of reli­able and com­pre­hen­sive infor­ma­tion to pur­sue their own asbestos reg­u­la­to­ry efforts.

Sup­port­ing Leg­is­la­tion to Ban Asbestos

2017-2021

  • July 2019

    In July 2019, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of eigh­teen attor­neys gen­er­al in send­ing a let­ter to the Chair and Rank­ing Mem­ber of the House Ener­gy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee in sup­port of the Ban Asbestos Now Act (H.R. 1603). The leg­is­la­tion would amend TSCA to pro­hib­it the man­u­fac­ture, pro­cess­ing, and dis­tri­b­u­tion of asbestos in the U.S., effec­tive­ly ban­ning the chem­i­cal. In their let­ter the attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that the leg­is­la­tion is nec­es­sary because the EPA has demon­strat­ed that it is unable and unwill­ing to use its author­i­ty under TSCA to address the unrea­son­able risks of injury to health and the envi­ron­ment posed by asbestos, a chem­i­cal for which there is no safe lev­el of exposure.

Ban­ning Harm­ful Paint and Coat­ing Removers

Meth­yl­ene chlo­ride is a tox­ic sol­vent used in a range of prod­ucts, includ­ing in paint strip­pers and coat­ing removers. The sub­stance has been linked to can­cer, cog­ni­tive defi­cien­cies, and asphyx­i­a­tion; with at least 40 peo­ple dying from expo­sure to meth­yl­ene chlo­ride since 1976. Paint and coat­ing removers account for approx­i­mate­ly one-fourth of all meth­yl­ene chlo­ride use. 

In 2014, act­ing under TSCA, the EPA com­plet­ed a peer-reviewed assess­ment of the health risks asso­ci­at­ed with paint and coat­ing removal prod­ucts con­tain­ing meth­yl­ene chlo­ride. The risk assess­ment sup­port­ed the EPA’s Jan­u­ary 2017 pro­posed rule that would have pro­hib­it­ed the man­u­fac­ture, pro­cess­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion of paint and coat­ing removers con­tain­ing the tox­ic sub­stance for all con­sumer and many com­mer­cial users. The EPA had deter­mined that the meth­yl­ene chlo­ride in paint strip­pers and coat­ing removers pre­sent­ed an unrea­son­able risk to human health,” neces­si­tat­ing lim­it­ing the man­u­fac­ture, pro­cess­ing, dis­tri­b­u­tion and use of the sub­stance under TSCA

2017-2021

  • March 2019

    In March 2019, the EPA released its final meth­yl­ene chlo­ride rule. Despite declin­ing to engage with the evi­dence includ­ed in the pro­posed rule and fail­ing to pro­vide new evi­dence that the sub­stance does not pose an unrea­son­able risk to human health, the final rule pro­hib­it­ed only the man­u­fac­tur­ing, pro­cess­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion of meth­yl­ene chlo­ride for use by con­sumers. The final rule lacked any restric­tions on the acqui­si­tion or use of paint and coat­ing removers con­tain­ing meth­yl­ene chlo­ride for com­mer­cial or indus­tri­al end users.

  • April 2019

    In April 2019, a group of envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions filed a peti­tion for review chal­leng­ing the final rule issued by the EPA. In Octo­ber 2019, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Leti­tia James led a coali­tion of nine attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing an ami­cus brief in sup­port of the envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions chal­leng­ing the EPA’s final rule. The brief not­ed that the final rule vio­lates TSCA because it fails to reg­u­late com­mer­cial use of meth­yl­ene chlo­ride prod­ucts that the agency had deter­mined pose an unrea­son­able risk to human health. Addi­tion­al­ly, the attor­neys gen­er­al insist­ed that the EPA’s fail­ure to explain why the agency was not restrict­ing the com­mer­cial use of meth­yl­ene chlo­ride con­tra­vened the Admin­is­tra­tive Pro­ce­dure Act.

  • June 2020

    In June 2020, the EPA released a final risk eval­u­a­tion for meth­yl­ene chlo­ride, deter­min­ing that it does not present an unrea­son­able risk of injury to health or the envi­ron­ment.” In August 2020, a coali­tion of 12 attor­neys gen­er­al filed a peti­tion for review chal­leng­ing the final risk evaluation.

Eval­u­at­ing Risks for High-Pri­or­i­ty Substances

Formalde­hyde

2017-2021

  • April 2020

    In April 2020, the EPA pub­lished draft scop­ing doc­u­ments for its TSCA risk eval­u­a­tion of sev­en high-pri­or­i­ty sub­stances. Among these sub­stances is formalde­hyde, the most con­tro­ver­sial and most wide­ly known of the 20 sub­stances that the EPA des­ig­nat­ed as high-pri­or­i­ty for TSCA eval­u­a­tion in Decem­ber 2019. In the doc­u­ments, the EPA admit­ted that it failed to sat­is­fy all of TSCA’s sub­stan­tive require­ments for these risk eval­u­a­tions. The agency assert­ed that the miss­ing infor­ma­tion will be includ­ed in forth­com­ing sys­tem­at­ic reviews and oth­er sup­ple­men­tal documents.

  • June 2020

    In June 2020, a coali­tion of twelve attor­neys gen­er­al led by New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James filed com­ments crit­i­ciz­ing the inad­e­quate and incom­plete scop­ing doc­u­ments. The attor­neys gen­er­al point­ed out that the draft scop­ing doc­u­ments vio­lat­ed TSCA and denied the pub­lic the oppor­tu­ni­ty to pro­vide a full and mean­ing­ful review and com­ment on the draft scope doc­u­ments. The coali­tion high­light­ed EPA’s defi­cien­cies in eval­u­at­ing formalde­hyde in par­tic­u­lar, which includ­ed its fail­ure to iden­ti­fy haz­ards of the chem­i­cal to pub­lic health and the envi­ron­ment. In order to pre­serve the integri­ty of the safe­ty eval­u­a­tions for these sub­stances, the attor­neys gen­er­al urged the EPA to with­draw these draft scop­ing doc­u­ments and issue revised draft scope doc­u­ments that ful­ly sat­is­fy the require­ments of TSCA.

1,4‑Dioxane

The chem­i­cal 1,4‑dioxane is a wide­ly used sol­vent that is one of 10 high-pri­or­i­ty sub­stances select­ed by the EPA for review fol­low­ing the 2016 Laut­en­berg amend­ments to TSCA

2017-2021

  • Novem­ber 2020

    In Novem­ber 2020, the EPA released a sup­ple­men­tal analy­sis for its risk eval­u­a­tion of 1,4‑dioxane.

  • Decem­ber 2020

    In Decem­ber 2020, a coali­tion of 16 attor­neys gen­er­al led by New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James sub­mit­ted com­ments on the EPA’s sup­ple­men­tal analy­sis. In their com­ments, the attor­neys gen­er­al raised seri­ous con­cerns with the EPA’s unex­pect­ed deci­sion to expand the scope of the eval­u­a­tion to include eight con­sumer appli­ca­tions in which 1,4‑dioxane occurs as a byprod­uct at poten­tial­ly harm­ful con­cen­tra­tions. The coali­tion crit­i­cized the agency’s con­clu­sion that none of these uses pose an unrea­son­able health risk and high­light­ed that the deci­sion seems to have been made at the urg­ing of the Amer­i­can Clean­ing Insti­tute and the Gro­cery Man­u­fac­tur­ers Asso­ci­a­tion for the explic­it pur­pose of pre­empt­ing state reg­u­la­tions to pro­tect con­sumers from expo­sure to 1,4‑dioxane. The attor­neys gen­er­al also not­ed sev­er­al errors that the EPA made in its ini­tial draft risk eval­u­a­tion — includ­ing fail­ing to ana­lyze risks to high-expo­sure sub­pop­u­la­tions, exclud­ing numer­ous expo­sure path­ways and improp­er­ly assum­ing uni­ver­sal use of per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment — that remain uncor­rect­ed in the sup­ple­men­tal analysis.

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    In Jan­u­ary 2021, large­ly ignor­ing the con­cerns of the attor­neys gen­er­al, the EPA pub­lished the final risk eval­u­a­tion for 1,4‑dioxane.

Ensur­ing Ade­quate Risk Eval­u­a­tion of Harm­ful Chemicals

2017-2021

  • May 2020

    In May 2020, the EPA released a draft risk eval­u­a­tion for per­chloroeth­yl­ene (PERC), a haz­ardous chem­i­cal com­mon­ly used in dry clean­ing. PERC is one of the 10 chem­i­cal sub­stances that are the sub­ject of EPA’s ini­tial chem­i­cal risk eval­u­a­tions required under TSCA because of its poten­tial for sub­stan­tial harm to human health and the environment.

  • July 2020

    In July 2020, a coali­tion of 15 attor­neys gen­er­al led by Attor­ney Gen­er­al James filed com­ments oppos­ing the draft risk eval­u­a­tion. In their com­ment let­ter, the coali­tion not­ed that the draft risk eval­u­a­tion has numer­ous defi­cien­cies that under­es­ti­mate PERC’s risks to human health and the envi­ron­ment. The attor­neys gen­er­al also high­light­ed that res­i­dents of low-income com­mu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ties of col­or face the great­est expo­sure to PERC, mak­ing the EPA’s inad­e­quate eval­u­a­tion par­tic­u­lar­ly egre­gious from an envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice per­spec­tive. The attor­neys gen­er­al urged EPA to with­draw the draft risk eval­u­a­tion and reeval­u­ate PERC’s risks in a man­ner that com­plies with its oblig­a­tions under TSCA.

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    In Jan­u­ary 2021, the EPA pub­lished the final risk eval­u­a­tion for PERC, large­ly ignor­ing the con­cerns raised by the attor­neys gen­er­al in their comments.