The Toxic Substances Control Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1976. Called TSCA, it is the primary regulatory law regarding toxic substances. It gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to study chemicals and, if necessary,
to limit or ban their manufacture or use.
By the early 1970s, it had become evident that no law existed to adequately regulate the use of toxic substances. After debates between the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, Congress finally compromised and passed the Toxic Substance Control Act.
The TSCA required chemical manufacturers to notify and provide test data to the EPA at least 90 days before releasing a new substance. The EPA then determines what regulatory
means, if any, are necessary. The EPA may request additional information and can ban production until the data is received. In addition to this, TSCA established an Interagency Testing Committee, known as the ITC. This group helps the EPA determine which chemicals are most in need of careful attention and testing. However, the EPA may only test and regulate products that are already on the market through a long, tedious process. Also, of all the regulations
it may issue, the EPA must use one the least burdensome for the parties involved.
There are other parts of TSCA. Manufacturers must keep careful records of regulated chemicals. Also, the EPA must balance health and environmental problems with economic ones. The Act specifies that regulation should only occur when there is unreasonable risk, leaving this somewhat open-ended. A citizen has the right to sue the EPA for failure to follow the TSCA. There are also a
number of materials not covered by the Act that are listed in it.
A 1986 amendment required asbestos hazard reduction in schools. Another, in 1988, provided funds to state programs that reduce indoor radon.
There are several problems remaining. There is still very little data on certain chemicals, probably as an after-effect of early days when the EPA was still molding regulations. Costs of regulatory programs have also limited the EPA's banning ability, as
has inadequate data. Finally, the EPA tends to rely on older data more than it requires test data for new chemicals, leading to the production of numerous chemicals that would otherwise be too costly to test.
Information from the EPA