U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and David Vitter (R-La.) have introduced a bipartisan bill (S. 1009) to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the primary federal statute regulating chemical substances. According to Lautenberg, the proposed legislation would “significantly update and improve TSCA,” which has “proven ineffective” and has been highly criticized by both public health officials and industry representatives. The new bill aims to 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.”

“This bipartisan agreement is an historic step toward meaningful reform that protects American families and consumers,” Lautenberg said. “Every parent wants to know that the chemicals used in everyday products have been proven safe, but our current chemical laws fail to give parents that peace of mind. Our bipartisan bill would fix the flaws with current law and ensure that chemicals are screened for safety.”

To that end, the new bill would (i) require safety evaluations for all active chemicals in commerce; (ii) protect public health from unsafe chemicals and give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to take action, such as banning a chemical; (iii) prioritize chemicals for review; (iv) screen new chemicals for safety, including giving EPA authority to prohibit unsafe chemicals from entering the market; (v) secure necessary health and safety information from chemical manufacturers; (vi) promote innovation and safer chemistry; (vii) protect children and pregnant women by adding a new provision requiring risk evaluation for vulnerable populations; and (viii) give states and municipalities an opportunity to provide input.

The legislation would also bar states and local governments from banning or restricting the use of any chemical (i) identified as a high-priority substance by the EPA administrator (as of the date on which EPA publishes a schedule), or (ii) determined to be a low-priority substance. States and local governments would also be unable to require chemical reporting or information collections already required under federal law. They would be allowed to seek waivers from these requirements under certain circumstances and on certification of a “compelling local interest to protect human health or the environment.” Lautenberg continues to add sponsors to the bill and announced that The New York Times and Washington Post have endorsed it. See Senator Frank Lautenberg News Releases, May 22 and 30, 2013.