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Federal law regulating toxic chemicals receives update

Chemical exposure is a daily reality for many people, particularly for those who work in industries which put them in frequent contact with chemicals. Even those of us who do not work in such environments face exposure, though, in our homes, in the food we eat, and in places we frequently on a daily and weekly basis.

Federal law, via the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, was an attempt to regulate public exposure to dangerous chemicals. The law, which is enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, imposes a number of rules, including: notification for new chemical substances prior to manufacture; routine testing of risky chemicals; monitoring of new uses for chemicals; certification reporting and other requirements. 

One aspect of the federal law is that the EPA maintains a list of chemicals which have been approved for entry into commerce. Last month, President Obama signed new legislation which impacted that list, as well as other aspects of the law.  

The law, which was actually a series of amendments to the 1976 law, had not been changed for decades and was actually the last environmental measure from that decade which had not yet been updated.

The law, as would be expected, was not universally supported. Although lawmakers passed the measure by a large margin, both industry representatives and environmental advocates felt the law was either too harsh or too easygoing.

In our next post, we’ll take a look at some of the changes made by the new measure and the likely impact on public health in terms of toxic chemical exposure.

Source: EPA, “Summary of the Toxic Substances Control Act,” Accessed July 15, 2016. 

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