What Is the Toxic Substances Control Act?
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was first introduced in 1976. The TSCA was enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate chemical substances and/or mixtures in an attempt to reduce risk to public health or the environment.
Which Chemicals Are Regulated by the TSCA?
When the act was passed, the EPA gained the ability to secure information on all new and existing chemical substances. Over time, the US Congress added further addendums to the original act. These addendums were labeled as "Titles." As of today, there are six TSCA Titles:
- Title I – Control of Toxic Substances
- Title II – Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response
- Title III – Indoor Radon Abatement
- Title IV – Lead Exposure Reduction
- Title V - Healthy High-Performance Schools
- Title VI - Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products
The EPA is authorized by the TSCA to gather critical information on chemical risks from chemical processors and manufacturers and requires companies to analyze and report chemicals and chemical mixtures for toxic effects. The EPA also has the authority to review most chemical mixtures before manufacturing begins and can prevent risks to public and environmental health by regulating the manufacturing of harmful substances.
Six chemical substances receive special attention under TSCA: PCBs, asbestos, radon, lead, mercury, and formaldehyde.
A recent update in January of 2021 emphasized the regulation of Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (PBT) Chemicals.
An extensive inventory of substances regulated under TSCA can be downloaded from the EPA's website, here.
What Chemicals Are Exempt From TSCA?
Generally, the following eight types of materials/chemicals are exempt from TSCA regulations: pesticides, tobacco, specified nuclear material, firearms and ammunition, food, food additives, drugs, and cosmetics.
While these may be exempt from TSCA, other Federal programs regulate many of these materials.
How the EPA Evaluates Existing Chemicals Under the TSCA
First, a chemical is designated for priority—either as high-priority or low-priority—for risk evaluation. Substances designated as low-priority do not warrant further risk evaluation at that time.
The second step in the evaluation process is the actual risk evaluation of a substance. The EPA will evaluate the substance with the following methods:
- a scope document that provides the public with information on the focus of the risk evaluation;
- hazard and exposure assessments and a risk characterization to inform the risk determination; and
- a risk determination stating whether or not a chemical substance presents an unreasonable risk to health or the environment under its conditions of use.
The third and final step of the evaluation process is risk management, in which the EPA imposes restrictions under the authority of TSCA in order to eliminate a substance's unreasonable risk to the public and/or the environment. A range of risk management options are used under TSCA and include the following:
- Notice requirements
- Actions to reduce human or environmental exposure
- Ban of the chemical
- Or ban of certain uses
Federal Facility Compliance With TSCA
Federal facilities operations typically involve the management of toxic substances regulated under TSCA. Facilities with older electric equipment like capacitors, fluorescent ballasts, and transformers often contain chemicals like PCBs, which are regulated under TSCA.
Under TSCA, Federal facilities have varying requirements, ranging from basic reporting and recordkeeping to specific asbestos, lead, and radon requirements.
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