Until 2016, toxic substances in the U.S. were regulated by the 1976 Toxic Substances
Control Act (TSCA), which left the burden of proving that chemicals are
dangerous almost entirely up to the government. Industry confidentiality privileges
built into the TSCA prevented federal regulators from having access to information
about how substances are made and what their health effects might be. In the years
since the TSCA became law, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued
restrictions on only a few chemicals.
Two classes of chemicals have had stricter regulation than that required of most
chemicals. Drugs are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Pesticides are regulated by both the federal Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) and by the states, usually by the state’s agriculture office. Manufacturers
must register or license pesticides for use before distribution. The EPA receives its
authority to register pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide
Act (FIFRA). States are authorized to regulate pesticides under FIFRA and
state pesticide laws, and they may place more restrictive requirements on pesticides
than the EPA.
For years experts on environmental toxins believed that stricter regulation of other
chemicals and other toxic health hazards was a long-overdue safety step. In 2007,
the European Union implemented a new regulatory framework for chemicals, Registration,
Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH). REACH shifts
the burden of proof to industry, requiring chemical companies to prove that their
products don’t harm human health or the environment and requiring manufacturers
to obtain special authorization to manufacture and distribute any chemicals designated
to be of very high concern to human and environmental health.
Even though the American chemical industry had reservations about adopting a
REACH-style program for the U.S., citing the cost of additional regulations, in
2016, with the safety laws in place in Europe as a model, Congress passed the Frank
R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The act improves and
strengthens TSCA by:
• Subjecting all new and existing chemicals to an EPA safety review.
• Requiring EPA to focus on chemicals that are the highest priorities for full
risk-based safety assessments.
• Strengthening transparency and the quality of science used to make EPA
• Expanding EPA’s ability to require additional health and safety testing of
• Allowing industry to request that EPA conduct a safety assessment on a
• Providing EPA with a full range of options to address the risks of substances
including labeling requirements, use restrictions, phase-outs or other
• Setting aggressive and attainable timelines for EPA to complete its work.
• Promoting cooperation between state and federal regulators while creating a
strong national chemical regulatory system, ensuring interstate commerce is
• Strengthening protections for the most vulnerable like infants, children and
• Protecting confidential business information.
Although the new chemical safety act has the potential to increase the protection
of environmental health, the EPA has not vigorously implemented its new regulatory
powers, and many consumer products that are banned for sale in the European
Union are still sold in the U.S. Industry critics of stronger regulation point out that
humans are exposed not only to human-made toxins but also to a broad array of
naturally occurring and potentially dangerous chemicals and substances found in
our environment, including in the air and our food. Furthermore, it is undeniable
that many of the thousands of chemicals that have been synthesized and introduced
into our environment serve beneficial purposes that are important to human welfare.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.