The Need for TSCA Reform: The Perspective of the American Public Health Association
January 5, 2012
This essay is in response to: Public Health and the Safe Chemicals Act
Reforming chemical policy is essential to ensuring the health
and safety of our workers and communities. Chemical manufacture, use, and
exposures have enormous implications for human health. Tens of billions of
pounds of chemical substances are produced in the U.S. or imported every day. While
many of these substances are important in industrial processes and commercial
product development, some are also known to be hazardous to human biology and
ecological systems. With more than 80,000 chemicals in use today, less than 2
percent have been evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency for health
Environmental factors contribute to more than 25 percent of
all diseases worldwide and carry a significant financial burden. The yearly
cost of just four childhood health problems linked to chemical exposures in the
U.S. — lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and developmental disabilities — is more
than $54 billion.
Americans are exposed everyday at home, schools, workplaces,
and throughout communities through consumer products, accidental releases, or industrial
sites. Workers are often the first to suffer harm from chemical exposures.
The Toxic Substances Control Act, also known as TSCA, was
intended to regulate chemicals both before and after they enter commerce. Yet
research has shown that TSCA has fallen short of its objectives and has not
served as an effective vehicle for the public, industry or government to assess
the hazards of chemicals in commerce or control those of greatest concern. Consequently,
the statute has not served to motivate industry investment in cleaner, safer
Changes to TSCA should include requirements for greater
disclosure by chemical producers of use, hazard, and exposure information; hazard-based
assessment of all chemicals by the EPA; phasing out the use of persistent,
bioactive toxins; and stronger protections for workers exposed to chemicals.
APHA also calls on state legislatures to address chemicals
policy at the state level for similar purposes and with similar goals.