By Doug Farquhar
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, marking the foremost change to the nation's chemical safety laws in 40 years, was signed into law Wednesday by President Obama.
The law amends the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), giving U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) new authority to review and regulate chemicals. The agency must update its inventory of existing chemicals and create a risk evaluation process to determine the potential harm a chemical may cause to human health and the environment.
Under TSCA, states had been free to adopt their own chemical safety laws, and several did. States developed comprehensive state chemical policies designed to establish broad and permanent frameworks to systematically prioritize chemicals of concern, close data gaps on those chemicals and restrict their uses in those states.
Statutes in the states of California, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington authorized these states to develop comprehensive chemical regulatory programs.
The Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act amends TSCA to allow pre-emption of state laws if EPA finds that a ‘high priority chemical’ poses an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment because of a potential hazard.
If EPA promulgates a rule to regulate a chemical that poses a risk, any state rule regarding that chemical is pre-empted. Future state actions on chemical safety may be subject to pre-emption.
NCSL has posted a list of state chemical safety statutes enacted before 2016.
Doug Farquhar is program director of NCSL's Environmental Health program.