A Closer Look at the Laws Governing Toxic Chemicals in the US

8 mins read

You use them daily: cleaning products, cosmetics, and even the non-stick pan you cook your eggs in. But have you ever wondered about chemicals in these everyday items?

Toxic chemicals are everywhere, and their potential impacts on our health and environment are a growing concern. Recent legal battles, such as the ongoing PFAS and climate change lawsuits, highlight the need for strong regulations. 

But what laws are in place to protect us from these hidden dangers? Let’s find out.

#1. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the foundation of chemical control in the United States. Passed in 1976, TSCA gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to review the toxicity of current and outdated chemicals. 

Think of it as a gatekeeper, ensuring that harmful chemicals don’t enter the market or that existing ones are regulated. In 2016, TSCA got a major update, strengthening the EPA’s power and increasing transparency. Before it, the EPA issued risk analysis for only about 20% of new chemical requests. As for the remainder, the EPA dropped the reviews and permitted the chemicals to be used in products.

In 2016, the EPA received approximately 800 valid submissions, more than just over 400 in 2023. Now, the agency must evaluate the potential chemical risks to sensitive subjects like children and pregnant women. Despite these reforms, challenges remain in ensuring the safety of all chemicals in commerce. This is evident by the ongoing legal battles like the AFFF lawsuit.

Firefighting foam containing AFFF has been linked to serious health issues, including cancer, thyroid disease, and developmental problems. According to TruLaw, the lawsuit seeks to hold manufacturers accountable for alleged harm to their products. This case, and others like it, highlight the importance of robust chemical regulations to protect public health.

#2. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act

Beyond TSCA, other laws specifically address chemical pollution in our air and water. The Clean Air Act tackles hazardous air pollutants, including many toxic chemicals. It sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), ensuring the air we breathe is safe.

The Clean Water Act, on the other hand, regulates what gets dumped into our rivers, lakes, and oceans. It limits the discharge of pollutants, including toxic chemicals, to protect our water sources and aquatic life. These two acts work hand in hand, ensuring we have clean, breathable air and water.

According to the 2022 EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), 3.3 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment. This includes land, water, and air releases. Land metal disposal makes up for over 60% of the emissions. Furthermore, the TRI release increased by 1% in 2022 compared to 2021.

This underscores the importance of laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act in protecting our environment and health.

#3. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

Think about what happens to a product when you’re done with it. If an object contains hazardous substances, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) steps in. It tracks toxic waste from creation to proper disposal. 

It sets rules for how these substances must be handled, stored, transported, and ultimately disposed of, preventing them from seeping into our soil and water.

#4. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund)

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, toxic chemicals end up contaminating sites. This is where Superfund comes in. CERCLA, also known as Superfund, was created to clean these contaminated sites. 

The EPA identifies the most dangerous sites and prioritizes cleanup. The process is complex and costly and often involves identifying and holding responsible parties accountable for the contamination. However, the Superfund program faces significant funding deficits.

Since the Biden administration, the EPA’s workforce and funding have fallen to levels unknown since the 1980s. Furthermore, the authorities also rejected 85% of Congress’s first annual EPA funding request of over $1.5 billion. In 2024, the EPA will leverage about 13,400 jobs and over $2.5 billion in funding. 

This backlog underscores the challenges in ensuring timely remediation of contaminated sites.

#5. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to toxic chemicals in your neighborhood.  The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) is designed to give you that power. It requires companies to report the types and amounts of certain chemicals they store, use, or release into the environment. 

This isn’t just about big industrial facilities – even local dry cleaners or auto repair shops may have reporting requirements. EPCRA also mandates local emergency planning committees to help communities plan and respond to chemical accidents. 

This information is crucial to make informed health and safety decisions and to hold industries accountable for their environmental impact.

People Also Ask

Q1. Are All Chemicals Regulated Under These Laws?

Not quite.  While these laws cover a wide range of substances, some chemicals, like pesticides and pharmaceuticals, are regulated under different legislation. Moreover, new chemicals are constantly being developed, and it can take time for regulations to catch up. 

That’s why staying informed about emerging risks is crucial for your safety.

Q2. How Can I Find out What Chemicals Are Used in My Community?

You have a right to know. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) mandates that companies disclose information about the chemicals they use and release.  You can access this information through the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) database or by contacting your local emergency planning committee.

Q3. How Can I Tell if a Chemical Is EPA-Regulated?

Visit the EPA’s official website to check if a chemical is EPA-regulated. Then, access their databases, like the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory. This resource provides information on chemicals that are subject to regulatory oversight.

In conclusion, the laws governing toxic chemicals in the US are complex. But, they play a key role in preserving our health and environment. From evaluating new chemicals to cleaning contaminated sites, these laws provide a framework for managing the risks of toxic substances.

While challenges remain, continued vigilance and advocacy are essential to ensuring that these laws are effectively enforced and updated as needed. Stay informed, ask questions, and get involved in efforts to protect yourself and your community from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Story

How to Market Your Bath Bomb Business?

Next Story

Exploring Opeño: Unveiling A Hidden Gem In Michoacán

Latest from Blog

withemes on instagram