The Future of Chemical Safety

By Peter DePaolis

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed by Congress in 1976. As the primary federal regulation on chemical substances in the US, the TSCA provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with authority to require tests, records, and reports from local manufacturers, importers, processors, and distributors of chemical substances operating in the country.

The law gives the EPA the power to ban, prohibit, or restrict specific substances that it feels pose unreasonable health and safety risks to the public. The TSCA does not cover all substances.  Cosmetics, pesticides, food, and drugs – all of which could contain harmful chemicals – are not included in the TSCA’s scope.

Where the TSCA Falls Short for Residents of Washington, DC, Maryland, VA, and the Rest of the Country

While the TSCA was created with good intentions, it falls short in protecting the public. Over 60,000 chemicals were grandfathered in under the TSCA, which means these chemicals may not tested or appropriately regulated by the EPA.

For new chemicals not grandfathered in, the agency only relied on limited toxicity data that was from the manufacturers themselves. From that limited data, the agency had only 90 days to take a position on the chemical. If a position is not taken within 90 days, the chemical could be released to the public without any restrictions from federal regulators. If the EPA does adopt a position that places restrictions on a particular chemical, , it must do so in lease burdensome way.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act

The TSCA, when created, left a void in protections for the public because manufacturers are subjected to little (if any) regulations. In June 2016, President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The act requires that the EPA do the following:

  • Prioritize – To prioritize which chemicals should be reviewed first, the EPA must evaluate the existing formulas and new compounds using specific, enforceable deadlines.
  • Develop Standards – After reviewing the product, they must then create a risk-based safety standard set that is created explicitly with the risks to health and injury along with the risks to the  environment.
  • Assessment Process –The EPA must establish an assessment process that classifies these chemicals as low or high priority for reviews.
  • Funding – To ensure the EPA has proper financing, the newest law created a consisted source of funding so that the EPA could meet the demands of this latest law.

In June 2017, the EPA announced that they issued three new rules, created guidance for external parties, and released documents for the first set of ten risk evaluations that the agency will conduct.

Delaying Action on Three Toxic Chemicals

While in June 2017 the EPA did announce they were on schedule with the demands of the law, the new administration has delayed acting on these toxic, high-risk chemicals:

  • Methylene Chloride – An inhalation anesthetic that is a solvent used in food and manufacturing. It is t predominantly used in paint removers but also can be applied in aerosol forms, such as a degreaser. It is classified as a possible mutagen by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and anticipated to be a carcinogen.
  • N-Methylpyrrolidone (also known as NMP)–.  The EPA identified NMP  as an acute and chronic risk when used in paint removers and paint strippers. Per the EPA, less than four hours of exposure each day can affect a person exposed to NMP. While a rule was issued in January 2017, the EPA has not acted on this risk assessment.
  • Trichloroethylene (also known as TCE)– TCE is a volatile organic compound. It can affect a developing fetus, and the EPA has identified TCE as a known carcinogen. Repeated and prolonged exposure may effect internal organs, including kidney and liver, immune system, and central nervous system.

As it stands, the EPA has  delayed acting on the rules they established in early 2017.

How Can Consumers Protect Themselves?

Toxic chemicals and injuries from those chemicals may fall under the umbrella of products liability law. When consumers hold manufacturers and distributors accountable, manufacturers may be more likely to implement safety improvements.

Product liability lawsuits allow victims and their loved ones to receive compensation for injuries or death that occur from toxic chemical exposure or mishandling.

What Compensation Are You Entitled To?

As an injury victim, you have the right to seek compensation from the responsible party. While the value of your claim varies, some of the types of compensation you can receive include:

  • Compensation for medical costs (including future treatments necessary)
  • Compensation for lost wages or permanent disability stemming from the injury/illness
  • Pain and suffering, including mental anguish

Meet with an Attorney Today

If a chemical has injured you or caused a death in the family, you may be able to hold the manufacturer of that chemical responsible. Speak with an attorney today from Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP. We have office locations in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Call one of our local offices or connect with us online to get started.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.