“For the first time in 20 years, we are updating a national environmental statute,” said President Obama before signing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act on Wednesday. The president noted that the updated law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which took effect in 1976 “didn’t quite work the way it should have in practice.” That was a vast understatement, particularly in regard to the regulation of existing chemicals. The president pointed out that of the 62,000 chemicals in the marketplace in 1976, only 5 have been banned.
“Five,” said the president. “And only a tiny percentage have even been reviewed for health and safety. The system was so complex, it was so burdensome that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos—a known carcinogen that kills as many as 10,000 Americans every year.”
The president added that the new law will do away with an outdated bureaucratic formula to evaluate safety and, instead, focus solely on the risks to public health.