The long overdue updates for Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) make their first step.
Compared to EU, which has implemented a new regulatory scheme under REACH, the U.S. is still figuring out its way. I personally do not think that this is an disadvantage necessarily, since research in effective chemical regulations is hardly sufficient.
Let me take a point from the WSJ’s report to elaborate a little bit.
Mr. Dooley said consumers looked to the EPA to provide guidance on chemical safety, but the agency hasn’t had sufficient authority to do so. “We were seeing an increasing decline in public confidence on the Environmental Protection Agency assessment on the safety of chemicals in the products that families use every day,” Mr. Dooley said.
First, the agency to provide guidance and that has authority to regulate need not to be the same one. The potential interest conflicts could reduce the credibility of guidance provided by the agent. EU seems to position International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec), a NGO, for the prior role in their chemical safety regulations. In U.S., Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in the CERCLA (Superfund) which regulates the cleanup of polluted industrial sites plays a similar role.
Second, why consumer s look for guidance? Mostly because they would like to take peremptory actions to protect themselves rather than wait for the enactment of regulations. Moreover, even firms would like to take actions in advance to guard them from future regulations (my study pertaining to chemical emissions).
In the report, it mentioned that EPA has a priority list to be regulated. Therefore, it might be able to provide some hints for peremptory actions for industries and consumers. However, the list is from Clean Air Act (CAA) which was defined in 1981 and have not been changed since. I personally think that it is totally inadequate as a channel to inform chemical safety to consumers.
Therefore, how to build an information channel that provides credible information to inform consumers, and in turn, promote changes in chemical use and improve chemical safety overall?
I hope that consumers don’t to rely on scattered news and word of mouth. Something more organized is needed.
The Report of Carcinogen (RoC) of National Toxicological Program (NTP) or the ATSDR’s substance priority list (SPL) in U.S. were established for specific purposes but could be a foundation. Outside of U.S, the SIN list (substitute it now) is an example built for exactly the purpose.
Nevertheless, the effectiveness of such a information channel, the details of how to build it efficiently, and its implications beyond chemical safety (such as innovation and social welfare, see a link below) are all understudied. We only can leverage some studies in food safety and consumer protection areas, although they are not sufficient either.
The article also indicates some interesting points. For example, the support from industries is for demanding a unified chemical regulatory scheme, which is similar to my previous point that everyone want to deal with a organized system for chemical safety, since chemicals themselves, are complicate enough.
The concern of not able to preempt by states is also interesting, since we saw two type of peremptory action by state, more relax or more stringent such as California. But this is beyond my expertise.
In summary, I look forward for these changes.