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Will Congress Protect Americans From Untested Chemicals?

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Most people think that manufacturers must prove chemicals safe before they put them on the market.


They’re wrong.


Instead, federal law presumes that most chemicals are safe until proven toxic.


The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which governs chemical safety, says that when a chemical maker creates a new substance, it needs only to notify the Environmental Protection Agency. The law gives the EPA just 90 days to figure out if the new chemical poses any risks and if the agency should try to restrict it. If the EPA doesn’t take action during that 90-day window, it gives the chemical a green light by default.


Most of the time, the EPA has to make its decision based on little, if any, information.


The EPA cannot require chemical manufacturers to conduct even basic health and safety testing before the company tells EPA a new chemical is heading for market. If the company tested its new chemical for safety, it must provide those test results to the EPA. But if the company didn’t do any testing, it isn’t obliged to submit any data to the government. A 2010 study conducted by EPA Office of the Inspector General determined that in half the new chemical submissions, the makers gave the EPA no test data whatsoever and 85 percent contained no data on the chemical’s potential toxicity.



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