Toxic Substances Control Act

Legislative Changes Could Make the Act More Effective Gao ID: RCED-94-103 September 26, 1994

Thousands of toxic chemicals are in commercial use. Although these chemicals are important in producing goods and services, they are often toxic and can harm human health and the environment. Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976 to enable the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to obtain more information on chemicals and to control those that pose an unreasonable risk. In response to congressional concerns that EPA has been slow to implement the act, this report discusses EPA's efforts to (1) assess chemicals under the act, (2) control those found to be harmful, and (3) make the act's information on chemical risks publicly available by reducing the amount of information that the chemical industry claims as confidential.

GAO found that: (1) although TSCA authority is an important regulatory tool, EPA has been discouraged from using TSCA to limit the manufacture, distribution, and use of toxic chemicals; (2) EPA has generally interpreted TSCA as giving preference to dealing with chemical risks under other laws; (3) EPA has issued regulations to control only nine chemicals in almost 18 years; (4) although EPA has reviewed new chemicals in a timely manner, its process does not ensure that their potential risks are fully assessed before they enter commerce; (5) because of the time-consuming and costly data collection process, EPA reviewed about 2 percent of the 62,000 chemicals that were in commerce when it began to review new chemicals; (6) TSCA provisions on confidential business information are difficult for EPA to implement because EPA cannot disseminate much of the information that industry claims is confidential; and (7) while EPA believes that many claims are not necessary to protect trade secrets and has successfully challenged the validity of some claims, it does not have the resources to challenge a significant portion of the industry's confidentiality claims.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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