The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in March 2019 that provides insight into the EPA’s progress in implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA is responsible for evaluating the risk to human health and the environment from chemicals used in both consumer and commercial products. In 2016, the amended TSCA provided the EPA with expanded authority to review both existing and new chemicals and to issue regulations for chemicals that are found to present unreasonable health or environmental risks.
The EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program creates toxicity evaluations for the subject chemicals. In the past, the EPA’s IRIS Program has been criticized for failing to produce timely evaluations and for a lack of transparency in its assessments. In 2011, the EPA vowed to improve its methods for chemical evaluation. The GAO produced a report that was aimed at both reviewing the progress made by the IRIS Program in overcoming the challenges in chemical evaluation and more generally, the extent to which the EPA has successfully applied the provisions of the TSCA.
GAO made several key findings in its recent evaluation of these factors:
- The EPA’s IRIS Program has made progress in improving the timeliness of its assessments by applying certain project management techniques and incorporating improved software.
- The IRIS Program has improved transparency in its assessments by instituting a systematic review process. This process describes the studies relied upon, identifies their methodologies, and applies these studies in a comprehensive analysis of all relevant materials.
- The EPA has improved its implementation of TSCA provisions by adhering to statutory deadlines. This includes finalizing the rules for prioritizing chemicals known as the Framework Rules (although three of the rules are being challenged on account of the TSCA requirement that the EPA must consider all conditions of use in prioritizing chemicals and not exclude any specified uses).
- However, the EPA continues to encounter challenges in implementing TSCA consistently given the rigid deadlines and increased caseload under the amended law
- An additional problem occurred between June and December 2018, when the EPA was ordered to halt its assessments during deliberations about program priorities
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