Legislation to address several environmental health issues are currently pending in Congress.
Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform
Passed in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to require reporting, testing, and restrictions relating to chemical substances. TSCA was designed to create a regulatory system for the over 82,000 chemicals in commerce including dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Unfortunately, TSCA has not provided adequate regulation of these chemicals. The EPA does not currently have sufficient information to determine the safety of chemicals on the market and what threats they pose to human health because most data is considered confidential business information. Further, TSCA has not been amended since original passage and is need of major reform to bring the law up to date. Additionally, TSCA is only one piece of the constellation of chemical policies. Certain substances including food, drugs, and cosmetics are excluded from TSCA and covered under the Food and Drug Administration.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) Exposure
BPA is found in a variety of consumer and industrial products, and human exposure comes primarily from food packaging materials used in such products as polycarbonate bottles and food can linings. Studies have shown links between BPA and reproductive, developmental, and endocrine system disruption in animals, as well as various environmental impacts. Following a January, 2010 finding by the FDA that BPA has potential negative human health impacts, the EPA released an action plan to address BPA exposure in non-food related items such as thermal paper. The EPA plans to work alongside FDA to focus specifically on BPA for study and regulation by requiring manufactures to test and assess BPA impacts, reduce unnecessary exposure, and consider regulatory action as needed. FDA lacks the authority to adequately address health concerns related to BPA in food containers.
Six states (Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin) have banned are in the process of banning BPA at the state level, and several other states are considering similar policies. At the federal level, the Ban Poisonous Additives (BPA) Act of 2009 (H.R. 1523/S. 593) would prohibit the use of bisphenol A in food and beverage containers, and urge the FDA to further investigate related environmental health issues. H.R. 1523 was introduced in 2009 in the House of Representatives by Ed Markey (D-MA) and in the Senate by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).