What is the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)?

In 1976, Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in response to the growing incidence of environmental disease caused by the influx in industrial chemical manufacturing after World War II. TSCA authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate chemicals in the United States. Testing requirements, reporting, record-keeping, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures are set forth by the EPA to prevent unreasonable risks to health and the environment.

Substances that are commonly excluded from TSCA include:

  • Food
  • Food additives
  • Drugs
  • Cosmetics
  • Pesticides
  • Tobacco
  • Specified nuclear materials
  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Raw agricultural commodities; water, air, natural gas, and crude oil
  • Rocks, ores, and minerals

Under TSCA, chemicals already being used in items on the market in 1976 were assumed safe until shown harmful. However, research has shown that the public is exposed to multiple industrial chemicals through air, water, food, and consumer products, several of which have been identified as toxic and can increase the risk of adverse health effects.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act

Acknowledging these shortcomings, Congress reformed TSCA. On June 22, 2016, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act) was signed into law. The Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act amends TSCA.

The amended law requires the EPA to

  • Identify all chemical substances that are active in U.S. commerce
  • Review and regulate new chemicals, existing chemicals, and new uses of existing chemicals
  • Screen and prioritize chemicals for safety assessments and safety determinations
  • Impose restrictions or prohibitions on any uses of chemical substances that do not meet a risk-based safety standard

With the amended law, the EPA’s authority is simplified when requiring companies to perform testing, evaluating unreasonable risks to human health and the environment, and implementing risk management control actions. The EPA cannot consider costs or other non-risk factors and must consider those that may be at a greater risk than the general population of adverse health effects from exposure to a chemical, such as infants, children, pregnant women, workers, or the elderly.

PFAS Action Act HR 2467 117 Congress 2021-2023

As of September 28, 2023, the EPA finalized a rule titled, “Toxic Substances Control Act Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances” (TSCA PFAS Reporting Rule). The PFAS Action Act requires the U.S. EPA to designate PFAS as “hazardous substances,” and requires the EPA to promulgate a national safe maximum contaminant level in drinking water for PFAS. This Act also serves as an amendment to TSCA, requiring the chemical manufacturing industry to disclose information and testing on PFAS.


Learn more about groundwater modeling and toxic chemicals in this case study.

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