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Toxic Substances Control Act and Workers’ Health

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate chemical substances and mixtures that present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. TSCA was amended in June 2016 by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Among other changes, this amendment made specific changes to TSCA, mandating that

  • existing chemicals are evaluated, with clear and enforceable deadlines;
  • chemicals are assessed against a risk-based safety standard; and
  • unreasonable risks identified in the risk evaluation are eliminated.

Under this act, EPA is also required to assess and update the existing chemicals inventory, prioritize chemicals for risk evaluation, and identify the steps in the risk evaluation and prioritization processes.

TSCA and Workers

As part of its chemical evaluation, EPA has a new responsibility to assess risks to workers. Specifically, EPA must consider chemical exposures to a “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation,” which has been defined as:

A group of individuals within the general population identified by the Administrator who, due to either great susceptibility or greater exposure, may be at greater risk than the general population of adverse health effects from exposure to a chemical substance or mixture, such as infants, children, pregnant women, workers, or the elderly.

This means that EPA will evaluate workplace chemical exposures as well as environmental exposures. As the leading occupational safety and health research agency, NIOSH works with EPA to provide information on occupational uses of chemicals, chemical exposures, occupational risk assessment methods, and other information. This collaboration should strengthen the risk evaluations for workers and provide robust, evidence-based evaluations to protect worker health.

For more information, see the EPA Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.