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Many NGO's are now advocating that the Environmental Protection Agency use its new authorities under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to protect workers and other at-risk groups.

The law requires EPA to protect “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations”. Subpopulations are defined as those that are either more susceptible or have greater exposures, to include infants, children pregnant women, workers or the elderly.

Environmental health and union representatives are urging the EPA to use TSCA as the vehicle to advance worker safety and protection from exposure to industrial chemicals on the job. TSCA amendments allow the EPA to consider several different risks posed by chemicals.

As amended, TSCA requires the EPA to issue the scope of its risk evaluation—the health concerns and exposures it will evaluate—within six months. Both new and existing chemicals risks require a review of the entire life cycle to include: manufacture; “processing” to use to make other products; distribution in commerce; commercial or industrial use; and disposal. The first rule will address how EPA will select which of the thousands of chemicals in commerce it should focus on in the near term and how it should evaluate their risks. Some believe that formaldehyde may be one of the first ten to be reviewed.

Workers tend to be the most exposed subpopulation and given certain limitations to the OSHA Act, many are convinced that the new TSCA law will address more effectively worker exposure. OSHA and EPA use very different methods to evaluate risk with different statutory requirements which could very likely result in much lower limits in the workplace.

KCMA will continue to monitor this issue and keep our members apprised of actions impacting workers.