Toxic Substances Control Act
Purpose and Organization
Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (TSCA, Public Law [Pub. L.] 94-469) in 1976, to become effective January 1, 1977. The act authorizes EPA to secure information on all new and existing chemical substances and to control any of these substances that could cause an unreasonable risk to public health or the environment.
Under earlier laws EPA had authority to control toxic substances only after damage had occurred. The earlier laws did not require the screening of toxic substances before they entered the marketplace. TSCA closed the gap in the earlier laws by requiring that the health and environmental effects of all new chemicals be reviewed before they are manufactured for commercial purposes.
TSCA has four titles as described below.
Title I - Control of Toxic Substances - includes provisions for testing chemical substances and mixtures, manufacturing and processing notices, regulating hazardous chemicals substances and mixtures, managing imminent hazards, and reporting and retaining information.
Title II - Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response - was added by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA, Pub. L. 99-519), enacted by Congress on October 22, 1986. It authorizes EPA to amend its TSCA regulations to impose more requirements on asbestos abatement in schools. AHERA provides for the promulgation of federal regulations requiring inspection for asbestos and appropriate response actions in schools and mandates periodic reinspection. In addition, it requires the EPA Administrator to determine "the extent of the danger to human health posed by asbestos in public and commercial buildings and the means to respond to any such danger."
AHERA was amended in 1990 by the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act (ASHARA, Pub. L. 101-637) to require accreditation of persons who inspect for asbestos-containing material in school, public, and commercial buildings. It also mandates the accreditation of persons who design or conduct response actions with respect to friable asbestos-containing material in such buildings. Public buildings include government-owned buildings (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 763, Appendix C to Subpart E - Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan).
Title III - Indoor Radon Abatement - was added on October 28, 1988 (Pub. L. 100-551). The purpose of this legislation is to assist states in responding to the threat to human health posed by exposure to radon. EPA is required to publish an updated citizens' guide to radon health risk and to perform studies of the radon levels in schools and radon contamination in federal buildings.
Title IV - Lead Exposure Reduction - was added on October 28, 1992 (Pub. L. 102-550). The purpose of this legislation is to reduce environmental lead contamination and prevent adverse health effects as a result of lead exposure, particularly in children. Provisions include identifying lead-based paint hazards, defining levels of lead allowed in various products, including paint and toys, and establishing state programs for the monitoring and abatement of lead exposure levels, including training and certification for lead abatement workers.
Relevance to DOE
The sections most relevant to the Department of Energy (DOE) are found in Title I of the Act. They deal with requirements for:
- the practice of good laboratory standards for conducting studies relating to health effects, environmental effects, and chemical fate testing (Section 4);
- the regulation of certain chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that may be used in DOE facilities or processes (Section 6); and
- the maintenance of long-term records on adverse reactions to human health and the environment alleged to have been caused by a substance or mixture (Section 8).
TSCA's major impact on DOE occurs through its regulation of PCBs. In a guidance document entitled
PCB Regulations and Their Application to Deactivation and Decommissioning Activities (April 1996)
DOE's Office of Nuclear Safety and Environmental Assistance (HS-22) provides the following information:
It is a common misconception that PCBs are only associated with electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors. Although most of the PCBs are in electrical equipment (e.g., switches/reclosers, light ballasts, small capacitors, voltage regulators), a number of other common items also contain PCBs. Prior to 1976, PCBs were employed in numerous other uses because of their chemical properties. Heat transfer systems, electromagnets, metal cutting and shaping tools, ventilation gaskets, adhesives, and carbonless copy paper are examples of items that commonly contained PCBs. The Office of Nuclear Safety and Environmental Assistance (HS-22) has developed several guidance documents to assist the Department's Program Offices and Field Organizations in identifying PCB management issues and complying with the applicable regulations. These guidance documents include a series of Information Briefs on such topics as marking, storage, disposal, and recordkeeping/reporting. . . .
Current version of these guidance documents can be found by clicking on "Policy and Guidance" on the left side of this page and then selecting "Toxic Substance and Control Act" from the "Regulatory Area" drop down list.
DOE Compliance with TSCA
Determinations regarding compliance with TSCA must be made on a case-by-case basis if a DOE activity involves the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use, and/or disposal of a new or existing chemical substance or mixture that may present an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment. Although the definition of "chemical substances" explicitly excludes from its scope several materials that might otherwise seem to meet the definition, including those that are regulated under other federal statues, TSCA is potentially applicable to all "chemical substances" and "mixtures" that are manufactured, imported, processed, used, distributed, and/or disposed of in the United States. By definition, TSCA-regulated chemical substances and mixtures do not include ". . .any source material, special nuclear material, or byproduct material (as such terms are defined in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and regulations issued under such Act). . . ." (TSCA, Section 3[B][iv]). Although TSCA excludes nuclear material, the TSCA-regulated portion of a mixed nuclear and regulated waste must comply with TSCA requirements. Materials that are not chemical substances or mixtures are not subject to the requirements of TSCA.
The TSCA program is run by EPA and is not delegated to any state agency.
Regulations implementing TSCA are found in Title 40 of the CFR, Chapter I, Subchapter R. Parts 717, 761, and 792 of Subchapter R contain regulations important to DOE.