March 01, 2015

Chemical Regulation in the Laboratories of Democracy

Emilee Mooney Scott

With the fortieth anniversary of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) just around the corner, the law has few allies. In particular, many in the environmentalist and consumer safety communities fault TSCA for a perceived failure to keep hazardous substances out of commerce. In this context, states are taking an increasingly active role. Interestingly, state-level action has not been focused on TSCA analogues, but on regulatory tools familiar to the consumer product safety world. This article examines various state approaches in turn, from California’s vague warning labels, to Washington’s exhaustive data gathering efforts, to new “safer products” programs being initiated in several states. It also highlights instances where the state programs may build upon another and borrow from one another’s data gathering efforts. Finally, the discussion turns to compliance challenges that may be caused by the varying applicability of state programs and the lack of useful guidance documents.

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