Toxic Substances:

EPA's Chemical Testing Program Has Made Little Progress

RCED-90-112: Published: Apr 25, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 20, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Interagency Testing Committee's (ITC) and Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) implementation of the chemical testing program under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

GAO found that: (1) EPA and ITC had identified for testing less than 1 percent of the more than 60,000 chemicals in the TSCA inventory; (2) neither ITC nor EPA had produced a list of chemicals that did not require testing; (3) since the enactment of TSCA, EPA had completed test data for only six chemicals and had not finished assessing those; (4) ITC members' poor attendance may have contributed to its lack of crucial data it needed to make recommendations; (5) after proposing test rules, EPA continued to take an average of more than 2 years to make them final; and (6) the EPA and ITC testing program lacked overall objectives and a strategy for achieving them.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congressional hearings were on the chemical testing program but no further congressional action has been taken or is anticipated.

    Matter: To ensure that the chemical testing program achieves what Congress intended, Congress may wish to require EPA to develop a comprehensive plan setting forth objectives, a strategy, and time frames, and submit the plan to Congress for approval.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA developed a testing strategy for the TSCA Section 4 program. The master testing list will set the testing agenda and priorities for testing for the next 2 years.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should develop overall objectives for the chemical testing program and a strategy for achieving those objectives. The objectives should identify, among other things, the universe of chemicals EPA needs to address and the pace at which it plans to address those chemicals.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA is working on the backlog, but lacks sufficient resources to ensure that test rules are completed with a reasonable time.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should place a high priority on issuing final test rules by ensuring that adequate staff resources are devoted to completing test rules within a reasonable time, such as the 12- to 18-month time frame GAO recommended in 1984.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has initiated discussions with ITC member agencies to encourage member participation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should work with ITC to improve its member participation.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has expressed its intent to use Section 8(a) and 8(d) for most ITC recommended chemicals, but EPA's section 8 exposure data is not complete enough to meet ITC's needs.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should exercise EPA data-gathering authority on behalf of ITC under Section 8 of TSCA to obtain the data that ITC needs to make recommendations. This can be done in phases so that industry is not overburdened.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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