Chemicals play an important role in everyday life, but some may be harmful to human health and the environment. Chemicals are used to produce items widely used throughout society, such as cleansers and plastics as well as industrial solvents and additives. However, some chemicals, such as lead and mercury, are highly toxic at certain doses and need to be regulated because of health and safety concerns. In 1976, the Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to authorize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to control chemicals that pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. This testimony is based on GAO's June 2005 report, Chemical Regulation: Options Exist to Improve EPA's Ability to Assess Health Risks and Manage Its Chemical Review Program (GAO-05-458). GAO's report describes EPA's efforts to (1) assess chemicals used in commerce, (2) control the use of chemicals not yet in commerce, and (3) publicly disclose information provided by chemical companies under TSCA. GAO recommended that the Congress consider providing EPA additional authorities under TSCA to improve EPA's ability to assess chemical risks, and that the EPA Administrator take several actions to improve EPA's management of its chemical review program. EPA did not disagree with our findings and is currently implementing some of our recommendations.
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