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Chemical Regulation: Comparison of U.S. and Recently Enacted European Union Approaches to Protect against the Risks of Toxic Chemicals

GAO-07-825 Published: Aug 17, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 2007.
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Chemicals play an important role in everyday life. However, some chemicals are highly toxic and need to be regulated. 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, but some have questioned whether TSCA provides EPA with enough tools to protect against chemical risks. Like the United States, the European Union (EU) has laws governing the production and use of chemicals. The EU has recently revised its chemical control policy through legislation known as Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) in order to better identify and mitigate risks from chemicals. GAO was asked to review the approaches used under TSCA and REACH for (1) requiring chemical companies to develop information on chemicals' effects, (2) controlling risks from chemicals, and (3) making information on chemicals available to the public. To review these issues, GAO analyzed applicable U.S. and EU laws and regulations and interviewed U.S. and EU officials, industry representatives, and environmental advocacy organizations. GAO is making no recommendations.

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Chemical industryChemical regulationComparative analysisData collectionEnvironmental lawEnvironmental monitoringHazardous substancesHealth hazardsInformation disclosureProduct evaluationReporting requirementsRisk assessmentToxic substances