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Chemical Regulation: Observations on Improving the Toxic Substances Control Act

GAO-10-292T Published: Dec 02, 2009. Publicly Released: Dec 02, 2009.
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is authorized under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to obtain information on the risks of chemicals and to control those that it determines to pose an unreasonable risk. EPA also conducts assessments of chemicals under its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. Nonetheless, EPA does not have sufficient information to determine whether it should establish controls to limit public exposure to many chemicals that may pose substantial health risks. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended statutory changes to TSCA to, among other things, provide EPA with additional authorities to obtain health and safety information from the chemical industry and to shift more of the burden to chemical companies for demonstrating the safety of their chemicals. GAO has also recommended that EPA adopt a streamlined, more transparent IRIS assessment process to address significant productivity and credibility issues. Problems with TSCA and IRIS led GAO to add transforming EPA's processes for assessing and controlling toxic chemicals to its list of high-risk areas warranting attention by Congress and the executive branch This testimony, based on prior GAO work, addresses EPA's implementation of TSCA and IRIS and options for (1) obtaining more information on chemical risks, (2) controlling these risks, and (3) sharing more of the information collected under TSCA.

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