The main law governing toxic chemicals regulation is the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which passed in 1976. It was designed to protect us from the dangers of toxic chemicals in consumer products, but it has fallen short of that worthy goal and is in urgent need of modernization. Since the law passed, 80,000 chemicals have made their way into the U.S. market, but the EPA has only required testing on around 200 of those, and only a handful have been restricted. Congress is working to reform TSCA so that the EPA can more effectively do its job and promote safer alternatives while working with industry to better protect the American people. LCV is committed to working with Congress and the administration to pass comprehensive TSCA reform that protects our families from harmful chemicals in our homes and workplaces.
As a result of industrialization, the United States has thousands of abandoned factories, mines, and other sites contaminated by toxic and hazardous substances. Rising concern over the public health impacts of these sites spurred Congress to pass legislation in 1980 known as the Superfund law to facilitate the clean-up of these sites. As a result of this legislation, more than 300 contaminated sites have been permanently cleaned up, including such infamous places as New York’s Love Canal. What’s more, over 7,000 sites have been addressed and stabilized. But there is still significant work to do to address the 1,200 active Superfund sites and the thousands of additional toxic sites that merit clean-up. Indeed, one in four people in America, including ten million children, still live within four miles of a Superfund site.
Superfund operates under the guiding principle that polluters should pay to clean up the messes they created. When the entity responsible for the pollution is unavailable to pay for cleanup, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) steps in, and clean-up is funded through the Superfund Trust Fund. Historically, this account has been seeded by a fee charged to polluting industries such as chemical manufacturers and oil and gas companies. However, the fee expired in 1996 and the trust fund has been exhausted. This has resulted in a dramatic slowing of clean ups. LCV supports reinstating polluter-pays fees, which would shift the burden of paying to clean up sites from taxpayers back to polluting industries, and increase funds available for other important environmental programs.