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In 2016, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21stCentury Act was passed into law, updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which was enacted in 1976.   Under TSCA, only a few hundred out of 85,000 chemicals approved for use were reviewed for safety.  Only 5 of those were banned.


The Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act was intended to bring much needed improvement to our chemical safety regulations.  It required 10 priority chemicals to be assessed immediately and by 2020 it requires 20 evaluations ongoing at any time.  In 2017, the EPA changed the rules to allow the agency to only look at a subset of a chemical’s uses when assessing its safety.  As a result, when the EPA evaluated the 10 priority chemicals it did not take into account the risks caused by the chemical’s presence in air, water or soil.


Here is the status of some of the most dangerous chemicals in use:


Chlorpyrifosis a pesticide used extensively in fruit and vegetable crops.  Research has shown that even a small amount can slow children’s brain development and it is toxic to farm workers.

  • In 2016, the EPA recommended to ban the chemical.
  • In 2019, the EPA decided to keep it on market sighting insufficient data.


Asbestosis banned by most other industrialized nations.  It is a known carcinogen.

  • In 2017, the EPA refused to finalize the proposed ban claiming the science is unresolved.
  • In 2019, the EPA chose to restrict rather than ban the chemical.


Trichloroethylene (TCE)is used as a degreaser and is used as an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers and spot removers.  The EPA concluded that it causes cancer and other serious health effects.

  • In 2016, the EPA proposed a ban for use as an aerosol spray degreaser and dry-cleaning spot treatment. This was the first EPA proposed ban in 25 years.
  • In 2017, the EPA proposed to indefinitely delay the ban.


Methylene Chlorideis used in paint stripping.  It is a likely carcinogen and has been linked to more than 50 deaths.

  • In 2016, the EPA proposed a ban for use as a paint stripper.
  • In 2017, the EPA proposed to indefinitely delay the ban.
  • In 2018, the EPA banned the chemical for use in consumer products but allows for its continued use in commercial products.


N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) is used as a paint stripper.  It can cause birth defects and reproductive issues.

  • In 2016, the EPA prosed a ban or restrictions for use in paint strippers.
  • In 2017, the EPA proposed to indefinitely delay the ban.



The EPA has not made progress banning harmful chemicals under the new TSCA law but it has been very quick to approve new chemicals, reviewing over 2000 and approving over half of them. Please consider supporting organizations like Environmental Working Group (EWG) which is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.


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