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GAO: EPA's success on chemical management unclear

Washington – It is unclear whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s approach to managing toxic chemicals will be successful in ensuring safety, an official from the Government Accountability Office recently told legislators.

EPA has been authorized to regulate chemicals found to pose risks to human health or the environment since the passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976. However, through multiple studies conducted in the past 20 years, GAO has reported on the challenges EPA faces in implementing TSCA provisions, including difficulties banning or limiting hazardous chemicals.

In March, GAO reported that EPA made progress in implementing a new approach to managing toxic chemicals, but Alfredo Gomez, director of GAO’s Natural Resources and Environment team, said results from this approach, in most cases, have yet to been seen.

“EPA could be investing valuable resources, time and effort without being certain that its efforts will bring the agency closer to achieving its goal of ensuring the safety of chemicals,” Gomez said in testimony June 13 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment and the Economy Subcommittee.

In response to GAO, EPA has asserted it cannot ensure chemical safety without statutory changes to TSCA, which only can be made by Congress.