Our chemical safety laws must protect people and the environment, not chemical company profits

What's At Stake

Our families and communities have a right to live in toxic-free environments. However, chemical companies are swamping the market with toxic chemicals found in products that we use, the air that we breathe, and the water we drink dailyand it is wreaking havoc on our health. Far too often, these chemicals go unregulated, and the agencies that are charged with protecting us fail to consider or address the threat these substances pose to public health and the environment.   

The government cannot protect the public from harmful chemicals unless it accounts for all the risks those chemicals pose to human health and the environment.  That is why the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed revisions to its rule governing chemical risk evaluations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – our nation’s main chemical safety law – are so important.  

We need the EPA to strengthen that rule to address all of the ways that people are exposed to and harmed by toxic chemicals, including exposures to multiple chemicals from multiple sources, and to resist the chemical industry’s efforts to weaken existing protections and leave the public in harm’s way. 

The Toxic Substance Control Act requires EPA to eliminate chemicals’ unreasonable risks to human health and the environment, including by restricting or banning toxic chemicals’ production, use, distribution, and disposal.   

When the law was first enacted in 1976, however, it was a failure. It allowed chemical companies to put chemicals on the market without showing that they were safe and limited EPA’s ability to address chemicals that were widely known to cause cancer, developmental and reproductive harm, and other serious health effects.   

For several decades, Earthjustice has been fighting alongside our clients and partners in the courtroom and the halls of Congress for badly needed upgrades to the Toxic Substances Control Act. We helped to pass important amendments to that law in 2016, and successfully challenged Trump administration rules that violated TSCA’s core requirements. Now we need to keep the pressure up. 

A stronger risk evaluation rule is needed to protect communities, workers, and families from the most harmful chemicals on the market.  If EPA continues to ignore known combinations of chemical exposures and to understate chemical risks, unsafe chemicals will remain in our air, water, homes, with the greatest impacts on overburdened, environmental justice communities. Tell the EPA to protect people and the environment and not chemical company profits. 

A sign warning of the presence of asbestos.
Even the EPA regulation banning virtually all uses of asbestos, a dangerous and well-known carcinogen, was struck down by the courts as not authorized because TSCA requires the “least burdensome” approach for the industry. (Ashley Whitworth / Shutterstock)

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Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention. Read more.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue.

Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court. Read more.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment. Read more.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.