An Overview of TSCA, Its History and Key Underlying Assumptions, and Its Place in Environmental Regulation


The United States has enacted an alphabet soup of laws during the past forty years to try to reduce risks that the manufacture, use, and/or disposal of toxic substances pose to our environment and to human health. One of the important early books about toxic substances, The Dilemma of Toxic Substances Regulation, suggests that this growth in government regulation has "radically transform[ed] the economic roles of government and business as well as relations between them." As one might expect, there has been an enormous amount of debate concerning the nature, extent, and adequacy of this transformation. Two overarching questions this rich debate about our extensive environmental regulatory infrastructure raises are: Are we "there yet" in our approach to managing risks from chemicals and, related, how will we know? Further, if we have not reached an "optimal" level of environmental and human health protection (I think it a safe guess that this would be the view of the vast majority of readers of this symposium volume), a host of other questions require attempts at resolution, including: what remains to be done; what are our options for moving forward; what path(s) should we take; how should we monitor our progress; and how should we structure our approach so we can shift course if and when needed? This Article is a very modest attempt to "tee up" some of these fundamental questions about the appropriate shape and content of environmental law through review of one part of the extraordinarily broad and diverse federal legislative infrastructure in place today, notably the screening and regulatory program contained in the Toxic Substances Control Act ("TSCA"). Part I of this Article provides a brief history of TSCA and reviews some of Congress‘s key underlying assumptions in enacting the statute. Part II reviews how things have played out in the implementation of some of the key features of TSCA. I conclude with a brief review of some of the overarching issues TSCA raises that have broader implications for environmental policy.


Hazardous substances -- Law & legislation, Environmental law, United States. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental policy, Toxic Substances Control Act



David Markell (Florida State University)



Publication details



All rights reserved

File Checksums (MD5)

  • pdf: ce39db6508d3d89a05efec53916e9285