• New Poll Suggests Bipartisan Support for TSCA Modernization
  • November 20, 2009
  • Law Firm: Keller and Heckman LLP - Washington Office
  • A poll conducted in August 2009 suggests that there is widespread support for modernization of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, surveyed a total of 1000 registered voters nationwide by telephone between August 25 and 31, 2009.

    Results of the poll

    Overall a strong majority of all voters support TSCA when given a brief description of it, with roughly 75% of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike favoring TSCA. However, a strong majority were greatly concerned when it was explained that chemicals in existence before 1976 were grandfathered (87% somewhat or very concerned, with 66% very concerned). There was also concern expressed when it was explained that EPA was unsuccessful in banning asbestos (80% concerned, with 60% very concerned). Similarly, there was high concern when told that only 200 chemicals have been tested in the years that TSCA has been in effect (84% concerned, with 58% very concerned). Not surprisingly, hearing information on TSCA's limitations diminished support for the program. In fact, people tended to grow more convinced that regulations on chemicals are not strong enough once they heard the details on TSCA.

    The poll also shows a strong majority (71%) support the proposed legislation when given a brief description. Democrats give the strongest support for new legislation (81%), but Republicans (66%) and Independents (63%) also showed strong support.

    Support was strongest when respondents were told the proposed legislation will take chemicals off the market if they are detected in babies at birth or infants and that exposure to chemicals that have been extensively studied (formaldehyde was given as an example) will be reduced to the maximum extent possible.

    The poll was reported in a November 12, 2009 press release by the non-profit advocacy group called Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. Key findings of the poll and discussion can be found at http://www.saferchemicals.org/2009/11/poll-finds-americans-very-concerned-about-exposure-to-toxic-chemicals.html.

    Analysis of the poll

    Clearly the poll indicates that there is strong bipartisan support for some form of TSCA modernization. Beyond that, it is unclear what value the poll imparts to the discussion. The actual questions asked are not presented by Lake Research Partners, who issued only a memo of "Key Survey Findings." From the findings it is evident that the callers provided a brief description of TSCA and its limitations to the respondents, which seems a lot like asking leading questions designed to elicit the observed changes in responses. Another question is just what "proposed legislation" was described since no new legislation has yet to be introduced (perhaps the description given was of the 2008 version of the Kid Safe Chemical Act).

    Still, while there does seem to be some questions about the poll itself, combined with the reaction to recent discussions it is clear that all parties -- government, industry (both manufacturers and downstream users), and the advocacy community -- seem ready to update the 33-year old TSCA. Details are still being worked out, but recent activities such as the "Future of US Chemical Policy" meeting and both industry and NGO discussions on the Hill make it abundantly clear that some form of TSCA modernization will happen. The big question is not if, but when.