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35 Ecology Quarterly 721 (2008)


The European Union's newly enacted comprehensive regulation for industrial chemicals, known as REACH, draws heavily on three decades of experience in the United States under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Much of that experience has been negative, inasmuch as TSCA is widely regarded as a disappointment among US environmental laws, and so REACH deliberately reverses many of the legislative choices that Congress made in TSCA. REACH also takes advantage of important new regulatory concepts that were not available to the framers of TSCA thirty years ago. The passage of REACH has sparked renewed interest in reforming TSCA, and the reformers will undoubtedly look to REACH for ideas. This article contends that, while many aspects of REACH can fairly be understood as the Anti-TSCA, on closer examination REACH follows many of TSCA's fundamental approaches to chemicals regulation. The fundamental similarities offer a unique opportunity to develop a synthesis of the two regulatory regimes, which could form the practical basis for updating TSCA. While reform based on a synthesis of TSCA and REACH would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, it could nevertheless greatly improve chemicals regulation in the US. This article offers principles for such reform. The article concludes with a discussion of the global impact of national regulatory systems like REACH.