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Pens, Ink, And The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Form

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If you have recently purchased a pen or ink from an international reseller or manufacturer there is a chance that you will be required to fill out a Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Form. This request will come from the shipper, usually Fedex, not the seller or a government agency.

So what do you do when you get this request?

First of all, let’s be clear, we at Unsharpen.com are not lawyers and we aren’t giving legal advice. That said, this is a common enough problem and one we’ve run into in the past when buying pens online. If you have bought items directly from a company like Hobonichi then there is a good chance you’ve seen this form before.

What Is The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA)?

The Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S. Code Subchapter I) is a piece of legislation determining the handling of certain chemicals that are intended to be brought into, shipped within, or produced in the United States. The TSCA essentially gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to deal with any chemicals that could be dangerous or in some way unhealthy. Significant portions of the EPA’s guidelines in the Code of Federal Regulations reference the TSCA.

The TSCA covers all the chemicals listed here, but doesn’t necessarily cover all substances as other agencies have oversight over specifics types of chemicals and materials. Notable exceptions include the ATF’s coverage of tobacco products, and the FDA’s handling of drugs and cosmetics.

What Is A Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Form?

If you are shipping a chemical that is subject to the TSCA you maybe we be asked by the shipper to fill out a TSCA form. You can download the form direct from Fedex, who is the most likely shipper to ask you to fill out this form after performing a random screening of your package’s shipping bill, particularly when you are importing the item from another country.

In the past the TSCA would be filled out by the shipper, but today it’s be be filled out by the receiver, as per rule changes at Fedex.

The form basically explains what is being imported and by whom, with the most important part being a certification. In this section you can makes a “Positive Certification” in which you certify the chemicals “comply with all applicable rules or orders under TSCA” or you can offer a “Negative Certification” in which you assert that the “chemicals in this shipment are not subject to TSCA.”

If the TSCA is not completed the package will be held, normally for 14 days, after which it will be returned to the sender.

How Do I Fill Out A TSCA?

You will be asked by the shipper or by Fedex to fill out the TSCA form and return it to Fedex. This will normally happen after an email or phone call from Fedex to the contact information listed on your package.

You can ask the Fedex representative for advice or you can contact the EPA with any questions. You’ll want to call the TSCA Hotline at 202-554-1404 during normal weekday business hours (Eastern Standard Time).

Why Don’t All Pens And Stationery Items Require A TSCA Form?

After bring up this issue with a Fedex representative, we were told that there is a random screening during which some items will be screens and require a TSCA where others will be bypassed.

Anecdotally, it seems like screening is getting more common in the recent months, but it’s hard to determine by how much this is the case.

What Stationary Items Require A TSCA Form?

While all sorts of product are subject to the TSCA oversight, we’re going to focus on stationary items in this article. This basically boils down to anything shipped directly to use from outside the United States that contains ink which in turn has certain chemicals in it.

These items may include:

  • Ballpoint pens
  • Ballpoint pen refills
  • Gel pens
  • Gel pen refills
  • Fountain pen ink
  • Pre-filled fountain pens
  • Fountain pen cartridges
  • Rollerball pens
  • Rollerball refills
  • Pre-inked stamps
  • Stamp pads

If you are shipping or receiving one of these items and you believe it contains a chemical covered by the TSCA you should check the box for “Positive Certification” and then return the form to Fedex in order to get your package unblocked and shipped to you.