Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.
The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign just held a press call to draw direct links between the huge unknowns associated with the unprecedented use of chemical dispersants in the Gulf and the failures of TSCA. The campaign called upon Congress to ensure that legislation to reform TSCA fully addresses dispersant safety so that, the next time a disaster of this sort unfolds, the country won't be caught with its proverbial pants down.
While the reform bills would go a long way to improve the situation, the campaign also provided a detailed description of enhancements to the current reform bills needed to address:
- the lack of public access to sufficient information about dispersants, their ingredients and their concentrations;
- the lack of adequate safety testing for long- as well as short-term effects on both marine environments and people, including affected workers, volunteers and nearby residents;
- the lack of a requirement that dispersants be shown to be safe as a condition for allowed use; and
- the lack of adequate EPA authority to disallow unsafe dispersants and to halt or alter dispersant use based on on-the-ground developments.
As the legislation advances, we will be pressing Congress to include additional provisions to address these deficiencies. There could be no better illustration of the limits to our current policies than that provided by government's forced reliance on under-tested chemical dispersants the use of which is raising more questions than answers.