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Selected tag(s): Safe Chemicals Act

If you can’t say anything nice …

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.  EDF intern Lydia Kaprelian assisted with the analysis of trade association statements reported in this post.

In response to last week’s noteworthy mark-up of the Safe Chemicals Act, six major trade associations issued statements commenting on the event (see links at the end of this post).  I was struck by the broad spectrum of reaction and decided to do a little analysis.  I counted up the number of positive and negative comments or items noted in each statement about the bill, and then plotted them on a graph, along with the percentage of all comments in each statement that were negative.  Here’s how it looks:

The first thing that jumps out is how much of an outlier the American Chemistry Council (ACC) is, way off there on the lower right of the chart all by itself.  Talk about extreme (the word ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley used to describe the Safe Chemicals Act; subscription required).  Despite the fact that the bill was heavily rewritten to accommodate industry concerns, ACC couldn’t find a single positive thing to say about it, but really piled on with the negatives.  Do ACC member companies really want to be in that extreme of a position in this debate?  Read More »

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Resources for today’s historic markup of the Safe Chemicals Act

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Today’s the day:  At or about 10 am EDT this morning, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will take up a major amendment offered by Senator Lautenberg to his Safe Chemicals Act, which would for the first time overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

[UPDATE Wednesday afternoon:  The EPW Committee voted 10-8 to pass the amended Safe Chemicals Act!!]

Here are some things that should help you to make sense of it all.

I hope these links help you to tune in or otherwise follow today’s events.

 

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A pivotal moment for TSCA reform

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

We have reached a pivotal moment in the quest for meaningful reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA):  On Wednesday the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will mark up a new and improved version of the Safe Chemicals Act.  To my knowledge, this will be the first time a vote has been taken in the U.S. Congress to amend the basic provisions of TSCA since its passage in 1976.

The markup will come after today’s oversight hearing in the same committee spurred by a set of events that couldn’t provide a better poster child for why this law needs so badly to be overhauled:  An exposé published in the Chicago Tribune on the massive use in everyday household items of a set of flame retardant chemicals that were grandfathered in under TSCA 36 years ago along with more than 60,000 others.  Their safety was never required to be determined, let alone established – yet we now know these toxic chemicals not only do not serve their claimed purpose, but are so persistent in the environment and build up in people such that every American – including newborn babies – carries them in our bodies.

While we still have quite a ways to go to achieve real and lasting TSCA reform, the new language represents real progress toward the “sweet spot” – striking the right balance between the dual needs of ensuring vital public health protections, sustaining the economic health of the chemical industry and spurring it to innovate toward safer chemicals.  Any objective reader of the new language will see, for example, that it better tailors and paces information requirements, ensures speed to market for new chemicals, and enhances protection of companies’ proprietary interests in chemicals they develop.

The changes reflect the sustained efforts of a group of diverse stakeholders who dedicated themselves over the last many months to seek out common ground and to provide substantive input on the legislation, often in the face of considerable opposition.  Relative to the introduced version of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, major sections have been completely rewritten to address key concerns heard from all stakeholders, including those not willing to come to the table.

While further progress is needed, the changes being made to the legislation are direct and tangible evidence of the fact that when stakeholders positively engage in the legislative process, the result is an improved bill.

EDF and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition stand committed to continuing to work after Wednesday’s markup with all parties willing to engage with us in good faith toward finding more common ground.  This week in particular, it is vital that those who have sought out such common ground stand behind the progress made to date and make clear they are committed to taking this forward.

 

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Striking the right balance between right to know and right to intellectual property protection

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

There is clearly a need to balance the legitimate claims of companies to protect certain confidential business information (CBI) from public disclosure with the legitimate need for the market, consumers and the public to have access to information they need to make sound decisions about chemicals that are in commerce.  Unfortunately, most of TSCA’s provisions and their implementation by EPA have skewed this balance radically in the direction of denying the public’s right to know and creating an ill-informed chemicals marketplace.

The core problem is two-fold, constituting a vicious circle:  Too many CBI claims are made, and each of the infrequent examinations of such claims done by EPA has found a large fraction to be illegitimate, i.e., not meeting the well-established criteria for what constitutes a legitimate trade secret.  And because of the large number of claims made, EPA has lost the ability to review claims to ensure they are in fact legitimate and remain so over time; this lack of review has led directly to more claims being made, thereby completing the vicious circle.  Read More »

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Restoring the credibility of risk assessment: A vital need under TSCA reform

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

The primary means by which chemical risks are to be judged under current legislative proposals for reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 847), is through risk assessment – a key demand of industry.  Yet traditional risk assessments have often fallen short of protecting public health and have sometimes taken decades to identify a “safe” level of exposure to certain chemicals.  As a result, public and health and environmental community confidence in risk assessment is very low.  There are also major technical deficiencies in current risk assessment methodologies that must be addressed if it is to serve as a credible basis for determining chemical risks.  For example, we now know that there are many chemicals for which any level of exposure poses some risk, yet traditional risk assessment assumes a safe level exists for nearly all chemicals.

The Safe Chemicals Act includes provisions to ensure that EPA’s use of risk assessment incorporates the best available science, initially by requiring EPA to rely on the recent recommendations of the nation’s foremost scientific body, the National Academy of Sciences, as to how EPA can improve its practice of risk assessment. Implementing the recommendations is critical to restoring the credibility of and public confidence in risk assessment. Read More »

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A most-pressing Health Affair: Acting as if our children’s health matters

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Health policy history of sorts was made this week:  The prestigious journal Health Affairs, the nation’s leading journal of health policy, unveiled its first-ever issue devoted entirely to environmental health.  It did so via a briefing held in Washington, DC on Wednesday that featured several pre-eminent environmental health experts, including David Fukuzawa, Program Director for Health at The Kresge Foundation; Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); and Kenneth Olden, Professor and Founding Dean at the new City University of New York’s School of Public Health and former long-time NIEHS Director.

A sneak peak has been provided via advanced publication of some of the journal issue’s articles.  Prominent among the themes of these articles:  The high and increasing health and economic costs of unregulated exposures to unsafe and inadequately tested chemicals.

I’ll call attention here to two papers in particular:

Read More »

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