Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beth Bosley Testimony at Congressional Hearing on TSCA Chemical Control

Today I continue with the testimony of the final witness present at the November 17, 2009 Congressional hearings on "Prioritizing Chemicals for Safety Determination." Earlier I gave an overall summary. Beth Bosley is Managing Director of the Boron Specialties company, but spoke on behalf of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA). SOCMA is a trade association that represents the batch and custom chemical industry, which are typically small to medium-sized businesses and thus may not have the more extensive resources of the larger chemical firms.

Bosley noted that SOCMA agrees with the idea that TSCA needs to be modernized, but said that this should be done in a way that "doesn't devastate a strategic American industry that is already facing recession and foreign competition." She offered two essential principles for "a sustainable chemical management law that won't eliminate jobs, economic growth, or products."

1) Priorities must be based on risk: Bosley noted that this means "basing priorities and regulatory criteria on the scientific evaluation of toxicological response and exposure factors." She gave an example of a chemical that may be highly toxic but used only in strictly controlled industrial environments or in small quantities, and as such would actually have a fairly small risk to public health.

2) Proven regulatory mechanisms should be the basis for modernization: Bosley insisted that the modernized TSCA must rely on leveraging regulatory mechanisms that work in the US. She said that applying an approach like the European REACH approach in the US "would devastate small and medium sized companies...and do so unnecessarily since a more practical alternative is available. She suggested that "the Canadian approach to chemicals management has systematically prioritized that nation's inventory and is, therefore, much farther ahead of the EU with respect to evaluating chemicals in commerce."

Bosley also said that SOCMA supports the idea of an "inventory reset," which was part of EPA's Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP), a program that was recently discontinued. She noted that of the "over 80,000 chemicals now listed on the inventory, data suggest that only about 1/3 of these are presently in commerce." Thus, "resetting" the inventory to include only those now in production would significantly reduce the number of chemicals that need to be prioritized and categorized. Bosley suggested that "ChAMP should not have been abandoned, because it will just have to be reinstituted under another name."

Bosley said that we should "embrace TSCA mechanisms that have worked well, like the New Chemicals Program," which through its PreManufacture Notice (PMN) process reviews over 1,000 new chemicals every year. She also encouraged everyone to recognize "the massive amount of data that was generated by EPA's High Production Volume Program and leverage that data in making initial determinations of risk." She felt that "with reasonable amendments," TSCA could provide an easier mechanism to collect data from manufacturers and users related to a) volumes manufactured, processed or used, b) health effects, and c) exposure characteristics.

Finally, she noted that the "safety" standard used by EPA to make determinations should involve:

1) Not overlooking the basic principle of risk (i.e., the evaluation of both hazard and exposure, not just hazard),

2) Not let EPA get burdened with having to determine that each chemical is safe for its intended use (i.e., chemicals need to be prioritized so that only those really of concern should need to be evaluated in depth, and for only those uses that are of concern), and

3) EPA must be adequately funded no matter what approach Congres takes in modernizing TSCA. Bosley noted that "the biggest shortcoming of the TSCA program today is lack of resources, not lack of authority."

Well, that summarizes all of the witnesses who testified at the November 17, 2009 House subcommittee hearing. This is the follow up to a House hearing held back on February 26, 2009, which I discussed earlier.

In addition to the in-person witnesses there was some written testimony provided to the subcommittee. There were also statements published by several other interested stakeholders such at the American Chemistry Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Working Group, and others. I'll be reviewing these in the coming days. I'll also be providing some critical analysis contrasting the different viewpoints and looking at what a final bill might look like.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your in-depth review of the witnesses who testified at the November 17, 2009 House subcommittee hearing. One issue that I haven't seen you touch on is the issue of animal testing and how that is connected to TSCA reform.

I think making industrial chemicals safe for everyone is something we can all get behind. Problem is: mandating more chemical testing, the kind being advocated by the Safer Chemicals coalition, will kill millions of animals, cost lots of money, and give use questionable results.

Currently, toxicity testing is largely based on experiments in animals and uses methods that were developed as long ago as the 1930’s and 40’s; they and are slow, inaccurate, open to uncertainty and manipulation, and do not adequately protect human health. These tests take anywhere from months to years, and tens of thousands to millions of dollars to perform. More importantly, the current testing paradigm has a poor record in predicting effects in humans and an even poorer record in leading to actual regulation of dangerous chemicals.

Fortunately, many scientists have worked, and are working, on addressing these problems -- and alternatives to animal testing exist in a powerful way. Chemical reform should not only modernize policy, but modernize the science that supports that policy. Let's ensure that our new legislation uses all the necessary tools to truly make our children, our environment, and animals safe.

The Dake Page said...

Thank you for your comment. The animal testing issue did not seem to be a focus of this current hearing, which was geared toward prioritization. As I'm sure you know, animal welfare has been a topic of discussion with respect to TSCA reform, as well as the ongoing REACH program in the EU. With REACH, there were steps taken to limit the amount of animal testing done (e.g., mandatory sharing of vertebrate data, test proposals for higher tier testing rather than immediate testing, etc.).

There are efforts to find alternatives to animal testing. This has been more advanced for things like eye and skin irritation than for longer duration, more chronic effects like reproductive toxicity. One new program is ToxCast, which along with the related Toxicity in the 21st Century concept, is looking at many biomarker type tests that are done in vitro. I suspect these will be used mostly as a prioritization tool to limit the number of chemicals that might need testing. Interestingly, while there were allusions to it, it really wasn't a big topic during this particular hearing.

Finally, I very much agree that the new chemical control policy needs to be flexible enough to both use and to encourage innovation in developing alternative scientific methods to address safety to human health and the environment.