Saturday, November 21, 2009

Daryl Ditz Testimony at Congressional Hearing on TSCA Chemical Control

This is a continuation of my series taking a closer look at the November 17, 2009 Congressional hearings on "Prioritizing Chemicals for Safety Determination." Earlier I gave an overall summary. Today I look at the testimony of Daryl Ditz, a Senior Policy Advisor for the Center for International Environmental Law.

Ditz started by saying that "despite its aspirational title, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has failed to assess, let alone guarantee, the safety of the great majority of chemicals in use today." He further suggested that "TSCA stymies action by EPA and other agencies, perpetuates a reliance on dangerous substances, leaves businesses in the dark, and undermines U.S. competitiveness." Needless to say, Mr. Ditz believes the time is right to modernize TSCA.

He offered three recommendations for fixing TSCA.

1) To expedite action, Ditz said that "Congress should authorize EPA to promptly identify and phase out non-essential uses of a set of high-priority chemicals." He believes that "a slow, cumbersome safety determination process for these high-priority chemicals is neither necessary nor appropriate." He identifies these as the "worst-of-the-worst," defined primarily as those chemicals that exhibit PBT properties, i.e., Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic. Many PBT chemicals have already been identified and are characterized by remaining largely unchanged in the environment or people's bodies for long periods of time, biomagnify up the food chain (e.g., concentrations get higher as you move from plant to animal to higher order animal), and show high toxicity. Ditz believes that the old "unreasonable risk" standard in TSCA has actually prevented EPA from taking action on chemicals it knows need to be regulated.

2) Congress should "authorize EPA to prioritize the order in which all chemicals, new as well as existing, are assessed against a health-based standard." Ditz said that industry should be required to prove the safety of their chemicals (rather than the current system in which EPA must demonstrate lack of safety). He mentioned that the 2008 Kid Safe Chemical Act (which was never passed) would have prioritized chemicals for further review, but that prioritization shouldn't be used to exclude them from review, just determine the order they are reviewed. He noted that the previous administration's ChAMP initiative was "misguided" in that in trying to sort through nearly 7000 chemicals it "wrongly labeled 'low risk'" many chemicals on the basis of inadequate and unreliable data. Ditz felt the process advocated by the American Chemistry Council in its recently released "principles for TSCA modernization" would "repeat this mistake by subjecting only a fraction of existing chemicals," often based on limited data, to a safety determination and "letting the majority of chemicals sidestep credible evaluation."

3) Congress should ensure that "up-to-date, comprehensive information is available on all chemicals, to protect the health and safety of Americans and foster confidence in the market." Ditz noted repeatedly that the quantity and quality of data available in which to do these prioritizations was severely limited for most chemicals. He said that "U.S. policy should require chemical manufacturers to develop, submit and periodically update data on the potential hazards, exposures, and uses of chemicals they manufacture or import." He insisted that minimum data requirements are needed because major data gaps limit the ability to make informed assessments.

Finally, Mr. Ditz seconded the need for CDC and other organizations to conduct biomonitoring as "an important check on human exposures in the real world." He also believes that the ongoing efforts in Europe (REACH) and Canada (Chemical Categorization Program) can be used to help inform the evaluation of chemicals in the United States.

Tomorrow I will take a look at the testimony of William J. Greggs, a consultant for the Consumer Specialty Products Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the Soap and Detergent Association (and formerly with Procter & Gamble).


Anonymous said...

Thanks Dake, for posting something about keeping us safe. I think making industrial chemicals is something we can all get behind. And your three points are well put.

Many people and scientists agree that current legislation which regulates chemicals must be reformed. However, we should also be sure to reform the science that underlies these regulations—namely, the way in which toxicity testing is conducted.

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 Kids-Safe uses all the necessary tools to truly make our children, our environment, and animals safe.

The Dake Page said...

Agreed. See my response to your other comment.

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