Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chemical Industry Rebuts "Secret Chemical" Report as Erroneous

As mentioned yesterday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington DC, issued a report suggesting that many chemicals on the market today are "secret." The basis for this is that the identity of these chemicals is protected by confidential business information provisions under the existing TSCA chemical control law. On Monday the main chemical industry trade association offered a response in which it claimed that EWG misrepresented the CBI provisions.

According to ACC's news release available on its web site,

"[t]here are no 'secret' chemicals on the market. In those cases where a specific chemical identity has been claimed confidential - in order to protect the significant investment of time, money and human resources that went into the research and development process - the manufacturing and use of that substance must always fully comply with the requirements of the law."

The EWG report and the ACC response demonstrates that while both groups, along with most other stakeholders, are in general agreement on the need for TSCA reform and the basic principles of modernization, there are still some fundamental differences on many of the details. In this case, the advocacy groups feel that the more information available to the public and the more transparency the better. The industry, on the other hand, must deal with the fact that competitors can free ride off of the research expenditures of others and thus have a need to keep some information to themselves.

The key seems to be in developing a system that gives confidence that chemicals are adequately tested for safety prior to being put on the market. If the public can be convinced that the process protects them, then they will be less concerned if there are confidentiality protections for companies. But if the public feels that the process is insufficient to protect them from chemicals because those chemicals have not been demonstrated to be safe, then the public will want to see more information to allow them to make choices on their end.

The saga continues. I expect there to be quite a bit of activity in the next few weeks and months as Congress leads up to introducing a bill in the first quarter of this year.

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