Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Environmental Working Group Releases "Secret Chemicals" Report

On a note related to my post of yesterday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a report called "Off the Books: Industry's Secret Chemicals." In the report they call TSCA "an extraordinarily ineffective law."

EWG is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles, the latter whom is a co-author on the current report. EWG's mission "to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment." In the fall of 2009 the organization sponsored a widely attended stakeholder "dialogue" that included Lisa Jackson and Steve Owens from EPA, the heads of many industry trade associations, the advocacy community, and other interested stakeholders.

In their report, EWG is quite critical of the current system under TSCA and feels that industry has abused the privilege of claiming confidential business information. The report also faults EPA for allowing so many - 17,000 of the 83,000 on the TSCA Inventory - to be kept "secret" from the public, which according to EWG is "a de-facto witness protection program for chemicals," a large number of which are "used everyday in consumer products."

With advocacy groups seemingly intent on pressing the issue, I reiterate my belief that the "new TSCA" will significantly restrict the amount and type of CBI that companies may claim for new chemicals. The burden will also shift to industry to prove that their CBI claims are legitimate, rather than putting the onus on resource-strapped EPA to make an effort to reject claims. Whether this is a good or bad thing will have to wait until the details are worked out.

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