Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chemical Industry Expresses Concern Over Developing Toxic Chemical Safety Act

As I mentioned two days ago, the US House of Representatives has been meeting with various stakeholders to get input into the development of the House version of the TSCA Reform bill. In April the House had issued a "discussion draft" while the Senate issued an actual bill. Well, there have been a lot of discussions. And not everyone is happy.

Industry is worried that the draft House bill would "significantly expand" the scope of the law. Frankly, that would seem to be a rather obvious conclusion given that the bill is being introduced because of the widespread belief that TSCA was insufficient. But there are some legitimate concerns as well. For example, small and medium size enterprises could be disproportionately burdened if all chemicals are required to provide the same "base set" health and safety data. These companies tend to be more specialty chemical oriented and produce much smaller volumes.

One solution is to institute a tiered approach to data requirements such as that found in the REACH regulation in Europe. Under REACH, chemicals produced in smaller amounts must only provide the data in the first of four "Annexes" listing data requirements. The first Annex is focused mostly on basic physical-chemical property data such as melting and boiling points, octanol-water partitioning (a measure of whether the chemical will stay in the water column or bind with organic materials such as those associated with sediments or biota), and water solubility. The first Annex also includes requirements for determining how quickly the chemical will biodegrade (e.g., in sewage treatment plants), whether it is toxic to aquatic organisms, and basic acute toxicity to animals.

Chemicals produced at higher tonnage bands are required to fulfill the data specified in up to three additional annexes, with the cost and complication of testing increasing with tonnage produced.

This tiered testing scheme means that companies that only produce small amounts would have much less onerous data needs. Those companies producing very large amounts, and presumably much greater sales income, would need to provide more.

Several of the industry trade associations have issued statements in response to the House stakeholder process and I will be examining specific issues raised in forthcoming days.

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