Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting TSCA Chemical Reform Right - Are We Close?

What’s important is that we do it right. With 96 percent of all manufactured goods touched by chemistry, any new law must protect public safety without destroying jobs or America’s ability to continue leading the world in innovation.

Such are the words of Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, one of the leading trade associations representing the chemical industry.  Dooley, who is a former Congressman so knows how the political process works, was responding to an editorial in the Las Vegas Sun. The editorial supported the idea that chemicals on the market should be tested to "ensure product safety."  The paper asserted that "manufacturers can simply refuse to test their chemicals, allowing them to claim that they do not have information on toxicity or cancer-causing potential."

Dooley took exception to some of what the editorial said, saying that the editorial "significantly exaggerates the state of the nation’s product safety regulations, serving to confuse rather than inform your readers."  He agrees that the current TSCA law "needs to be updated," and reminded the Sun that the American Chemistry Council "has been participating in the public discussion of this for the past two years."

Yesterday I mentioned that "jobs" had become a new catchword for TSCA reform.  In his letter to the editor, Dooley noted that "in Nevada alone, our industry contributes to over 2,000 direct jobs, and for every chemical industry job, an additional 1.7 jobs are created within the state’s economy. With an unemployment rate at an astounding 14.2 percent, Nevadans should look carefully at any new regulation that might affect their jobs, and not just accept proposals at face value."

The key to all of this is getting TSCA reform right.  Advocacy groups want all chemicals to be tested; industry wants to have a focused, prioritized testing regime that is more manageable for both them and EPA.  They rightly point to the massive ongoing REACH effort, including the creation of an entirely new chemicals agency to handle the receipt of tens of thousands of data dossiers. Given that EPA is unlikely to get that kind of new funding, a more workable solution that provides data on the most toxic and/or most widely used chemicals is probably closer to being "doable."

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