Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Inspector General Inquires into EPA's Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program

The Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP), which advocacy groups had criticized for years as ineffective and a "stall" by industry, was halted by the Obama administration.  Now it seems EPA’s Inspector General (IG) has launched an inquiry into the program because EPA has indicated it intends to model other programs on VCCEP.  The IG says it will determine “whether there are alternative mechanisms for achieving children’s health protection goals from chemical exposure.”

VCCEP was a product of the 1998 Chemical Right to Know Initiative, "the goal of which was to give citizens information on the effects of chemicals to enable them to make wise choices in the home and marketplace."  VCCEP itself was launched in December of 2000, and for many years was a focal point for EPA to work with industry to assess the potential effects of 23 chemicals on children's health.  Of the 23, only 20 were actually sponsored, with the chemicals selected being some for which children had a high likelihood of exposure. The intent was to have companies that manufactured or imported these chemicals to volunteer to provide information on health effects, exposure, risk, and data needs. Thirty-five companies in 10 consortia responded.

Unfortunately, 10 years after it was initiated the program seems to have not gotten past its initial pilot program.  Like the voluntary High Production Volume Chemical Challenge, the voluntary nature of the program resulted in actual participation dropping off as soon as the program fell out of the public's field of view.

The goal of the IG review is to learn from this experience before EPA initiates a new effort to assess the effects of chemicals on children's health.  Given the slow movement of TSCA reform in Congress, and the change in power structure for the next two years leading into a presidential election, EPA and others are looking for ways to carry on their mandate to protect public health, especially that of children.

More information can be found on the VCCEP program web site.

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