Thursday, September 15, 2011

Avoiding Paralysis by Analysis - EDF's Analysis of the EPA TSCA Chemical Prioritization Proposal

Last week the USEPA held a webinar to introduce their proposal for how they will attempt to prioritize TSCA chemicals for closer assessment.  One day prior to the webinar the ACC announced its own competing prioritization scheme. Earlier this week, Environmental Defense Fund Senior Scientist Richard Denison offered his views on the EPA scheme, which he called "a sensible approach to identifying chemicals of concern." [Note: Denison will be addressing the ACC proposal in a following post on the EDF web site.]

The "paralysis by analysis" noted to in the title refers to the futility of asking EPA to evaluate the entire TSCA Inventory akin to the Canadian approach.  The Canadian approach was actually "mandated by statute" (via the 1999 amendments to the CEPA) and both Environment Canada and Health Canada were given "seven years and a major infusion of new resources" just to complete the first phase of the process.  According to Denison, with nearly four times as many chemicals on the Inventory, and "without the authority and the resources, well, that's just a recipe for paralysis by analysis" to ask EPA to do the same. 

Which is why the EPA proposal is so reasonable, according to Denison.  He indicates that EDF and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition "generally support EPA's approach and believe it strikes the right balance between clarity and transparency and avoiding paralysis by analysis."  Denison does, however, offer a series of 10 additional suggestions for improving the EPA proposal.  The full list can be seen on the EDF blog page, but include broadening the sources of data specified in Step 1 (perhaps by including some of the source from Step 2), consideration of the published literature, adding specific criteria for children's health and exposure, expanding the range of "vulnerable subpopulations" beyond just children's health, and providing additional clarity on how EPA plans to move from Step 1 to Step 2.

Overall, Denison finds that the attempts by EPA to reintroduce "action" into their proposed prioritization and action plan process are much needed.  He welcomes EPA looking at chemicals in commerce to identify those for which it would be prudent to take a closer look at their potential risk.  And with the additional actions suggested, he believes that it is a good step in the right direction.

To read EDF's analysis and the full list of suggestions, see Richard Denison's blog entry for September 13, 2011.

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