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Chemical Industry's Off the Books Practices: Top Secret Chemicals

Chemical Industry's Off the Books Practices: Top Secret Chemicals

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The 33-year old law that was supposed to ensure that Americans know what chemicals are in use around them, and what health and safety hazards they might pose, has produced a regulatory black hole, a place where information goes in – but much never comes out.
The 33-year old law that was supposed to ensure that Americans know what chemicals are in use around them, and what health and safety hazards they might pose, has produced a regulatory black hole, a place where information goes in – but much never comes out.

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Published by: Environmental Working Group on Jan 25, 2010
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02/05/2012

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Off the Books:
Industry’s Secret Chemicals
David Andrews, Ph.D.Richard Wiles • Environmental Working Group • December 2009
www.ewg.org/chemicalindustryexposed/topsecretchemicals
 
Executive Summary
The 33-year old law that was supposed to ensure that Americans know what chemicals arein use around them, and what health and safety hazards they might pose, has produced aregulatory black hole, a place where information goes in – but much never comes out.The reason is that under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the chemicalindustry has been allowed to stamp a “trade secret” claim on the identity of two-thirds of all chemicals introduced to the market in the last 27 years, according to an EnvironmentalWorking Group (EWG) analysis of data obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA). These include substances used in numerous consumer and children’s products.EWG’s analysis also showed that:
The public has no access to any information about approximately 17,000 of the more than 83,000 chemicals on the master inventory compiled by theEPA.
Industry has placed “confidential business information” (CBI) claims on theidentity of 13,596 new chemicals produced since 1976 – nearly two-thirds of the 20,403 chemicals added to the list in the past 33 years.
Secrecy claims directly threaten human health. Under section 8(e) of TSCA,companies must turn over all data showing that a chemical presents “asubstantial risk of injury to health or the environment.” By definitioncompounds with 8(e) filings are the chemicals of the greatest health concern.In the first eight months of 2009 industry concealed the identity of thechemicals in more than half the studies submitted under 8(e).
From 1990 to 2005, the number of confidential chemicals more thanquadrupled – from 261 to 1,105 -- on the sub-inventory of substancesproduced or imported in significant amounts (more than 25,000 pounds a year in at least one facility). In July 2009 the EPA released the identity of 530 of these chemicals, lowering the number of these moderate- and high-production volume secret chemicals to 575.
At least 10 of the 151 high volume confidential chemicals produced orimported in amounts greater than 300,000 pounds a year are used inproducts specifically intended for use by children age 14 or younger.TSCA is an extraordinarily ineffective law. Its failings have been repeatedly documented bythe Government Accountability Office, Congressional hearings, and independentinvestigations. But it has generally been assumed that the law required an accurate publicinventory of chemicals produced or imported in the United States.As this investigation shows, it does not.Instead we have a de-facto witness protection program for chemicals, made possible by aweak law that allows broad confidential business information (CBI) claims, made worse byEPA’s historic deference to business assertions of CBI.
Off the Books: Industry’s Secret Chemicals
www.ewg.org/chemicalindustryexposed/topsecretchemicals
 
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EPA data compiled in response to an EWG information request show that a large numberof these secret chemicals are used everyday in consumer products, including artists’supplies, plastic products, fabrics and apparel, furniture and items intended for use bychildren. But EPA cannot share specific information on these chemicals even within theagency or with state and local officials.Industry has a stranglehold on every aspect of information needed to implement even themost basic health protections from chemicals in consumer products and our environment.This must be changed. A chemical’s identity and all related health and safety informationmust be made available to the public with no exceptions.
The TSCA Inventory
In response to headlines about burning rivers and widespread pollution, Congress passedthe Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1976. The act says, in Sec. 2607 (b): “TheAdministrator shall compile, keep current, and publish a list of each chemical substancewhich is manufactured or processed in the United States.”This list includes all chemicals in commerce that are not specifically regulated under otherlaws, such as pesticides, foods, food additives, drugs, cosmetics, ammunition, mixtures,impurities, byproducts and substances manufactured solely for export. ("Toxic SubstancesControl Act," 1976)In December 1977, EPA published an Inventory Reporting rule requiring the reporting of chemicals in commerce since 1975. Based on the information submitted by industry, EPAassembled its initial TSCA Inventory in May 1979 listing 43,641 chemical substances (EPA,1980). In May 1982 EPA released its “Cumulative Supplement II” that listed 58,000chemicals, including 1,800 whose identity was not disclosed (EPA, 1982).EPA estimated that the overall list was 97 percent complete, and the list of undisclosedchemicals was 90 percent complete, indicating that in 1982 EPA’s inventory actually totaled60,000 chemicals, including about 2,000 whose identity was claimed confidential (EPA,1982).The TSCA inventory lists only basic information: a Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) registrynumber, the preferred chemical name, and the molecular formula. The inventory may alsoinclude synonyms, former registry numbers and EPA flags identifying EPA rule-makingsconcerning that chemical.The TSCA inventory does not include information on who makes the chemical, where it ismade, the quantity produced, whether it is still made, and what consumer products containit. There is also no health and safety information.
Off the Books: Industry’s Secret Chemicals
www.ewg.org/chemicalindustryexposed/topsecretchemicals
 
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