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EPA to Give Consumers more Access to Chemical Risk Information

TSCA-ReformSavingsUnder a new policy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is rejecting a confidentiality claim, known as Confidential Business Information (CBI) on the identity of chemicals, which will increase the public’s access to information on chemicals.

The impacted chemicals are those that are submitted to the EPA with studies that show a substantial risk to people’s health and the environment and have been previously disclosed on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Inventory. This action represents Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s commitment to reform chemical management, and supports the EPA’s belief that the 1976 TSCA law needs to be reformed.

Under TSCA, companies may claim a range of proprietary information as CBI. Under Section 8(e) of TSCA, companies that manufacture, process, or distribute chemicals are required to immediately notify the EPA if they learn that a chemical presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment.

However, companies typically would claim confidentiality for the actual identity of the chemical covered by the Section 8(e) submission, so the public posting of the information would not include the name of the chemical, says EPA. The new policy stops that practice by giving the public access to the chemical identification information submitted, along with other health and safety data under Section 8(e).

A new report from the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, “The Health Case for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act,” indicates that the U.S. can prevent chronic disease and reduce health-care costs by overhauling federal chemical policy. The report estimates that the U.S. could conservatively save $5 billion annually in health-care costs by reducing the incidence of these diseases by 0.1 percent. The coalition also has estimated health-care costs savings on state-by-state basis.

Of the 80,000 chemicals used in the U.S., EPA has required safety testing on only 200 under TSCA, says the coalition. And 60,000 chemicals — including bisphenol A — were grandfathered in for use without testing for health safety. Recent studies show that Bisphenol-A, a chemical compound commonly used in plastic packaging for food and beverages, has been linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities.

New legislation to update the toxics law will be introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) in early 2010, according to the coalition.

EPA says it will introduce additional steps to further increase transparency of chemical information.

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