The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has notified five companies that the identities of 14 chemicals associated with a number of health and safety studies submitted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and claimed as confidential are not eligible for confidential treatment.
The agency announced the move yesterday, saying it would “increase public access to chemical information to help Americans understand risks posed by chemicals in our environment.”
Last year, EPA established a plan to review confidentiality claims for the names of chemicals addressed in health and safety studies. Under these new procedures the agency is moving to declassify many chemical identities so they are no longer secret.
When introduced, the plan was roundly criticized by chemical manufacturers that asserted maintaining the confidentiality of certain information is vital to “a strategic American industry that is already fighting recession and foreign competition,” according to an industry trade association.
“It is shortsighted for EPA to assert that ‘disclosure of a chemical identity does not disclose process information except where the identity explicitly contains process information,” William Allmond IV, vice-president of governmental relations at the Society for Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) wrote in a letter to the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics.
The association argued that disclosing the identity of certain chemicals may reveal information about the manufacturing process of those chemicals, and in those instances, should be treated as confidential business information (CBI).
In its letter, SOCMA acknowledged that “overclaiming” of CBI under TSCA has been a problem. The association said it supports the EPA’s goal of transparency, but was concerned that EPA’s approach would be devastating to the chemical industry.
Despite opposition to its new policy from industry groups, EPA said it would release more chemical names connected with health and safety studies in the future.
The agency said it plans to deny confidentiality claims for chemical identity in health and safety studies provided to the agency under TSCA unless the chemical identity contains process or mixture information that is expressly protected by the law.
Under TSCA, companies may claim that information they submit to the EPA should be treated as CBI and not be disclosed to the public. Companies that manufacture, process, or distribute chemicals are required to immediately provide notice to the EPA if they learn that a chemical presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment. The reports are made available on EPA’s website. But when the identity of the chemical has been claimed confidential by a company, the name of the chemical is removed from the copy of the report that is made public.
The EPA said it has begun reviewing past CBI claims for chemical identity in health and safety studies and will determine whether the information is eligible for confidential treatment under its new standard.