US chems must engage Congress, environmentalists - ACC

07 April 2009 17:24  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--The US chemicals sector must be engaged with Congress and environmentalists to reform the nation’s chemicals control system and restore consumer confidence, an industry leader said on Tuesday.

Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), told a regulatory conference that popular concern about bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates in childcare products is evidence that existing controls are not sufficient.

“The message being sent out to us clearly by consumers is that we don’t have a regulatory structure that is testing products adequately,” Dooley told the opening session of the 2009 Global Chemical Regulations Conference (GlobalChem).

“Our industry has a vested interest in finding a way to work with regulatory agencies and allied stakeholders throughout the supply chain and help develop a chemicals management system that ensures that every consumer out there has confidence that products are tested in such a substantive way that they can have confidence in their safety,” Dooley said.

He said that chemicals manufacturers are facing significant changes in the US political landscape with a broader Democratic Party majority in Congress and Democratic President Barack Obama in the White House.

“This is a much different political terrain than industry has faced in recent decades, and we no longer have the luxury of just saying ‘no’. We have to be more engaged, and we have to demonstrate that we are solution providers,” Dooley said.

He said that as Congress moves toward reform of the 33-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) - the principal US chemicals control and management statute - industry must seek certain principles in a revised law.

“At every stage of the supply chain, manufacturers must have appropriate information on the hazards, use and exposure of our products, and the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] should have a priority process to evaluate the safety of our products in a transparent manner,” he said.

He said the EPA also should have limited authority to share confidential business information when necessary with state and foreign governments, and that the agency should have appropriate federal funding and expanded staff to fulfil its larger role.

Reform of TSCA also must maintain the principle of risk-based and sound scientific evaluation, Dooley said. “We will not abandon the risk-based and scientific approach in favour of a more precautionary approach,” he said, referring to the underlying precautionary principle of the EU’s programme for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH).

In addition, he said, TSCA reform should ensure that all chemical research and testing is held to the highest scientific standards, whether that testing is done by the EPA, industry or environmental groups.

The legislative reform of TSCA also should ensure that the US chemicals industry remains strong in the global marketplace.

He said that as the ACC works with other industry trade groups and traditional stakeholders in the supply chain, “we also have to reach out to non-traditional stakeholders such as the Environmental Working Group [EWG] and the Environmental Defense Fund [EDF]”. 

Representatives of both environmental groups had recently met with ACC officials, Dooley said. “We do not expect total agreement on every issue, but we can discover areas where we can narrow our differences as we become constructively engaged,” he said.

He told some 200 industry executives attending the conference that TSCA reform must demonstrate an effective regulatory system that is better than REACH.

Cosponsored by the ACC and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), the GlobalChem conference continues through Wednesday.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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