US chem, environmental groups urge reform of US toxics law

04 August 2009 18:07  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the US Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) each on Tuesday urged reform of the nation’s top chemicals assessment and control law, adding that the 33-year-old law must be updated to reflect new technology and boost consumer confidence in products.

The US Congress is beginning to consider changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and amending legislation is expected to be introduced this fall, the EDF said.

"The [law] is badly broken," said Richard Denison, senior scientist with the EDF.

"By failing to identify, let alone address, the long and growing list of chemicals in everyday products that we now know can harm people and the environment, TSCA has forced states, businesses, workers and consumers to try to act on their own to address what should be a national priority,” he added.

Mark Rohr, chief executive with Albemarle and director and chairman of the ACC's Chemical Management Committee, urged the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act “expeditiously and efficiently” in making chemical safety determinations.

In addition, Cal Dooley, chief executive with the ACC, said studies showed it was obvious that the public lacked confidence in the current system.

As a result, he said positioning chemistry as a growth industry within the global economic competitive environment was a leading factor behind Tuesday’s announcement.

“Since that time, we’ve had 30 years of technological advances,” Dooley said. “The time has come for this law to be modernised, with safety as a top priority.”

“We need to capitalise on the science and technology that has developed alongside the capacity and expertise of the industry, to ensure that the government agencies are doing the most comprehensive assessment of safety in these products,” he added. “Currently, consumers don’t have a high level of confidence.”

In April, a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official said a “consensus of themes” had emerged that would likely guide the modern reform goals.

Those themes included the EPA making safety determinations for current chemicals, creating a special assessment of vulnerable populations, such as children, and allowing the government to be free to share confidential business information with state and foreign governments.

“We have to have a transparent process,” said Dave Kepler, executive vice president with Dow Chemical. “Today, there are all sorts of limitations as to how the EPA can share information and that creates problems on a local and state level.

“The industry needs to take a leadership role to drive change,” he added.

The EDF also said chemical manufacturers should be held to a greater standard of responsibility, claiming that manufacturers should be required to provide basic information on health hazards associated with their chemicals.

In addition, chemical companies should bear an increased responsibility to demonstrate the safety of their products before hitting the marketplace, as opposed to the current system where chemicals are presumed safe until proven harmful, the EDF said.

While those issues drew some opposition from the chemical lobby, the ACC and a leading consumer group said that by and large, the two sides were working toward the same goal.

“We’ve been in conversation with the environmental and consumer-based groups, and we’ll continue to be,” Dooley said. “Our objectives have a lot in common.”

“The best way to modernise policy is to bring all the stakeholders to the table,” said Chris Cathcart, chief executive of the Consumer Specialty Products Association.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Ben DuBose
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