US chem industry warns against restrictive toxics law revisions

30 March 2010 15:19  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--US chemical industry representatives on Tuesday called for revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in line with principles articulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) while warning against overly restrictive regulations.

US Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) is likely to introduce new TSCA legislation within three weeks, said Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), during a panel at the Global Chemical Regulations Conference in Baltimore, Maryland.

The ACC is committed to working with Congress on efforts such as the Lautenberg bill, Dooley said, but industry is sceptical that there is enough time remaining in the year with roughly 20 weeks left in the legislative session to strike a balance in TSCA legislation.

While the ACC said it largely agrees with principles outlined last September by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for guiding TSCA reform, many details of how to implement reform remain open to debate, Dooley said.

"It's like landing a plane," Dooley commented. "Everything looks fine at 30,000 feet, but at the last 10 or 5 feet is where it gets real difficult."

For example, Dooley said, a new TSCA law must distinguish between pesticides, where one chemical may have one use, and industrial chemicals - where a chemical might have 100 different uses. Federal regulations must be flexible enough to take these differences into account, he said.

Lawrence Sloan, president of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), warned that Congress and EPA should not seek to upset a balance that largely has been working since TSCA went into effect in 1976.

While industry and government agree that chemical safety standards should protect people and the environment, a highly toxic chemical used in a tightly-controlled industrial environment is of relatively low risk to public health, Sloan noted.

The US could also learn from other governments and reset the inventory of 80,000 chemicals currently on the books, "narrowing the universe" to a manageable number of chemicals and better reflecting those currently used in the marketplace, Sloan said.

While doing so, EPA should avoid restrictive standards and a "one size fits all" approach to industrial chemicals, Sloan said. "De facto regulations" could paint a false picture of chemical safety by disregarding differences between pesticides, foods and drugs.

Restrictive regulations could also drive American small batch chemical manufacturers out of business and shift chemical production overseas, Sloan warned.

Jim Jones, deputy assistant administrator in the office of prevention with the EPA’s pesticides and toxic substances division, reiterated that there were numerous principles with which the associations largely agreed.

Those principles include a review of safety standards on sound science to protect human health and the environment; the exchange of necessary information to review the safety of new and existing chemicals; risk management decisions that account for sensitive subpopulations, availability of substitutes, and economic factors; prioritisation of harmful chemicals for review; fostering green chemistry, transparency, and public access to information; and adequate federal funding for TSCA implementation, he said.

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By: Mickey McCarter
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