[Pharmwaste] Chemical industry calls for tougher regulation

Bowling, Patrick gbowling at state.pa.us
Fri Feb 27 13:01:25 EST 2009


Chemical industry calls for tougher regulation

By Meg Kissinger of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Feb. 26, 2009

Chemical makers said Thursday that the public has lost trust in the government's ability to regulate toxic chemicals and called for federal oversight to be improved.

"The public has no confidence in government regulation," said Mark Rohr, chairman of Albemarle Corp., who serves on the board of the American Chemistry Council. "It is in everyone's interest to strengthen the law."

Rohr's comments in a conference call with reporters came after a congressional subcommittee met to discuss how to strengthen federal regulation of dangerous chemicals.

The hearing highlighted issues outlined in the Journal Sentinel's "Chemical Fallout" series. The newspaper showed how Environmental Protection Agency scientists have failed to screen a single chemical in the agency's endocrine disrupter program. One EPA program designed to identify chemicals particularly harmful to children has stalled altogether.

The series also revealed how the agency allows companies to keep new information about their chemicals secret, including compounds that have been shown to cause cancer and respiratory problems.

In calling for changes, industry officials said they were breaking with their past position of support for the existing Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.

Officials said they were doing this to boost consumer confidence in their products. They called for improvements to the federal law, which gives the EPA the ability to regulate chemicals considered dangerous. But industry officials stopped short of calling for a complete overhaul of the act.

Earlier in the day, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection heard testimony on the law's failures.

"The statute is supposed to provide EPA with adequate regulatory tools to protect the public from unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment," said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) subcommittee chairman. "Unfortunately, the statute has seemingly been a failure on both of these basic policy goals."

The hearing was the first of several intended to overhaul the nation's laws overseeing toxic chemicals.

Richard Denison, senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, one of 10 witnesses to testify Thursday, said the federal law sets too high a threshold to prove that a chemical is dangerous.

He noted, for instance, that the EPA failed to outlaw asbestos, despite 45,000 pages of documents and 10 years of research chronicling its dangers.

"If it doesn't allow asbestos to be banned, something is badly broken," Denison said.

American Chemistry Council President Cal Dooley said the law is not broken but "in dire need of modernization." He outlined a plan to restructure the law that includes having EPA scientists prioritize which chemicals should be tested first and allow them to share their data with other governments, including state and foreign regulators.

Dooley said the EPA should use updated testing measures, and he called for an increase in funding and staff.

Environmental advocates applauded the effort to reform the law.

"Torrential outpourings of new scientific findings over the past decade make it clear that this law lies in the scientific Jurassic," said J. Peterson Myers, executive director of Environmental Health Sciences, an environmental watchdog group.

The Series

Warning: Chemicals in the packaging, surfaces or contents of many products may cause long-term health effects, including cancers of the breast, brain and testicles; lowered sperm counts, early puberty and other reproductive system defects; diabetes; attention deficit disorder, asthma and autism. A decade ago, the government promised to test these chemicals. It still hasn't.

Read the complete Journal Sentinel investigation:

G. Patrick Bowling, P.G. | Source Water Protection Coordinator
PA Department of Environmental Protection
Rachel Carson State Office Building
400 Market Street | P.O. Box 8555
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8555
Phone: 717-772-4048 | Fax: 717-787-9549
Email: gbowling at state.pa.us  www.depweb.state.pa.us

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