Monday, January 04, 2010

Toxic Substances Control Act Exempts Disclosure Of Certain Proprietary Chemicals

The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TOSCA) requires manufacturers to report new chemicals they intend to market to the federal government, but the law exempts from public disclosure any information that could harm their bottom line. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States, nearly 20 percent are secret. The policy was designed to protect trade secrets in a highly competitive industry.

Congress is set to rewrite chemical regulations this year for the first time in a generation. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in the past several years, 95 percent of the notices for new chemicals sent to the government requested some secrecy. Their names and physical properties are guarded from consumers and virtually all public officials. About 700 chemicals are introduced annually.

The Congressional review holds implication for hydraulic fracturing, which is used to extract natural gas because proprietary chemicals are used in that process.

The Center wants Congress to force manufacturers to prove that a substance should be kept confidential. We also want federal officials to be able to share confidential information with state regulators and health officials, who carry out much of the EPA's work across the country. (WashPost, 1/4/10)

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