The Inside Story
Voluntary Chemical Safety Testing: How self regulation blocked independent science
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Voluntary testing can "allow CMA... to potentially avert restrictive regulatory actions and legislative initiatives." (view entire document) "Burdensome changes to TSCA, such as a mandated list of chemicals for base set testing, may be averted because of industry support of these voluntary programs." - Rationale for CMA Policy and Proposed Response to EPA Regarding TRI Chemicals 1992 (view entire document)
In 1976, as the Chemical Manufacturers Association was waging a fierce battle against passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), near-panic gripped the industry as chemical companies faced the prospect of the federal government requiring comprehensive health and safety testing for all new and existing chemicals. It sounds like common sense. But the chemical industry need not have worried: As enacted, TSCA is the weakest U.S. environmental law on the books. And it is the only U.S. pollution law that has never been modernized or strengthened since original passage.
Contrary to its original intent, TSCA enshrined in federal law the complete absence of mandated chemical health and safety tests. This statutory void later became the raison d'etre for the industry's strong support for voluntary testing - that is, testing completely controlled by the chemical companies. This culminated in 1998 with the industry-supported government initiative for voluntary testing of high production volume (HPV) chemicals - the approximately 2,900 chemicals that are most heavily used out of more than 70,000 chemicals in commerce.
More than 20 years after the passage of TSCA, only seven percent of HPV chemicals had received even a preliminary health screen. No wonder, then, that the chemical industry supports voluntary testing and screening (as opposed to full-blown health effects studies) - as long as the results are not used for "regulatory control purposes." (view entire document)
CMA documents show that chemical companies support voluntary testing - not in order to gather the data necessary to assess health effects and develop regulatory controls - but because it's good for the chemical industry's image with the public and regulators. Voluntary efforts, CMA argues, "allow industry to take the lead and greatly influence the process." (view entire document)
According to an industry document in 1992:
In fact, TSCA has become the chemical industry's favorite public health law, held up as a model for "workable" statutes. In a 1984 internal report, CMA comes close to praising the Act, at least compared to possible amendments that might make TSCA meaningful: "[T]he law itself is adequate, and ... EPA has learned how to administer it." (view entire document)
last updated: march.27.2009