Industry Safety Initiative Deserves Applause

The American Chemistry Council is moving proactively to influence legislation.

By Mark Rosenzweig, Editor in Chief

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The European Union (EU) clearly is setting the pace for tougher chemical safety regulations. Companies that make, supply or handle chemicals within the EU now must contend with its Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) legislation. The deadline for the first round of chemicals’ registrations occurs in 2010. The European Chemicals Agency, Helsinki, Finland, administers the regulation and provides extensive details about it on its Web site, http://echa.europa.eu/home_en.asp. (For analysis of prospective animal-testing costs for REACH compliance, see “REACH Expands Its Range.")

The U.S. undoubtedly will enact updated and more-stringent regulation, too. After all, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) dates back to 1976. Rather than just reacting to legislation, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Arlington, Va., an industry trade group that includes most major U.S. chemical companies among its members, has wisely decided not to wait. In August it proposed that policy makers focus on 10 principles for modernizing TSCA.

The U.S. undoubtedly will enact updated and more-stringent regulations, too.

 “The chemical industry is committed to the safety of our products. Any effort to modernize our nation’s chemical management system must start with consumer safety as its highest priority. Current law is more than 30 years old and the law must be updated to keep pace with science,” declared Cal Dooley, president and CEO of ACC at a press briefing. CEOs of member companies as well as of the Consumer Specialty Products Association and the Soap and Detergent Association also took part.

“Some might be surprised that we in the industry are supporting enhanced regulation. They shouldn’t be. We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars annually in testing and research and support a robust chemicals management system. High priority chemicals should be tested and evaluated under generally accepted scientific principles and the effort should be overseen by an Environmental Protection Agency that is provided adequate resources to do its job,” commented Dave Kepler, executive vice president, Dow Chemical Co.

“Modernizing the federal chemical management system properly also will help assure that the business of chemistry continues to serve as a critical American asset. A strong law is crucial to consumer safety, but so is industry innovation,” noted Mark Rohr, president and CEO, Albemarle Corp. “America’s prosperity is rooted in healthy businesses that create jobs and improve people’s lives. A modern federal statute that enables government and industry to work together on safety means we all succeed,” added Tom Shepherd, CEO, Shepherd Chemical Co. and chairman of ACC’s Small Business Council.

Here’s a rundown of the 10 principles:

1. Chemicals should be safe for their intended use.

2. EPA should systematically prioritize chemicals for purposes of safe use determinations.

3. EPA should act expeditiously and efficiently in making safe use determinations.

4. Companies that manufacture, import, process, distribute or use chemicals should be required to provide EPA with relevant information to extent necessary for EPA to make safe use determinations.

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