Environmental Health & Safety

Industry Safety Initiative Deserves Applause

The American Chemistry Council is moving proactively to influence legislation.

By Mark Rosenzweig, Editor in Chief

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.

5. Potential risks faced by children should be an important factor in safe use determinations.

6. EPA should be empowered to impose a range of controls to ensure that chemicals are safe for their intended use.

7. Companies and EPA should work together to enhance public access to chemical safety and health information.

8. EPA should rely on scientifically valid data and information, regardless of its source, including data and information reflecting modern advances in science and technology.

9. EPA should have the staff, resources and regulatory tools it needs to ensure the safety of chemicals.

10. A modernized TSCA should encourage technological innovation and a globally competitive industry in the U.S.

ACC elaborates on these principles on its Web site at www.americanchemistry.com/s_acc/sec_article_acc.asp?CID=2178&DID=9939. For instance, it provides two bullet points for Principle No. 2:

• Government and industry resources should be focused on chemicals of highest concern.
• The priorities should reflect considerations such as the volume of a chemical in commerce; its uses, including whether it is formulated in products for children; its detection in biomonitoring programs; its persistent or bioaccumulative properties; and the adequacy of available information.

“These 10 principles provide a roadmap needed to build a more-effective chemical management system that ensures consumer safety while preserving America’s role as the world’s leading innovator and creator of safe and environmentally sound technologies and products. We look forward and are committed to working with Congress, the Administration, and all stakeholders toward enactment of effective legislation,” Dooley emphasized.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association, a group representing occupational and environmental health and safety professionals, has applauded ACC’s move.
I also applaud ACC’s proactive and constructive approach. Let’s hope it leads to legislation that the public as well as the chemical industry can embrace.