EPA To Reform Toxic Chemical RegulationsSep 30, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced its plans to review six controversial toxic chemicals, Environmental Health News is reporting.
President Obama’s top environmental official—EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson—announced a plan to change how the United States regulates toxic chemicals that could present adverse effects to people and the environment, said Environmental Health News. Jackson said the currently followed 1975 law is “inordinately cumbersome and time-consuming” and that the Obama administration will promote a new chemical law in Congress that geared to place the onus on industry to prove the chemicals are safe, reported Environmental Health News.
In the interim, the agency plans on analyzing and regulating “six high-profile, widely used chemicals” said Environmental Health News, that have caused serious concerns among consumers and experts alike. Among the chemicals are bisphenol A—BPA—and phthalates, toxins about which we have been writing for some time. Brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, and some parafins will also be reviewed.
BPA is known for is plastic-hardening properties while phthalates are used to make plastics more flexible. Brominated flame retardants are often used in electronics; perfluorinates are known for being used in nonstick coatings; and parafins are found in lubricants, said Environmental Health news, which noted that benzidine dyes and pigments will also be addressed.
These chemicals, as readers of this blog are aware, are hormone mimickers that can interrupt fetal development, development in growing children, and have been linked to a wide array of serious disorders including cancer, diabetes, reproductive and genital disorders, and neurological and behavioral problems.
The move is a long hoped-for and welcome change following the industry-friendly Bush administration. Just three years ago said Environmental Health News, key EPA leaders testified before Congress, defending the Toxic Substances Control Act as being effective in keeping Americans safe from industrial compounds. Since, consumers, advocates, and scientific experts have come out with report after report detailing the serious dangers these chemicals have and can pose to humans and the environment.
Currently, about 7,000 chemicals are either produced or imported in amounts over 25,000 pound into this country annually, said Environmental Health News, citing industry figures. Of these, a mere five have been banned or restricted since the law was put in place over three decades ago, noted Environmental Health News. The law mandates the EPA prove a toxic substance "presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment," and look at the financial implications of stemming such use and decide on "the least burdensome" approach to regulate industry, quoted Environmental Health News. An example of how this law has failed is best seen with asbestos, which although mostly banned, was tossed out of court when manufacturers won a 1989 court battle in 1989; “The asbestos decision had a chilling effect” on the EPA, Jackson said, quoted Environmental Health.
Jackson said the agency will look at the six chemicals and develop an action plan containing strict deadlines for exposure limits, among other steps. More chemicals will be added after the initial six, said Environmental Health. About 80,000 chemicals, many commonly found, have no record of health and safety information.