EPA announced Wednesday that staff from the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention are making good on a promise to give the public increased access to health and safety studies about the toxic chemicals that pervade our lives. I applaud EPA for their work. Until Congress reforms TSCA to free EPA’s hand in regulating toxic chemicals, we have to rely too much on an imperfect alternative system, where public interest groups use publicly available data to inform the public about risks and campaign for chemical limits at the state level (see, e.g., BPA). . Broad access to the health and safety studies that EPA has just released, along with the TSCA Inventory and Chemical Access Data Tool, ensures that public interest groups and consumer advocates will have plenty of evidence to back their campaigns.
EPA’s data release is part of an ongoing effort to reassess whether certain information, once claimed to be confidential business information by the company submitting it to the agency, still deserves the protections that go along with the CBI designation. Under various sections of TSCA, chemical companies must submit health and safety studies about their chemicals to EPA. For instance, under § 8(e), companies must submit any study “which reasonably supports the conclusion that [a] substance or mixture presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment.” Skimming over EPA's list of recently released studies, it looks like many were 8(e) submissions.
The reason EPA is cleaning house, so to speak, is that, in many instances, companies would stamp data in the study or the company’s name or even the identity of the chemical as "CBI." So even though EPA dutifully put copies of 8(e) submissions on their website, the studies weren’t much use to outside researchers or advocates because they were missing key information. This week's release is a big step in the right direction.