Smart discussion about toxics policy reform

Key stakeholders share ideas about TSCA reform

The morning session of today’s historic conference exploring routes to federal chemical policy reform made clear that there is now a strong consensus among key stakeholders – industry, the EPA and the White House, the environmental health community – on the need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.  Thanks to today’s event, we now have the pleasure of discussing them.

Historic consensus to reform TSCA

A stakeholder consensus to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is now in place.  There is agreement that EPA should have greater authority to assess chemicals before they hit the market.  A sincere will to sort out policy differences both to boost consumer confidence and protect public health now exists.  Stakeholders come to this position for different reasons and from different angles, but we’re there, sharing a commitment to reform that can take us from today all the way to a new law.

There is an upbeat feeling in the room this morning about working together to modernize TSCA – quickly.  As Cal Dooley, President & CEO of the American Chemistry Council, aptly described, the goal of this important conversation is to bring stakeholders with diverse perspectives down from the 30,000-feet view of TSCA reform  – where there’s much consensus (modernize it!) — to 10,000 feet, then 5,000, 1,000, then ultimately in sight of the air strip.

Of course, the last 10 feet can be the most critical part of any landing, and there are some significant differences to tease out before we reach the ground.   But, importantly, the sincere will is there and the necessary stakeholders are ready for this much-needed descent to consensus.

And now for those devilish details…

Once aboard this historic flight, we got down to the work we came together to do: defining our areas of agreement, sorting out our differences, and thinking of ways to move the reform process forward.  One main commonality is the drive to serve consumers.  Industry is driven by the need to restore consumer confidence in its products, which it knows has been seriously eroded.  Environmental health advocates, too, are driven by the interests of consumers, though their goal is to protect their environmental health rather than to boost their confidence in government and industry.

Important discussion points arose during the audience Q & A sessions that are likely to be on the reform coalition’s “to do” list:

  • How labeling requirements will take shape under TSCA reform.
  • How the use of Confidential Business Information (CBI) claims will be monitored and abuses prevented so that claims are used only when legitimately needed to protect industry innovation.
  • How bio-monitoring can best be used as a tool to prioritize chemicals for regulation.
  • How industry-funded data will be substantiated so that the information will be accepted by all stakeholders.
  • How multiple chemical exposures will be measured and assessed.
  • Determine what use & exposure data industry – both chemical and product manufacturers –  already has that can be used to inform EPA’s chemical safety assessments.
  • Define what constitutes a data gap, versus a data need, for evaluating chemical safety.

Presenting the presenters

This morning, we heard from EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson (right), who shared her agency’s important new emphasis on TSCA reform, and two panels with nine experts from a variety of stakeholders:

Panel 1: Chemicals policy for the 21st century

  • Suzie Canales, President, Citizens for Environmental Justice (participant in EWG’s 2009 body burden analysis)
  • Pamela Bailey, President and CEO, Grocery Manufacturers Association
  • Cal Dooley, CEO, American Chemistry Council
  • Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group
  • Peter deFur, Virginia Commonwealth University, Center for Environmental Studies
  • Chris Cathcart, President and CEO, Consumer Products Specialty Association
  • Moderated by Erik Olson, Director of Food & Consumer Product Safety, Pew Health Group

Panel 2: Providing adequate information on hazard, exposure, and use

  • Leo Trasande, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Mt. Sinai Medical Center
  • Tom Zoeller, Professor of Biology, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • Mary Marrero, Regulatory Affairs Manager, Proctor & Gamble
  • Richard Sedlak, Senior Vice President, Technical and International, Soap and detergent Association
  • Moderated by David Baker, Community Against Pollution

The next live post from this conference will cover our afternoon panels:

  • Panel 3 – Prioritizing EPA review of chemicals,
  • Panel 4 – Modernizing the TSCA safety standard, and
  • Panel 5 – The policy outlook.

Today is the first conversation in this collective stakeholder process, but certainly not the last.  To continue the apt airplane metaphor introduced by ACC President Cal Dooley, each conversation will bring us closer to the landing strip – even if by just a few hundred feet each time.

Catch the conference live, it’s almost as good as being here.

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3 Responses to “Key stakeholders share ideas about TSCA reform”

  1. Heather Hollingsworth says:

    congratulations. as a chemically sensitive person facing the ubiquitous nature of chemicals in the world i applaud you. let’s continue this uphill battle.

  2. Regina Nabours says:

    Even If this new regulation is started how is that going to help the 93 to 82 percent of the population already infected with these chemical toxins remove the toxins. The mass media if and possibly when the “public” finally learns the hazards of chemicals will the health factors of the last 100 to 150 years of using these toxins be fixed. There is no majic pill to fix this huge and tragic problem. The cost to detoxify americans alone would be astronamical.

    • Elaine Shannon says:

      Thanks for doing your part, Regina. Obviously, we agree, and we’re doing our best to build a national consensus for stringent regulation of releases of toxic chemicals. Some of these synthetics last practically forever. Others degrade, but not before they get into the bloodstreams of pregnant women and young children. Elaine Shannon