New $500 million chemical testing program
provided by Environmental Defense Fund
ach year, manufacturers sell billions of pounds of chemicals for which the public lacks basic data on health effects. Now Vice President Gore, the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA), and the Environmental Defense Fund have announced an unprecedented cooperative program to test nearly 3,000 major industrial chemicals for their effects on health and the environment.
Last year, EDF executive director Fred Krupp invited CEO's of the country's top 100 chemical manufacturing firms to perform those screening tests on their own high-production chemicals. Vice President Gore, on April 21, 1998, then declared his support for EDF's position and called on the U.S. chemical industry, environmentalists, and EPA to design a plan to get all 3,000 high-production chemicals tested.
The testing program was prompted in part by a 1997 EDF study, "Toxic Ignorance," which documented that most U.S. high-production-volume industrial chemicals did not have even basic screening tests for their potential effects on human health anywhere in the public record a fact later confirmed by U.S. EPA and by CMA in separate follow-up studies. Tests on the thousands of chemicals involved are now to be completed by the year 2004, with percentage completion goals for each year in between.
"We've been operating on assumptions instead of facts when it comes to chemical safety," said Krupp. "This testing program will give the public needed information about the most widely used chemicals and will let efforts to curb risks, by both companies and government, focus on the chemicals that testing shows to be hazardous."
Under the new program, chemical manufacturers will volunteer specific chemicals for testing, using agreed-upon tests. Testing will be ordered for high-production chemicals that are not volunteered within 13 months, under a mandatory test rule that EPA will issue in December 1999.
EDF, which has emphasized the importance of continuous public access to the program at every stage, will monitor testing progress and will provide free information to the public on-line at www.scorecard.org, on a chemical-by-chemical and company-by-company basis.
"More tests in less time is to everyone's benefit," said EDF attorney David Roe, "and will bring us closer to the public health protection that Congress promised a quarter-century ago. This is cheaper and more efficient from industry's perspective, and faster and more comprehensive from the public's perspective, than anyone could have forced in a hearing room or in court."
Added EDF attorney Karen Florini, "For far too long, our legal and regulatory system has failed to distinguish between chemicals that are known to be safe and those that simply haven't been tested. That approach is neither scientifically supportable nor protective public health policy. This program marks the end of the 'ignorance-is-bliss' era, and instead makes clear that part of being a responsible chemical maker is having basic data on your products' health and environmental effects."
|The Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national, NY-based nonprofit organization, represents 300,000 members. EDF links science, economics and law to create innovative, equitable and economically viable solutions to today's environmental problems. The web version can be found at www.edf.org/pubs/EDF-Letter/1998/Nov/b_chem.html|