The Case for Transparency: Unveiling the Dirty Secrets of Industry

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Guest blog by Breast Cancer Fund Senior Policy Strategist Nancy Buermeyer

On Thurs., Aug. 21, the Breast Cancer Fund joined Earthjustice and 4 other health, labor and environmental groups in filing a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting that the agency establish time limits for confidentiality claims regarding chemical information submitted by industry under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Under TSCA, industry has wide latitude to claim chemical information is confidential, meaning companies can hide chemical information from state and local governments, medical professionals, health organizations, research institutions and the general public. Companies frequently designate the very identity of the chemicals they use as confidential business information (CBI). The EPA has limited authority and even fewer resources to challenge these designations, so the vast majority of CBI claims are simply accepted without serious review of their legitimacy.

As a result more than half of the 24,000 chemicals approved for use in commerce since 1982 are secrets!

And once designated as CBI, this information remains secret indefinitely, regardless of whether or not there ever was or there remains justification for this secrecy. We believe that the identity and basic safety information on ALL chemicals in commerce should be made available—and industry should bear the burden of proof to show that chemicals are safe.

The lack of access to this information impedes the right of the public to know what chemicals we are exposed to as well as the ability of government and academic scientists to further study the potential health risks.

Industry abuse and lack of EPA enforcement has led to reams of data about potentially toxic chemicals being shielded from public scrutiny. It’s past time for the EPA to more fully exercise its authority under TSCA to, at the very least, limit the duration of these “confidentiality claims.” Weighing corporate secrecy versus the health of our families is an easy call; it’s time for the EPA to act to protect families.

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