Coalition Asks EPA to Limit Secrecy in Critical Public Health Information
Petition filed to request time limits for confidentiality claims for chemicals
For Immediate Release: Thursday, August 21, 2014
Contact: Rebecca Wolfson, 415.321.2920, firstname.lastname@example.org; Nancy Buermeyer, 415.321.2919, email@example.com; Marianne Engelman Lado, Earthjustice, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212.845.7376 x 7393
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, a broad coalition of health, labor and environmental groups represented by Earthjustice filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting that the agency establish time limits for confidentiality claims for chemical information submitted by industry under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
People are exposed to chemicals in their communities, homes and workplaces every day, but often lack access to critical information about the safety of these chemicals. Under TSCA, industry is given wide latitude to claim such information confidential, making it unavailable to state and local governments, medical professionals, health organizations, research institutions and the general public. EPA currently sets no end date for the protection from disclosure of this information, essentially allowing it to be shrouded in secrecy indefinitely.
"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 exercise its authority under TSCA to, at the very least, limit the duration of these ‘confidentiality claims,’ said Nancy Buermeyer, Senior Policy Strategist for the Breast Cancer Fund. “Weighing corporate secrecy versus the health of our families is an easy call; it’s time for the EPA to act to protect families," Buermeyer said.
General statement from the coalition that submitted the petition:
“Access to safety information about the chemicals you encounter everyday is critical to people, to families and to mothers and fathers making decisions about where they live and work and the products they buy. Setting a time limit on secrecy is a no-nonsense solution that guards true trade secrets, but begins protecting those that need this information the most — the families, workers and communities at risk from these chemicals.”
Statement from Earthjustice’s lead counsel on this case, Marianne Engelman Lado:
“Secrecy pervades the chemical industry, a secrecy that threatens the health of our families, workers and communities. Meaningful reform of TSCA to enhance transparency in the chemical industry is long overdue. But even as we await such reform, EPA can and should place a time limit on confidentiality claims, as one step to increase public access to this critical information and empower all of us in making educated decisions about the chemicals we encounter every day.” The petition details how current EPA rules impose unnecessary costs on the agency and the public by allowing confidentiality claims to continue indefinitely. The result is excessive and often unwarranted claims made worse by a loophole in EPA regulations, which makes practically all confidentiality protection indefinite by default. Currently, an unmanageable burden falls on the EPA to challenge these claims on a case-by-case basis, instead of requiring industry to ensure its claims remain valid.
The coalition’s petition offers a simple solution, urged by experts for many years, to create a “sunset rule” that would allow true trade secrets to be maintained, but ensure that information no longer warranting protection is made public. Under this solution, an approved confidentiality claim would generally expire after five years unless the industry claimant can prove that continued confidentiality is still necessary.
GROUPS THAT SIGNED THE PETITION:
Breast Cancer Fund
Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice
Environmental Defense Fund
New Jersey Work Environment Council
ONLINE VERSION OF STATEMENT: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2014/coalition-asks-epa-to-limit-secrecy-in-critical-public-health-information
The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.
Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.