EPA Doesn't Bother to Collect Chemical Safety Data From Companies

August 27, 2008

 Neither EPA nor the American public know very much about the possible health effects of tens of thousands of chemicals used in commerce and consumer products every day. Ten years ago, EPA and industry agreed to a stopgap program to speed research and data collection on the most worrisome — some 3,000 "high production volume" chemicals produced in quantities of over 1 million pounds annually.

Ten years later, that urgent stopgap program has yielded scant results. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters Meg Kissinger and Susanne Rust highlighted the problem by focusing on a single plant in Milwaukee.

In a neighborhood on Milwaukee's South Side, they report, "a company called Milport Enterprises makes more than a million pounds a year of a chemical that no one knows much about, not even the company executives. This is despite a decade of promises by the federal government to provide safety information about just such chemicals."

"It's called sodium glucoheptonate and it's used to clean industrial tubs so that calcium doesn't form rings or clumps," Kissinger and Rust report. "The chemical is regularly used as a cleanser at dairies, breweries and food processing plants. The government estimates that nationally about 75,000 workers come into contact with this chemical on a regular basis."

The article continues: "One other Wisconsin company makes a chemical in quantities of a million pounds or more a year but has not submitted any safety data on it, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. ChemDesign Products Inc. of Marinette makes a chemical commonly known as DPE used to coat paper. There are no studies published on the safety of this chemical in any of the online search engines. To date, the EPA has not ordered the company to report information."