Secret White House Review Paralyzes Chemical Safety

May 22, 2013

An EPA initiative to protect American consumers from toxic chemicals, especially endocrine disruptors, has run into a brick wall put up by the Obama White House at the urging of the chemical industry. While the law requires information and arguments on which federal regulations are based to be open and on the record, back-room review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB)  allows special interest groups to subvert those regulations in secret.

In 2009, during her first year in office, former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced that EPA would establish a "chemicals of concern" list for special regulatory attention using its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The list, as eventually proposed by EPA, included a number of chemicals common in consumer products that have been controversial because of the potential for endocrine disruption — including bisphenol A, phthalates, and flame-retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

Reporter Jim Morris at the Center for Public Integrity wrote May 13, 2013, that OMB had been sitting on EPA's proposed "chemicals of concern" list for three whole years. The executive order that authorizes OMB to sandbag regulations specifically requires OMB to make its decision on them within four months at most.