States Push Congress, EPA To End Toxic Trade Secrets

March 10, 2010

Do commercial products we have body contact with contain toxic chemicals? In too many cases, states and environmentalists are saying, the federal government forbids consumers from knowing.

Loopholes in the ancient Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 have allowed companies to claim product ingredients to be trade secrets — and EPA has interpreted the law as tying its hands. Of the roughly 84,000 chemicals in commercial use, some 16,000 are classified as "confidential business information" — often with little showing that they are indeed worthy of confidentiality.

"But of the thousands of confidentiality claims it receives every year," reported Sara Goodman in Greenwire March 1, "EPA has challenged on average 14 annually."

Now a group of 13 major states are pushing Congress to revise TSCA, and EPA says it will start granting fewer confidentiality claims.

A recent report by EPA's Inspector General suggested that the TSCA program was broken, blind, and not protecting Americans from toxic chemical threats — and that unchallenged trade secrets claims were a big part of the problem.