"Trade Secrets" — Largely Untested Grounds for Toxic Secrecy

April 22, 2009

Industry secrecy is one of the things that keeps the American public from being fully protected from the harmful effects of chemicals, witnesses told a Congressional hearing February 26, 2009.

Excessive and unjustified claims of trade secrets or "confidential business information" (CBI) dampen EPA's efforts to regulate commonly used chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, witnesses said.

The hearing was held by the House Energy Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Under TSCA, EPA has tried to regulate only 5 of some 80,000 chemicals in commercial use. The House panel is looking at possible amendments to TSCA.

TSCA makes it much easier than other environmental laws for industry to claim that information is confidential business information. Unlike the law establishing the Toxics Release Inventory, for example, it does not require industry to justify secrecy claims up front.