By exploiting loopholes in the law, the chemical industry for decades has systematically subverted Environmental Protection Agency efforts to protect public health, a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found.
As a result, the industry has made enormous profits while delaying restrictions on unsafe chemicals, largely by ginning up scientific uncertainties, according to the NRDC study, released today.
“These industry tactics have prolonged the exposure of millions of people to toxic chemicals such as TCE, formaldehyde and styrene, which can cause serious harm,” said Jennifer Sass, senior scientist with NRDC’s Health Program.
Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is a solvent used for metal degreasing; formaldehyde is a cancer-causing agent used to manufacture plywood, particle boards and glues; and styrene is a toxic substance found in plastics, latex paint, synthetic rubbers and polyesters.
“People have been sickened by these chemicals through household products, drinking water, indoor air and industrial uses, and some have died as a result,” Sass said.
The NRDC report, “The Delay Game: How the Chemical Industry Ducks Regulation of the Most Toxic Substances,” is a case-study of how the chemical industry has stymied government action that would protect the public from exposure to TCE, formaldehyde and styrene.
The study highlights the need to update the 35-year old Toxic Substances Control Act, so that the EPA can test, assess and regulate chemicals in a timely manner in order to protect public health. Because the law has never been updated, the public has been exposed to thousands of chemicals in consumer products that have never been tested for safety by EPA.
The remedies include establishing enforceable deadlines for the EPA to complete its chemical assessments, setting interim health-protective standards if assessments are not completed on time, and restricting the expansion or new uses of a chemical pending completion of the assessment.
“The EPA should be able to make timely decisions to protect our health; not be delayed for decades by the chemical industry,” said NRDC Senior Attorney Daniel Rosenberg.