Workplace exposures

Coalition petitions EPA for time limits on confidential chemical info

Washington – A coalition of health, labor and environmental groups has filed a petition seeking to end chemical manufacturers’ ability to indefinitely maintain “confidentiality claims” for information submitted under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Substances Control Act.

Such information could be valuable to workers and others exposed to chemicals, according to the petition, dated Aug. 21.

The groups note that EPA sets no final date for protection of confidential information about chemicals submitted by businesses under the act. The petition calls for a “sunset rule” that would allow a confidentiality claim – intended to help manufacturers protect trade secrets – to expire after five years unless the claimant can prove that confidentiality remains necessary.

Law organization Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Breast Cancer Fund, the BlueGreen Alliance (a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations), the New Jersey Work Environment Council and the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice signed the petition.

The petition cites a 1992 investigative report, commissioned by EPA, about how its Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics has handled confidential business information under the act. The report states that the confidential business information impedes workers’ and the public’s “right to know,” government regulatory programs and scientific research, among others.