Much has been said about TSCA reform, and most of it has been positive. In fact, the process of creating and passing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was recently signed into law by President Obama, brought together chemical industry representatives and environmentalists alike.
But not everyone is convinced chemical law reform will protect public health.
According to Angela Logomasini, a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a nonprofit policy organization focused on free enterprise and limited government, TSCA reform has the potential to do more harm than good.
Instead of protecting consumers from harmful chemicals, Logomasini argues that under the new law, consumers “will suffer from decreased choice, inferior products and higher prices.”
At the heart of the issue for Logomasini and CEI is the additional chemical safety testing that will be required by the Environmental Protection Agency. Under the new law, the EPA can evaluate toxic chemicals and ban them more easily than before because the agency doesn’t have to consider the cost of regulations when creating them.
In theory, the law would help get toxic substances out of the hands from consumers who could be unwillingly harmed by them. But Logomasini says that this additional scrutiny is likely to set off unnecessary public hysteria over chemicals that may not be dangerous in the trace amounts found in consumer products.
“What this just means is that the EPA will more randomly ask for data, which will create more news and more hype,” she says.
The consequence of this additional testing is that chemicals that serve a vital function in the marketplace could be unnecessarily yanked off the shelves.
Logomasini pointed to BPA as a prime example of how hype can overrule science. After concerns were raised about the negative health impact of BPA exposure and BPA awareness spread among consumers, a wide range of manufacturers have taken the chemical out of their products — from food cans to plastics. The push to go “BPA Free” has continued even as major regulatory bodies have found that our current levels of BPA exposure are safe.
And in the midst of the changes, many manufacturers switched to using an alternative chemical, BPS, which studies have found could be just as dangerous as BPA.
“It’s unfortunate because consumers are the ones who suffer when chemicals like BPA are randomly taken off the market,” Logomasini says.
Rather than shielding chemical manufacturers from bad publicity like the ongoing BPA scare, Logomasini says the spotlight will only shine more hotly on the industry.
“The industry is trying to get around the bad PR of things like BPA. They think TSCA is going to protect them from that, but I don’t think it will,” she says.
Logomasini also says the new testing requirements could undermine innovation.
“Maybe if industry wasn’t spending so much money testing chemicals with a slight risk, they could spend more money making products that help with real risks,” she says.
Supporters of TSCA reform have praised the fact at the new law will provide consistency to regulations, a point Logomasini sympathizes with. She also says that some of the negative publicity could be avoided if the chemicals industry did a better job of promoting itself and convincing American consumers that its products are vital — and safe.
Only time will tell if Logomasini is right about her warnings of TSCA reform. Even with the EPA’s new mandate to test more chemicals, critics have argued that process is likely to be slow. One group predicted that testing the 90 chemicals identified as “high priority” could take up to 35 years.