We're behind the Europeans in this, because before the 1976 law, which I've been mentioning lately, Jimmy Carter was trying to put through these new European-style regulations but was blocked by laissez faire monopolists. It was the end of fast-tracking environmentalism. We were way ahead in environmentalism, but stupid people who ended up coming to the fore under Ronald Reagan, did exactly the wrong things. It was stupid and shortsighted. It was brought forth by the selfish, greedy ones who care more about their short-term profits than long-term costs to the whole planet and the whole of humanity, including their own offspring.
It's too bad that governments must regulate coercively rather than having companies such as Dow and Monsanto just act responsibly and under the Golden Rule that is that we ought to do unto others as we ought to want others to do unto us (harmlessness).
Chemical Law Has Global Impact
E.U.'s New Rules Forcing Changes By U.S. Firms
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 12, 2008; A01
Europe this month rolled out new restrictions on makers of chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems, changes that are forcing U.S. industries to find new ways to produce a wide range of everyday products.
The new laws in the European Union require companies to demonstrate that a chemical is safe before it enters commerce — the opposite of policies in the United States, where regulators must prove that a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market.
...American manufacturers are already searching for safer alternatives to chemicals used to make thousands of consumer goods, from bike helmets to shower curtains.
The European Union's tough stance on chemical regulation is the latest area in which the Europeans are reshaping business practices with demands that American companies either comply or lose access to a market of 27 countries and nearly 500 million people.
From its crackdown on antitrust practices in the computer industry to its rigorous protection of consumer privacy, the European Union has adopted a regulatory philosophy that emphasizes the consumer. Its approach to managing chemical risks, which started with a trickle of individual bans and has swelled into a wave, is part of a European focus on caution when it comes to health and the environment.
"This is going to compel companies to be more responsible for their products than they have ever been," said Daryl Ditz, senior policy adviser at the Center for International Environmental Law. "They'll have to know more about the chemicals they make, what their products are and where they go."
The laws also call for the European Union to create a list of "substances of very high concern" — those suspected of causing cancer or other health problems. Any manufacturer wishing to produce or sell a chemical on that list must receive authorization.
In the United States, laws in place for three decades have made banning or restricting chemicals extremely difficult. The nation's chemical policy, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, grandfathered in about 62,000 chemicals then in commercial use. Chemicals developed after the law's passage did not have to be tested for safety. Instead, companies were asked to report toxicity information to the government, which would decide if additional tests were needed.
In more than 30 years, the Environmental Protection Agency has required additional studies for about 200 chemicals, a fraction of the 80,000 chemicals that are part of the U.S. market. The government has had little or no information about the health hazards or risks of most of those chemicals.
The EPA has banned only five chemicals since 1976.
The changes in Europe follow eight years of vigorous opposition from the U.S. chemical industry and the Bush administration. Four U.S. agencies — the EPA, the Commerce Department, the State Department and the Office of the Trade Representative — argued that the system would burden manufacturers and offer little public benefit.
DuPont expects to spend "tens of millions" of dollars to register about 500 chemicals with the European Union, Fisher said. About 20 to 30 are expected to make the list of "substances of very high concern."
One such chemical is likely to be perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), used to make Teflon and other substances used in food packaging, carpet, clothing and electrical equipment. A suspected carcinogen, it accumulates in the environment and in human tissue.
DuPont reached a $16.5 million settlement with the EPA in 2005 on charges that it illegally withheld information about health risks posed by PFOA and about water pollution near a West Virginia plant. Dupont and other companies have agreed to cease production by 2015.
Linking the word "concern" to a chemical is enough to trigger a market reaction. Earlier this year, when government officials in Canada and the United States said they worried about health effects possibly caused by bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in plastics, major retailers pulled from their shelves baby bottles containing the chemical.
"When we see lead in toys and BPA in baby bottles, all of these things arouse a kind of parental anxiety that overrides any counter-arguments based on science that industry might make," Jasanoff said.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced a measure last month that would overhaul U.S. chemical regulation along the lines of the new European approach. It would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use biomonitoring studies to identify industrial chemicals present in umbilical cord blood and decide whether those chemicals should be restricted or banned. A study by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group found an average of 200 industrial chemicals in the cord blood of newborns.
Said Denison: "We still have quite a ways to go in convincing the U.S. Congress this is a problem that needs fixing." But new policies in Europe and in Canada push the United States closer to change, he said. "They show it's feasible, it's being done elsewhere, and we're behind."