In the Federal Register last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will no longer permit the obstruction of safety evaluations by allowing firms to hide behind age-old claims of business secrecy. The EPA Administrator had told Congress earlier this year that the heavily lobbied for “confidential business information” protection was keeping the agency’s risk assessors from obtaining vital health and safety data on chemical substances awaiting approval. Thousands of chemicals were not properly evaluated because of the withheld information, she told lawmakers. The agency’s new stance has real-world implications. The EPA’s move means that protection may no longer exist, at least within that agency. Other federal safety agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Food and Drug Administration, apparently still allow the corporate obfuscation. A careful legal interpretation of the long maligned but vital Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) convinced the agency that it could provide more valuable information to the public by identifying data where information may have been claimed and treated as confidential in the past but is not and was not in fact entitled to confidentiality under the TSCA. The EPA said it expects to begin reviews of confidentiality claims — both newly submitted and existing — August 25.
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