Seven years later, federal toxics law is still protecting the chemical industry’s dirty secrets
Off the Books II: More Secret Chemicals : Chemicals Produced in Significant Volume
As a complement to the TSCA Inventory for the most commonly used chemicals, EPA implemented the Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) program in 1982. It requires that companies that produce or import a chemical in quantities over 25,000 pounds a year at a single facility submit general information to EPA once every five years – including where it was produced, how much was produced and who produced it.[i] Since the first reports in 1986, there have been five reporting periods and snapshots of data collected by EPA. There have been a few changes to reporting requirements but the number of chemicals reported under the system have remained close to 8,000 in each reporting period.[ii]
In 2011, EPA renamed the program Chemical Data Reporting (CDR). Under it, companies producing or importing at least 25,000 pounds a year of a chemical at one facility must collect information annually and report once every four years. The latest CDR update lowered the reporting threshold for use and processing information from 300,000 pounds a year to 100,000.[iii] In the first reports submitted under this threshold in 2012, 1,626 companies listed 7,690 chemicals produced or imported at 4,785 sites.[iv]
The 2012 CDR report detailed under what circumstances a business can place a confidentiality (CBI) claim on a chemical and how the EPA would substantiate those claims.
“Submitters may designate individual CDR data elements as CBI when they report information. However, chemical identity may only be claimed confidential if the chemical is listed on the confidential portion of the TSCA Inventory. Processing and use data elements can be claimed as CBI if a manufacturer (including importer) believes that the release of information will reveal trade secrets or confidential commercial or financial information. Submitters are required to provide upfront substantiations of confidentiality claims for chemical identity, site identification, and processing and use information by answering a series of questions in the reporting form. A blank response or a response that is designated as ‘not known or reasonably ascertainable’ may not be claimed as confidential.”[v]
Under the IUR program, the EPA initially provided very little information on how it regulated confidentiality claims. The 2012 CDR report said 27 percent of submissions had claimed confidentiality on the chemicals’ use or processing information.
For its 2009 “Off the Books” report, EWG requested information on how many IUR (now CDR) chemicals had been listed as confidential throughout the program’s history. EPA responded that in 1990, there were 261 confidential IUR chemicals. By 2006, that number had skyrocketed, with 1,105 IUR chemicals shielded by confidentiality claims.[vi]
Just before publication of EWG’s 2009 analysis, the agency revoked the confidential status of 530 of the 1,105 IUR chemicals, lowering the total number of confidential, widely produced chemicals down to 575.
EPA continued reviewing CBI claims on chemicals produced in volumes over 100,000 pounds a year, and its 2012 report on the CDR program revealed the the number of confidential claims on medium- and high-production volume chemicals was down to 230. Because of changes in what EPA regulated and reported under the two programs, it is hard to directly compare the IUR and CDR data.
Of the more than 33,000 submissions to the 2012 CDR database, over 14,000 (44 percent) carried at least one confidentiality claim. This number is larger than the CDR list of 7,690 chemicals because it takes into account the numerous sites and companies that produce the same chemicals.[vii]
[i] EPA. Overview of TSCA Inventory Update Reporting (2006). Apr 2007. Available at www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/overview_tscaiur.pdf
[ii] Andrews D. et al. Off the Books: Industry Secret Chemicals. Dec 2009. Available at www.ewg.org/sites/default/files/report/secret-chemicals.pdf
[iii] EPA. 2012 Chemical Data Reporting Results. Apr 26, 2016. Available at www.epa.gov/chemical-data-reporting/2012-chemical-data-reporting-results
[iv] EPA. Fact Sheet: Chemicals Snapshot. June 2014. Available at www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-11/documents/2nd_cdr_snapshot_5_19_14.pdf
[v] EPA. 2012 Chemical Data Reporting Results. Apr 26, 2016. Available at www.epa.gov/chemical-data-reporting/2012-chemical-data-reporting-results
[vi] EPA. TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory Update; Changing Certain Chemical Substances Identities from Confidential to Non-Confidential Retrieved July 28, 2009. Available at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2009-07-28/pdf/E9-17944.pdf
[vii] EPA. Chemical Data Access Tool. from Apr 5, 2016. Available at java.epa.gov/oppt_chemical_search/