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Limiting Secrecy of Critical Public Health Information

People are exposed to chemicals in their homes and workplaces.

People are exposed to chemicals in their communities, homes and workplaces every day, but often lack access to critical information about the safety of these chemicals.

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What's at Stake

EPA currently sets no end date for the protection from disclosure of critical information about the safety of chemicals in communities, homes and workplaces, essentially allowing it to be shrouded in secrecy indefinitely.

Case Overview

A broad coalition of health, labor and environmental groups represented by Earthjustice have filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting that the agency establish time limits for confidentiality claims for chemical information submitted by industry under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

People are exposed to chemicals in their communities, homes and workplaces every day, but often lack access to critical information about the safety of these chemicals. Under TSCA, industry is given wide latitude to claim such information confidential, making it unavailable to state and local governments, medical professionals, health organizations, research institutions and the general public. EPA currently sets no end date for the protection from disclosure of this information, essentially allowing it to be shrouded in secrecy indefinitely.

The petition details how current EPA rules impose unnecessary costs on the agency and the public by allowing confidentiality claims that continue indefinitely. The result is excessive and often unwarranted claims made worse by a loophole in EPA regulations, which makes practically all confidentiality protection indefinite by default. Currently, an unmanageable burden falls on the EPA to challenge these claims on a case-by-case basis, instead of requiring industry to ensure its claims remain valid.

The coalition’s petition offers a simple solution, urged by experts for many years, to create a “sunset rule” that would allow true trade secrets to be maintained, but ensure that information no longer warranting protection is made public. Under this solution, an approved confidentiality claim would generally expire after five years unless the industry claimant can prove that continued confidentiality is still necessary.

Case Updates

August 27, 2014 | Blog Post

Business Confidentiality Shouldn’t Trump Chemical Safety

We’re exposed to toxic chemicals day in and day out. Hampered by attacks on almost any effort to get information to the public and to oversee chemicals out in the marketplace, the federal government fails to protect us.