The report finds that many of the hundreds of chemicals already identified as dangerous by the EU are being produced or imported in the United States in large amounts and at many different sites, with Texas at the top of the list. The findings provide compelling evidence for the U.S. Congress to protect public health by reforming the nation's primary chemical safety law, the 32-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act.
'The fact that so many chemicals already designated as dangerous by EU officials are actively being produced and used in the United States should dispel any notion that the problem is limited to only a few 'bad actors,' said Richard A. Denison, Ph.D., EDF Senior Scientist and author of the report. 'Toxic chemicals grabbing recent headlines – such as bisphenol A used in baby bottles and food cans, phthalates used in kids' toys, and flame retardants used in furniture – are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of chemicals that demand scrutiny.'
'This report serves as an early warning to companies making and using these dangerous chemicals that they will be at a competitive disadvantage unless they proactively seek to eliminate exposures and develop safer alternatives,' Denison cautioned. 'Scrutiny of these chemicals is only going to grow, so chemical companies should support efforts to modernize the decades-old U.S. chemicals policy that has shielded chemicals from needed testing and appropriate control.'
Last year, the EU adopted its sweeping new chemicals regulation – Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) – under which companies must register all chemicals they place on the EU market in amounts above one metric ton. A hallmark of REACH is its identification of so-called 'substances of very high concern' (SVHCs). REACH's intent is ultimately to allow use of such SVHCs only when each use has been specifically authorized.
'REACH's requirements will fully apply to U.S. companies that make chemicals for the EU market,' Denison concluded. 'This report is the first to determine which companies report making SVHCs in the United States. Once these chemicals become subject to REACH's authorization requirements, these companies will need permission from EU officials to sell them in the EU.'
EDF based its analysis on a list of nearly 300 SVHCs issued last week by the International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec), a Swedish nongovernmental organization. ChemSec dubbed its list the 'SIN List,' for 'Substitute It Now,' which reflects the group's interest in promoting safer alternatives to SVHCs wherever possible. The list represents the first effort to identify the range of chemicals expected to be subject to authorization under REACH.
EDF compared the SIN List to the most recent publicly available data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that identifies which companies reported making or importing these chemicals in the United States. EDF found that many, and likely most, of the SIN List chemicals are manufactured or imported in the United States.
Other findings of EDF's report include:
- SIN List chemicals are produced or imported in 37 states as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, at as many as 78 sites per state (see Tables 3 and 4 on page 36 of this document).
- The number of SIN List chemicals per state varies from 1 to 37.
- Eight states have at least a dozen SIN List chemicals: New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Kentucky and Michigan.
- In the United States, at least 85 SIN List chemicals are produced annually in amounts of one million or more pounds, and at least 14 exceed one billion pounds annually.
- At least 173 companies are producing or importing SIN List chemicals in the United States.
- Some companies are associated with many SIN List chemicals—as many as 21 per company.
- The five companies reporting making the most SIN List chemicals are Dow, DuPont, Chemtura, Equistar and BASF.
- Many SIN List chemicals are produced or imported by multiple companies at numerous sites—as many as 36 companies at 52 separate sites. The five chemicals with the most companies and sites are benzene, formaldehyde, styrene, hexane and 1,3-butadiene.
EDF also found that only about a third of the SVHCs on the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory have been tested under TSCA. Only two – asbestos and hexavalent chromium – have been regulated under TSCA, and even these only under narrow conditions.
EDF used the most recent publicly available data, which were collected by EPA in 2002 for calendar year 2001. Given the dynamic nature of the chemical market, some of the data in this report may have changed. In addition, because EPA allows companies to claim the identities of chemicals they produce, as well as their own identities, to be confidential business information, this report only includes chemicals and companies that are not claimed to be confidential business information.