In a clear change in policy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to change the way it analyzes potentially harmful chemicals. Under the current White House administration, the agency is planning to make a safety review process used to assess potentially harmful chemicals easier and quicker for companies to implement. Based on reports, the agency is prepared to work with industry leaders and corporations, all of whom say the current review process makes getting approval for new chemicals and products much too hard.
While current laws governing the review of harmful chemicals passed through Congress in 2016 with much bipartisan approval, the new laws and regulations have many industry experts and advocates worried. According to them, the new laws will skip important steps currently used in the assessment process of various chemicals, which will let manufacturers get new chemicals approved before knowing their potential safety and health hazards.
As this process unfolds, some industry advocates are concerned about possible changes to the legal process manufacturers are currently required to abide by when gaining approval for new chemicals. If current changes are made, manufacturers will no longer be required to sign legal agreements restricting the use of chemicals under certain conditions. Known as consent orders, these agreements will still be required if the agency thinks a chemical will pose a threat based on the manufacturer’s intended use of the chemical. However, the agency will no longer require consent orders for chemicals where risks can be “reasonably foreseen,” meaning risks which the agency believes will be able to be anticipated in the future.
According to the EPA, changing the requirements for the use of consent orders will lead to greater efficiency when it comes to gaining approval for new chemicals, which can also lead to new products being able to go to market much faster. However, consumer advocates feel as if loosening the regulations associated with these chemicals could lead to harmful results. These advocates believe that even if a chemical is found to be harmful to humans and the environment, manufacturers will still be able to use these chemicals in ways that will allow them to bypass certain regulations.
Under new EPA leadership, consumer advocates worry the agency is becoming too industry-friendly. However, industry advocates and lobbyists view the process in a much different fashion. According to lobbyists, streamlining the regulations will allow companies to have innovative new products in the marketplace much faster, which will benefit both companies and consumers. Based on existing data, prior to the Trump Administration taking office, the EPA was experiencing a large backlog of chemicals in need of safety reviews, with more than 600 cases on the agenda. However, after changing existing regulations, the EPA announced it had cleared the backlog of chemicals after only a few months, clearing the way for them to be used in various products.
Even with these current changes taking place, the EPA is looking to make even more changes in the future. These include easing the regulations concerning the risks associated with reasonably foreseen uses, which would allow chemicals to be approved for use even faster, thus letting products hit the market even quicker. However, as with other changes that have already taken place, consumer advocates have many concerns about these possible changes. In the months and years to come, consumer and corporate advocates are expected to make their cases known to the EPA. In doing so, most industry experts expect to see a number of additional changes, all of which will possibly impact human health and the environment.
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