chemicals in 55-gallon drums

GAO Recommends EPA Biomonitoring Upgrade

The Toxic Substances Control Act may allow EPA to obtain more useful data than it now gets about the health effects of commercial chemicals. But the extent of EPA's authority to collect such data is unclear and untested, a new Government Accountability Office report concludes.

EPA ought to know much more than it does today about the health effects of industrial chemicals, a new Government Accountability Office report suggests. It says the Toxic Substances Control Act may allow EPA to obtain more useful data than it now gets about chemicals' health effects, but the extent of EPA's authority to collect such data is unclear and untested. EPA also has not developed a comprehensive biomonitoring strategy to coordinate research with other agencies and groups involved in such research, including CDC, OSHA, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Research.

Current biomonitoring data relevant to the entire U.S. population exist for only 212 chemicals, the report points out. "In addition, biomonitoring data alone indicate only that a person was somehow exposed to a chemical, not the source of the exposure or its effect on the person's health. For most of the chemicals studied under current biomonitoring programs, more data on chemical effects are needed to understand if the levels measured in people pose a health concern, but EPA's authorities to require chemical companies to develop such data is limited," its summary states.

The report cites EPA's action involving DuPont's use of the chemical PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). EPA filed two actions alleging DuPont had violated section 8(e) of TSCA by failing to report blood test data it had obtained to assess PFOA exposure, but DuPont settled the claims without admitting it should have reported the data, and this left uncertainty over the extent of EPA's authority, the report states.

DuPont committed in February 2007 that it would no longer make, use, or buy PFOA by 2015 or earlier, if possible.

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