Live from AIHce: Keynoter Calls for Safer Chemicals

Michael P. Wilson, associate director for Integrative Sciences at UC Berkeley's Center for Green Chemistry, observed that while the United States continues to lead the world in areas of occupational safety and health, the European Union has decidedly taken the global lead in chemicals policy initiatives with its adoption of REACH.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Seventy-four billion pounds of industrial chemicals are produced in or imported to the United States daily—many of them toxic—and global chemical production is projected to double in the next 24 years. Armed with those sobering facts and using them as the jumping off place in his crusade for reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), Michael P. Wilson, Ph.D., MPH, controlled the stage of the Oregon Convention Center's Portland Ballroom Tuesday, highlighting the morning's opening general session on day of AIHce 2011.

Wilson, associate director for Integrative Sciences at UC Berkeley's Center for Green Chemistry, noted that occupational diseases hurt, kill, or sicken 18,000 people every day in the United States—"that's 10 times the number of people in this room today"—and the great majority of those diseases are preventable. "Diseases caused by chemical exposure are imminently preventable," he said. "But I'm worried, particularly as I read the history of occupational health and safety in the United States, that we'll be back here in 10 years saying the same thing. We will still be struggling to protect people from toxic substances." Wilson added, however, that he does have hope that TSCA reform will make a difference and ultimately make the American workforce—and society, in general—safer.

When it was introduced in 1976, TSCA was designed with "critical weaknesses," Wilson said. Chief among those was its grandfathering in of some 65,000 chemicals that were assumed to be safe until proven otherwise—meaning that toxicity studies were not done on those grandfathered chemicals because authorities considered them safe enough. "Not surprisingly, 98 to 99 percent of chemicals in commercial use today are among those not studied," he said.

Wilson observed that while the United States continues to lead the world in areas of occupational safety and health, the European Union has decidedly taken the global lead in chemicals policy initiatives with its adoption of REACH. He added, however, that while REACH regulations are the best thing going on the planet as far as filling the data gap surrounding the bulk of chemicals in use today, that EU measure actually does not go far enough to solve the problem, and TSCA reform should go further.

In addition to "un-grandfathering" the 65,000 chemicals originally given a pass under TSCA, the reform effort also should give EPA a more efficient way to take actions on those chemicals that are identified as hazardous. Wilson noted that of the 82,000 chemicals in the TSCA inventory since 1976, EPA has taken action on merely five—and that includes the agency's failure to meet the burden of proof against asbestos.

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Free Safety Management Software Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Management Software helps organizations to improve safety by providing a comprehensive toolset of software modules to help businesses identify trouble spots; reduce claims, lost days, OSHA fines; and more.

  • Easy to Use Safety Incident App

    Record incidents on the go with IndustrySafe’s mobile app. Collect data for multiple types of incidents including including near misses, vehicle and environmental incidents, and employee and non-employee injuries; at job sites and remote locations—with or without web access.

  • Complete Online Safety Training Courses

    Deliver state-of-the art, online safety training courses to your organization with IndustrySafe Training Management Software. Generate reports to track training compliance and automatically notify learners of upcoming or overdue classes.

  • Conduct EHS Inspections and Audits

    Record and manage your organization’s inspection data with IndustrySafe’s Inspections module. IndustrySafe’s pre-built forms and checklists may be used as is, or can be customized to better suit the needs of your organization.

  • Track Key Safety Performance Indicators

    IndustrySafe’s Dashboard Module allows organizations to easily track safety KPIs and metrics. Gain increased visibility into your business’ operations and safety data.

  • Industry Safe
comments powered by Disqus