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Voluntary Chemical Safety Testing: Before TSCA

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Before TSCA, CMA's position was refusal to accept any additional government oversight on chemical safety. Then as now, its two chief arguments were that existing regulations are already strong enough, and new regulations will trigger the collapse of the chemical industry.

In 1971, a CMA representative testified at a Congressional hearing that "the chemical industry is presently subject to broad and sometimes overlapping federal legislation in the field of hazardous chemicals." (view entire document) A 1972 internal "Report on Federal Controls for Toxic Substances" continued this line of argument:

"Several pieces of significant new legislation enacted during the 92nd Congress greatly extend the scope and power of the Federal authority to deal with environmental problems, including those which may be caused by the introduction of the hazardous chemical substances. . . . In addition to these new laws, there is already a wide body of existing law which confers great power on the Federal government with respect to the environmental threat which might be posed by hazardous or toxic chemical substances." (view entire document)

Chemical companies, like many others, have long argued that government regulation will ruin the entire industry, forcing small businesses and large corporations alike into bankruptcy. The TSCA debate, however, provided a textbook example of the use of this tactic. This confidential memo from 1972 declared that "unnecessary testing and regulatory burdens on the industry [are] not in the public interest." The memo continued with an argument that attempted to cloak CMA's self-interest in impartial language. (view entire document)

"There is some evidence from the drug field that imposition of comprehensive testing and regulatory schemes may be harmful to research and innovation. A New York Times article of July 2, 1972, mentions 'a monstrous concretion of overlapping controls, precautions, and delays in drug research' which 'have grown up in response to widely publicized scare stories about the risks and alleged inadequacies of drugs and drug research.' The article contends that these controls have significantly reduced the number of new therapeutic compounds becoming available to physicians in the U.S. and may be driving such research and development overseas. Such a situation could confront the chemical industry if unnecessarily stringent legislation were to be enacted." (view entire document)

CMA had already used this argument - that regulation would halt the march of chemical "progress" - in its 1971 Congressional testimony: "[A]ny law of this nature is bound to impede innovation to some degree. In the new product area, compliance with a law of even selective scope will be expensive, time consuming and detrimental to the introduction of new chemical products." (view entire document)

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last updated: march.27.2009

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