Our latest episode on the EPA and regulation of toxic chemicals generated quite a buzz among our viewers. Given that more than 80 percent of respondents to our poll voted that the EPA should issue more, not fewer, regulations, it’s not surprising that most of the comments we received were in support of a stronger mandate for the regulatory agency. On our website, S. L. Sanduski wrote:
When toxicity about chemicals like trichlorethylene are known, there absolutely needs to be regulation and early on. In this case, the people in Endicott should have been notified as soon as the risks became clear. Regulation by the EPA is supposed to occur first, in order to prevent deaths; the deaths should not be the warning bell.
Barb Shillinger wrote that health should always be the major focus:
I think that chemicals should be tested before they are used, even those that were “grandfathered” in. When it comes to balancing profit with health, I will vote for health every time. These people who defend some of these chemicals that are “highly suspect” would react differently if one (or more) of their family members became sick from contact with them.
Commenter Sally C agreed that chemicals should be tested early:
The EPA is clearly hampered by too limited a mandate. The question not asked the gentleman from the tea party is: if your employees or people who live where you manufacture are negatively affected by chemicals, what is their recourse? Since many of the effects are felt years later there is nothing to stop companies from pursuing short term economic benefit by using chemicals that seem to be miracles, but may be untested and have serious negative effects. There should be clear requirements to test and certify new chemicals before they are used indiscriminately. Isn’t this what went wrong with the financial industry? New products created and used indiscriminately before their effects were fully understood?
RetiredOnLake, a former federal employee, argued that the current regulation over toxic chemicals must be reformed:
Based on my experiences, reform or replacement of TSCA is necessary and long overdue. Thousands of chemicals need to be reviewed in a more efficient and productive manner than with TSCA. The question then becomes: how should this be done? Careful analysis and discussion of the provisions of the bill proposed by the senator from NJ is needed. However, accomplishing anything in the current political climate where both parties are so polarized will be difficult if not impossible. Also, as a veteran of the previous government shutdown and repeated freezes, funding problems, and limited resources that made accomplishing anything at EPA so difficult, I am not hopeful. I fear climate change combined with problems from economic disruption and depression will overwhelm toxic chemical problems.
Another commenter, littleG, countered the argument for more EPA regulation, saying that tax policy was a more effective solution:
Actually, too many complex regulations creates loopholes for crony companies. The best thing to do is control the greed of individuals who make too much money and that itself is the dis-incentive for people not to do wrong things like polluting the environment at the cost of profits and so on. The easiest way to control human greed is to have a 90% income tax rate above 500K income per year. Once you have taken away the incentive to hoard too much money, you don’t need a ton of regulations whether it is EPA or financial regulations and so on. Simple, easy to understand regulations are enough. Everyone will behave properly on their own.
Some readers supported the idea of state-level regulation, rather than federal. From Guest:
Federal regulation, whether EPA, FAA, or FDA, is created and maintained for the benefit of the industry being regulated. Regulations are written by the industry. Regulations give industry a shield to hide behind. If industry follows the rules they have created, they are safe from liabilities. If you were the American Chemical Society, would you rather lobby the US EPA or fifty state EPAs? There is a reason why California was able to name TCE a carcinogen years ago. As political as California’s Air Resources Board is, it is still able to resist the influence of lobbying dollars better than the EPA because it is structured to be less dependent on industry than the EPA.
MrHonea echoed the sentiment:
There are those of us who believe that the task of testing and legally prohibiting or limiting concentrations of dangerous chemicals can be done more efficiently on a state to state basis. Fifty systems competing for a cleaner world could indeed be better than one, and in theory, it happens to help consumers in a capitalist society like ours. Our system of capitalism should be able to incorporate state to state preferences in a free marketplace.
But commenter PAWL responded negatively to the idea of state-level regulation:
Everything you propose sounds great on paper, but the problem occurs when the corporations wield more financial power than a community can afford. This is what has/is eventually happening to our federal regulatory programs. The corporations have bought the politicians. The main reason the FDA was created is JUST that reason, the states/cities did not have the funds to address and research all the chemicals being used and then the MASSIVE COSTS to fight the army of lawyers a company can afford to employ.