In February, delegates from the government, chemical companies and consultants converged on Washington, D.C., for three days of conferences rich in content and discussions.
Attending a conference allows one to hit pause on daily business, opening space to exchange point of views, rewind, fast-forward and reflect on current matters. Here are some of my takeaways from the confab …
Can laws keep pace?…
In 1948, Paul Muller was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of DDT—dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane—an insecticide that was later banned in the United States.
Hard to believe this ever happened.
The Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, was passed into law in 1976 to regulate existing and new chemicals placed on the U.S. market.
• At the time, 62,000 chemicals present on the market were grandfathered in and assumed safe without any further testing. The focus of the legislation was on new chemicals.
• In the past 40 years, 22,000 new chemicals were introduced into the United States, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requested that 200 of those be tested based on science of the ’70s and ’80s.
One critique of the recent Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, which aims to modernize the TSCA, is that it is not designed to adapt. But as we cannot “freeze” science, laws should be designed to keep pace with innovations by the industry.
Where are the laws on nanos today (nah-knows)?
These creations that have been flooding the market for years are not even defined in regulations.
It feels predictable that:
• We can’t foresee the priorities 10 years from now.
• Chemical control laws will hardly keep up with innovation.
…yet I feel fine – why?
Given the number of new substances and materials created and placed on the market in the past 40 years, it would seem that we would all face certain death by chemical intoxication.
But the fact is, people are living longer, healthier lives than we did 40 years ago.
So how did that happen?
It seems we are past the ”Sorcerer’s Apprentice” years of spraying DDT at large.
Information, knowledge, wisdom, responsible care … Pressures from non-government organization, lobbyists, retail, consumers and regulators creates a context where placing dangerous products on the market (deliberately or not) at large scale would be very difficult indeed.
In the end, the industry invested and innovated in developing better products and ensures compliance to most demands and requirements
And industry professionals will continue to meet at venues such as GlobalChem to discuss regulatory policies and developments and more importantly discuss best practices for ensuring the safety of chemicals they place on the market.
The net result is a better safer world.