THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
TOXICS: EXPANDING THE PUBLIC'S RIGHT TO KNOW
April 21, 1998
Today, Vice President Gore is announcing a major expansion of every community's right to know about potentially harmful chemicals released into our air, land and water. Three new initiatives will accelerate the collection and dissemination of basic public health data on the most commonly used industrial chemicals -- and require closer scrutiny for those posing the greatest risk to our children.
The Toxics Release Inventory. Each year, industrial facilities must disclose how much chemical pollution they release to the environment. Under President Clinton's leadership, the Environmental Protection Agency has doubled the number of chemicals subject to reporting under this Toxic Release Inventory. And a year ago, the President announced a 30 percent increase in the number of facilities required to disclose data. These advances have empowered citizens and communities by giving them reliable information about what is being put in their environment, and have inspired new partnerships with local industries to minimize toxic use, waste production, and releases to the environment.
The public needs to know more. People have a right to basic health effects data about chemicals they may be exposed to at home, at work or in the environment -- for instance, at what levels they are toxic and whether they may cause cancer or birth defects. Yet for the majority of industrial chemicals, these data simply are not available. Three new measures will fill these critical data gaps:
First, we will ensure the public has basic data for widely used chemicals. A recent EPA review found that of the 3,000 chemicals used most widely in the United States (more than 1 million pounds imported or produced each year), we have complete health effects data for only 7 percent. For well over half, we have no data at all. Today, the Vice President is challenging industry to come forward with complete data for all these chemicals. If voluntary or other efforts fail, EPA will propose regulations to fill remaining data gaps in a cost-effective way. Second, we will consider additional testing for the chemicals children are most likely to encounter. Working under the Executive Order on Children's Health issued a year ago by President Clinton, EPA will identify chemicals that children are disproportionately exposed to and consider whether additional health effects testing is needed. EPA will propose any additional testing by the end of 1998. Third, we will closely scrutinize "persistent" chemicals that accumulate in our bodies. Some substances linked to significant public health concerns are now exempt from TRI reporting or are only reported at levels far exceeding those linked to health effects. EPA will review "persistent bioaccumulative toxics" and determine whether they should be subject to TRI reporting or lower reporting thresholds. Any regulatory changes required to fulfill these commitments will
be finalized by December 1999, and will be fashioned in a way that minimizes cost and other burdens on business.