Off the Books II: More Secret Chemicals

Seven years later, federal toxics law is still protecting the chemical industry’s dirty secrets

May 9, 2016

Off the Books II: More Secret Chemicals : Confidential Claims on Harmful Chemicals

It is especially important to limit confidentiality claims on chemicals that pose substantial risks. However, that is not the case under current law. Section 8(e) of TSCA gives EPA the ability to collect hazard studies on both existing and new chemicals. It also requires companies to notify EPA when they obtain information that shows that a chemical or mixture “presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment.”[i]

These Section 8(e) submissions are critical for flagging harmful chemicals already in commerce as well as emerging concerns, but companies can tack confidential trade secret claims onto these submissions, undermining their usefulness for researchers and others.

Of the more than 250 Section 8(e) submissions in the six months since October 2016, more than half carried CBI claims masking the chemical’s specific name.[ii] Section 8(e) chemicals are those that raise the greatest concern, and shielding them with confidentiality claims can slow or block actions to protect human health.

For example, one Section 8(e) submission from February 2016 – reported that an unnamed chemical from an unnamed company caused decreased fertility and changes in the lungs, spleen, stomach, intestines and vagina. The test substance also killed half the rats exposed to a 100/80 mg/kg/day (milligrams per kilogram) concentration.[iii]

In another 8(e) submission from November 2015 – several pregnant test subjects received 5mL/kg dosages of a chemical daily. All pregnant test subjects survived the testing, but had significantly reduced weight fetuses, which was concluded, “to be a test-item related effect.”[iv] The National Institute of Health states low birth weight babies “may become sick in the first days of life or develop infections. Others may suffer from longer-term problems such as delayed motor and social development or learning disabilities.”[v]

If those chemicals killed subjects or caused reproductive harms in lab tests, you would think researchers and public health advocates would have the right to know about it. But because the manufacturer claimed the chemical identity was a trade secret, the EPA can only release the redacted studies and generic identification — leaving researchers, public health advocates and others in the dark as to which specific chemicals produced these alarming effects.   



[i] Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2601. 1976

[ii] EPA. Chemical Data Access Tool. Apr 5, 2016. Available at java.epa.gov/oppt_chemical_search/

[iii] EPA. Re: [ ]; TSCA Section 8(e) Suhmission for Suhstance with TSCA Confidential Inventory Accession Number 8692. Feb 17, 2016. Available at java.epa.gov/oppt_chemical_search/proxy?filename=090225268024381f_8EHQ-16-20276_368174.pdf

[iv] EPA. TSCA Section 8(e) Submission. Nov 9, 2015. Available at

[v] NIH. Birth Weight. June 20, 2014. Available at java.epa.gov/oppt_chemical_search/proxy?filename=0902252680232c9f_8EHQ-15-20125_Section+8+%28e%29_C_S_366867_S.pdfwww.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/birthweight.html