walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Exposed_ by Mark Schapiro

I heard Schapiro on NPR and he sounded sensible and well-informed so I bought his book about the changing regulatory environment for chemicals. He lays it out clearly. The US, as part of the big push to clean stuff up in the '70s, implemented TCSA, which required a lot of stuff to be done for new chemicals, but not much of anything for stuff that had been around already. The effect of this was to make everyone think the old stuff was safe, and discourage innovation. In light of recent developments (pthalates and bisphenol-A spring to mind), the EU has required a bunch of information regarding these grandfathered chemicals to be collected and actions taken based on whatever information is collected -- to the point where they are limiting what corporations can hide after they've discovered it, even if it's very, very unflattering to whatever they produce.

The EU is doing this for a variety of reasons including (a) it can and (b) they're looking at some truly heinous health costs if they don't and since they actually pay that aggregate cost, they care. The US (as a government, and as a variety of corporate and quasi-corporate entities such as the Chamber of Commerce), needless to say, resisted. Other countries are busy playing me, too -- to the EU, not the US. It _might_ be because they're feeling pissy abou the Iraq, but Schapiro makes a strong case that it's really all about the total size of the EU as a market, vs. the size of the US. Also, there are real health and moral issues like, say, will any of us still be able to reproduce with another decade or so of this crap being pumped into the environment.

Individuals states and other smaller jurisdictions in the US are now playing Me Too also, and now the chemical industry is in the unpleasant situation of lobbying for us to match ROHS, because the prospect of having to understand and comply with 50+ alternative regulatory structures is too horrible to contemplate. Also, there is access to the EU market, and wanting to force companies which only sell in the US onto a level playing field with the big guys.

Great book; I highly recommend it. If you live in my town, my copy will shortly be on the shelf at our local library. If you don't, get it from yours. While it is excellent, it is hardcover, and I have this feeling that there's going to be another chapter in this saga written in the next couple years. It's a good read, too -- Schapiro presents a lot of wonky information within a dual narrative structure. On one level, it's the story of how he traveled around and talked to people and learned about this stuff. On another level, it's the story of the EU coming into its own as a market and a regulatory entity.
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