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April 7, 2015

BNA Daily Environment Report Coverage of Science & the Congress Briefing Quotes Lynn L. Bergeson

The ACTA Group

The April 7, 2015, Bloomberg BNA Daily Environment Report story “Innovation Outpacing Regulatory Systems; Modernized TSCA, New Data Said to Help,” reported on “21st Century Understanding of Chemicals,” a congressional briefing hosted by the American Chemical Society (ACS) Science & the Congress Project.  Lynn L. Bergeson’s comments at the congressional briefing were quoted.  

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken eight times longer to approve new nanoengineered chemicals than new chemicals made with traditional technologies and feedstocks, an attorney specializing in regulatory policies for new technologies and the chemistries they can produce said April 6.

EPA is not at fault, said Lynn Bergeson, managing partner of Bergeson & Campbell P.C., during a Capitol Hill briefing on new technologies and data integration techniques that scientists are using to predict chemicals’ hazards, exposures and risks. 

“Chemical innovation evolves faster than regulatory institutions and laws can adapt,” Bergeson said at the briefing organized by the American Chemical Society to brief congressional staff and other interested parties on emerging ways to understand chemical hazards, exposures and risks. […]

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, chemical manufacturers must notify the agency 90 days before they make a new chemical. Unless the EPA objects, the new chemical can enter commerce when that 90-day period is over.  The agency completes most new chemical reviews within that 90 days, Bergeson said. 

The agency’s reviews of new nanoengineered chemicals, however, have been taking between six and 24 months, she said. For an innovative company, “24 months is an eternity,” Bergeson said. Her law firm represents makers of nanoengineered chemicals, biobased chemicals and other substances produced with new kinds of chemistries or with traditional chemicals in new ways.

Bergeson said she was not faulting the EPA for the time it takes to review nanoengineered chemicals. Rather, she said, she was addressing a general problem chemical manufacturers face when they use cutting-edge technologies and new feedstocks. One solution is a modernized TSCA, Bergeson said. “We need a new chemical safety law.”

Two Senate bills—S. 697 and S. 725—that have been introduced to modernize TSCA would help the agency address emerging technologies that are being used to create new chemistries, Bergeson told BNA after her presentation.  Both bills would direct the EPA to consider scientific information generated through computational toxicology, bioinformatics, high-throughput screening methods and other emerging tools to predict toxicity and exposure. 

It also would be helpful for federal agencies to establish an ombudsman who could identify emerging technologies that an agency will have to address along with the skills and other resources that it will need to oversee that technology, Bergeson said.

As part of that, the private sector needs to do more to educate regulators as to what is coming their way, she said. Regulators need to be—but often aren’t—in the loop of parties given a heads-up about emerging technologies, because regulators will play a key “go/no go” role, Bergeson said.