From The Washington Post:
Of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States…nearly 20 percent are secret, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, their names and physical properties guarded from consumers and virtually all public officials under a little-known federal provision. The policy was designed 33 years ago to protect trade secrets in a highly competitive industry. But critics — including the Obama administration — say the secrecy has grown out of control, making it impossible for regulators to control potential dangers or for consumers to know which toxic substances they might be exposed to.
Government officials, scientists and environmental groups say that manufacturers have exploited weaknesses in the law to claim secrecy for an ever-increasing number of chemicals. In the past several years, 95 percent of the notices for new chemicals sent to the government requested some secrecy, according to the Government Accountability Office…
Some companies have successfully argued that the federal government should not only keep the names of their chemicals secret but also hide from public view the identities and addresses of the manufacturers. “Even acknowledging what chemical is used or what is made at what facility could convey important information to competitors, and they can start to put the pieces together,” said Mike Walls, vice president of the American Chemistry Council.
The White House and environmental groups want Congress to force manufacturers to prove that a substance should be kept confidential. They also want federal officials to be able to share confidential information with state regulators and health officials, who carry out much of the EPA’s work across the country. Walls, of the American Chemistry Council, says manufacturers agree that federal officials should be able to share information with state regulators. Industry is also willing to discuss shifting the burden of proof for secrecy claims to the chemical makers, he said. The EPA must allow a claim unless it can prove within 90 days that disclosure would not harm business.
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