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17,000 toxic chemicals kept secret from consumers

17,000 toxic chemicals kept secret from consumers

Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post
January 4, 2010

Of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States — from flame retardants in furniture to household cleaners — 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.

At a time of increasing public demand for more information about chemical exposure, pressure is building on lawmakers to make it more difficult for manufacturers to cloak their products in secrecy. Congress is set to rewrite chemical regulations this year for the first time in a generation.

Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, manufacturers must report to the federal government new chemicals they intend to market. But the law exempts from public disclosure any information that could harm their bottom line.

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. About 700 chemicals are introduced annually.

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.

Although a number of the roughly 17,000 secret chemicals may be harmless, manufacturers have reported in mandatory notices to the government that many pose a “substantial risk” to public health or the environment. In March, for example, more than half of the 65 “substantial risk” reports filed with the Environmental Protection Agency involved secret chemicals.

“You have thousands of chemicals that potentially present risks to health and the environment,” said Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that documented the extent of the secret chemicals through public-records requests from the EPA. “It’s impossible to run an effective regulatory program when so many of these chemicals are secret.”

Of the secret chemicals, 151 are made in quantities of more than 1 million tons a year and 10 are used specifically in children’s products, according to the EPA.

The identities of the chemicals are known to a handful of EPA employees who are legally barred from sharing that information with other federal officials, state health and environmental regulators, foreign governments, emergency responders and the public.

Last year, a Colorado nurse fell seriously ill after treating a worker involved at a chemical spill at a gas-drilling site. The man, who later recovered, appeared at a Durango hospital complaining of dizziness and nausea. His work boots were damp; he reeked of chemicals, the nurse said.

Two days later, the nurse, Cathy Behr, was fighting for her life. Her liver was failing and her lungs were filling with fluid. Behr said her doctors diagnosed chemical poisoning and called the manufacturer, Weatherford International, to find out what she might have been exposed to.

Weatherford provided safety information, including hazards, for the chemical, known as ZetaFlow. But because ZetaFlow has confidential status, the information did not include all of its ingredients.

Mark Stanley, group vice president for Weatherford’s pumping and chemical services, said in a statement that the company made public all the information legally required.

“It is always in our company’s best interest to provide information to the best of our ability,” he said.

Behr said the full ingredient list should be released. “I’d really like to know what went wrong,” said Behr, 57, who recovered but said she still has respiratory problems. “As citizens in a democracy, we ought to know what’s happening around us.”

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.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is trying to reduce secrecy.

A week after he arrived at the agency in July, Steve Owens, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, ended confidentiality protection for 530 chemicals. In those cases, manufacturers had claimed secrecy for chemicals they had promoted by name on their Web sites or detailed in trade journals.

“People who were submitting information to the EPA saw that you can claim that virtually anything is confidential and get away with it,” Owens said.

The handful of EPA officials privy to the identity of the chemicals do not have other information that could help them assess the risk, said Lynn Goldman, a former EPA official and a pediatrician and epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Maybe they don’t know there’s been a water quality problem in New Jersey where the plant is located, or that the workers in the plant have had health problems,” she said. “It just makes sense that the more people who are looking at it, they’re better able to put one and one together and recognize problems.”

Independent researchers, who often provide data to policymakers and regulators, also have been unable to study the secret chemicals.

Duke University chemist Heather Stapleton, who researches flame retardants, tried for months to identify a substance she had found in dust samples taken from homes in Boston.

Then, while attending a scientific conference, she happened to see the structure of a chemical she recognized as her mystery compound.

The substance is a chemical in “Firemaster 550,” a product made by Chemtura Corp. for use in furniture and other products as a substitute for a flame retardant the company had quit making in 2004 because of health concerns.

Stapleton found that Firemaster 550 contains an ingredient similar in structure to a chemical — Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP — that Congress banned last year from children’s products because it has been linked to reproductive problems and other health effects.

Chemtura, which claimed confidentiality for Firemaster 550, supplied the EPA with standard toxicity studies. The EPA has asked for additional data, which it is studying.

“My concern is we’re using chemicals and we have no idea what the long-term effects might be or whether or not they’re harmful,” said Susan Klosterhaus, an environmental scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute who has published a journal article on the substance with Stapleton.

Chemtura officials said in a written statement that even though Firemaster 550 contains an ingredient structurally similar to DEHP does not mean it poses similar health risks.

They said the company strongly supports keeping sensitive business information out of public view. “This is essential for ensuring the long-term competitiveness of U.S. industry,” the officials said in the statement.

 



Ron Paul’s Fed Audit Bill Passes House Financial Services

Ron Paul’s Fed Audit Bill Passes House Financial Services

Politico
November 20, 2009

The House Financial Services Committee has approved Rep. Ron Paul’s measure to drastically expand the government’s power to audit the Federal Reserve.

The measure, based on a Paul proposal that has attracted more than 300 co-sponsors, passed, 43-26, as an amendment to a financial reform bill. Florida Democrat and fellow Fed critic Alan Grayson co-sponsored the amendment with Paul and played a leading role drumming up support for it among committee members. The adoption of this amendment is an extraordinary victory for Paul, whose libertarian, anti-Fed leanings have often been dismissed by the political establishment.

The amendment would give the Government Accountability Office much greater to audit the Federal Reserve, which has a long history of independence from congressional audits. Paul and Grayson beat out a competing measure offered by Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), who after weeks of negotiations with the pair felt their measure would threaten the Fed’s monetary policy.

Grayson, however, told POLITICO in an interview that Watt’s amendment would add more restrictions on the GAO’s ability to audit the Fed, not less. “And there’s a crying need to expand it because the Federal Reserve has completely changed the way it’s done business since a year and a half ago.”

The House Financial Services Committee will vote on approving the underlying bill after Thanksgiving recess.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_jd7E3Pno0

 



Does the Federal Reserve manipulate the stock market?

Does the Federal Reserve manipulate the stock market?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXmNpdYpfnk

 



Ron Paul’s Bill to Audit the Fed Becomes Veto-Proof!

Ron Paul’s Bill to Audit the Fed Becomes Veto-Proof!

RonPaul.com
September 16, 2009

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYiHE35kCQI

Ron Paul’s bill to audit the Federal Reserve (HR 1207) now has 290 co-sponsors, and the numbers keep growing! At the same time, HR 1207’s companion bill in the Senate, S 604, has already attracted 25 co-sponsors.

This is history in the making, and victory is within reach. Imagine what will happen if HR 1207, The Federal Reserve Transparency Act, comes up for vote in Congress! With a veto-proof two thirds of the House of Representatives already co-sponsoring this bill, it has real potential to pass — BUT only if we educate and rally the people to support it and get our Congresspeople to put it to vote and pass it.

Step 1: Your Representative

If your representative is not on the following list of HR 1207 co-sponsors, call their offices, write to them, email them. Let them know they need to support HR 1207. If you live in their district, let them know. Go to their office.

Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Enter Your Zipcode Here to Contact Your Representative!

 



Our $100 Trillion National Debt

Our $100 Trillion National Debt

Lew Rockwell
August 7, 2008

The “official” debt of the United States is only around $10 trillion dollars as of August 6, 2008. This is a manageable number; we could pay it off in a few decades if we quit buying luxuries like food and clothing, and take a few other minor economy measures. Unfortunately, the “$10 trillion” number was produced by government accounting, which among other things allows one to ignore Social Security, Medicare, and the new prescription drug benefit. This is like ignoring rent, food, and utilities in your household budget… it will lead to a few bounced checks. Our real debt is about ten times higher.

Who says so? The President of the Dallas Federal Reserve, Richard W. Fisher. In a May speech at the Commonwealth Club of California, he states that the US national debt is close to $100 trillion. You can read his whole speech at the Federal Reserve web site.

The Real Debt

Here is what he said regarding the actual US debt:

“Add together the unfunded liabilities from Medicare and Social Security, and it comes to $99.2 trillion over the infinite horizon. Traditional Medicare composes about 69 percent, the new drug benefit roughly 17 percent and Social Security the remaining 14 percent.”

Interested readers will notice that the new prescription drug benefit is projected to be more fiscally crushing than all of Social Security.

Mr. Fisher points out that this $99.2 trillion will be a bit of a burden to pay off:

“Let’s say you and I and Bruce Ericson and every U.S. citizen who is alive today decided to fully address this unfunded liability through lump-sum payments from our own pocketbooks, so that all of us and all future generations could be secure in the knowledge that we and they would receive promised benefits in perpetuity. How much would we have to pay if we split the tab? Again, the math is painful. With a total population of 304 million, from infants to the elderly, the per-person payment to the federal treasury would come to $330,000. This comes to $1.3 million per family of four—over 25 times the average household’s income.”

You do have $1.3 million in your pocket, right? What, are you some kind of deadbeat?

Speaking of deadbeats, the “$99.2 trillion” estimate does not include the subprime bailout. So for those who like large round numbers, by the end of 2008 the real National Debt should be large, round, and about $100 trillion.

Read Full Article Here

Recent News:

U.S. Headed Toward Bankruptcy, Says Top Budget Committee Republican
http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=33574

U.S. crude futures fall below $112
http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/225..n-3-below-112.html

Home foreclosure filings up 55 percent in July
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080814/bs_nm/usa_foreclosures_dc

Subprime Losses Top $500 Billion on Writedowns
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/ne..7&sid=aSKLfqh2qd9o&refer=worldwide

Foreclosure fallout: Houses go for a $1
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll..13/METRO/808130360

Federal budget deficit nearly tripled in July to $102.8 billion
http://www.usatoday.com/news/w..udget-deficit_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

How to Conceal Massive Economic Collapse
http://www.congresscheck.com/20..to-conceal-massive-economic-collapse/

Inflation Highest Since 1991
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a8b27794-6a04-11dd-83e8-0000779fd18c.html

Consumer Prices Rise At Double The Expected Rate
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20..rvHZMh.hDDbWuXtRZZaJZJv24cA

1/3 Owe More On Homes Than They’re Worth
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/n..id=a3uzhDOF9FXI&refer=worldwide

Greenspan sees house price bottom in 2009: report
http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSN1350807020080814

GAO: Most U.S. Corporations Don’t Pay Income Taxes
http://www.roguegovernment.com/news.php?id=11377

FDIC Fund Strained By Bank Failures
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/new..z7p4wU&refer=worldwide

Wachovia to close mortgage offices in 19 states
http://www.bizjournals.com/triad/stories/2008/08/11/daily11.html

UK home repossessions rise by 48%
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7548877.stm

Europe teeters on the brink of recession
Fed: More Banks Tightening Lending Standards
Who Made 270 million On Collapse of Bear Stearns
EUR/USD Drops Towards $1.4639 Support
RBS slumps to £691m loss
Fannie Mae Posts Massive $2.3B Loss
Greenspan Says Federal Company Would Best Ease Crisis

U.S. Economic Collapse News Archive

 



US debt now at an astonishing $53 trillion

US debt now at an astonishing $53 trillion

SF Gate
July 17, 2008

As the Bush administration proposes backstopping mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a $300 billion line of credit and Congress contemplates another economic stimulus, the question is who will bail out the government?

“People seem to think the government has money,” said former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. “The government doesn’t have any money.”

A rare consensus has developed across the political spectrum that the government’s own fiscal affairs are precarious, with an astonishing $53 trillion in long-term liabilities, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Read Full Article Here

 



Lockheed: U.S. must pay for rocket-test cleanup

Lockheed: U.S. must pay for rocket-test cleanup

Washington Times
July 7, 2008

One of the nation’s largest federal defense contractors says the U.S. government should pay the cleanup costs – likely in the tens of millions of dollars or more – from pollutants leaked during the production and testing of U.S. military and space rockets.

Federal policies at one former Lockheed Propulsion Co. rocket plant in California allowed for burning toxic chemical waste in open, unlined dirt pits during the 1970s, according to a lawsuit that Lockheed Martin Corp. filed against the U.S. government.

The practice has been linked to pollution in groundwater and soil.

Lockheed, whose propulsion company helped build rocket motors for the Apollo and Mercury space programs, has faced personal injury lawsuits over the past decade from residents upset about pollution near the now-closed Redlands, Calif., rocket facility, according to U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings.

The company wants the government to pay past cleanup costs and to be held liable for future expenses.

A Lockheed spokeswoman declined to comment on the company’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in the District. The lawsuit doesn’t say how much money the company is seeking.

Lockheed is reporting more than $500 million in liabilities companywide from “environmental matters,” which include soil and groundwater contamination in Redlands and unrelated projects, according to SEC filings.

According to the lawsuit, Lockheed says two sorts of pollutants – ammonium perchlorate and trichloroethylene – “escaped into the environment in the course of operations at the Redlands facility,” and turned up in local soil and groundwater.

Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is an industrial solvent that can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and cancer. Exposure to perchlorate can affect the thyroid gland, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

Read Full Article Here

Syria tells UN: Israel burying nuclear waste in Golan Heights
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/999114.html