July 15, 2015

As Congress Considers Chemical Safety, Chemical Industry Spends Millions to Distort the Debate

Washington (July 15, 2015)—As the U.S. Senate considers revising chemical safety regulations, a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows the debate over chemicals is consistently driven by the chemical industry lobby through its main trade group, the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

Last year, the ACC spent $11 million to push public policy in the direction of chemical-industry interests—at the expense of Americans’ health and safety. The group spent $1.8 million on more than 6,000 ads in the 2014 election cycle, and actively pressures federal agencies and state governments as well. The ACC and its member companies have given heavily to members of the two committees that oversee most chemical policy, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The UCS report, “Bad Chemistry: How the Chemical Industry’s Trade Association Undermines the Policies that Protect Us,” shows how the ACC’s influence marginalizes the independent science that should be informing chemical-safety policies.

“Companies shouldn’t get away with hiding behind their trade associations to influence the political process without accountability,” said Gretchen Goldman, a UCS analyst and the lead author of the study. “This is the same playbook that the tobacco industry and oil companies have used to undermine science. It’s vulnerable people and communities who suffer when chemical companies can buy friendly policies.”

The industry-friendly chemical safety bill before the Senate is just the latest example of the ACC’s power. While public pressure, and the efforts of several reform-minded Senators, led to improvements in the bill, it still is not strong enough to protect the public.  The House-passed bill also needs strengthening.

The ACC has lobbied against policies like OSHA rules on exposure to harmful silica dust, EPA rules on formaldehyde, and disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking. It was also instrumental in limiting public access to information about chemical plants and their associated risks

“We should base our chemical policies on the best available science,” Goldman said. “Congress must approve a chemical safety law that protects public health and the environment, not the priorities of chemical manufacturers—and we need to hold accountable the companies and groups who are trying to sideline science.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.