Toxic Substances:

Few States Have Considered Reporting Requirements for Chemical Use Data

RCED-97-154: Published: Jun 6, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) identified which states have had legislative bills or voter referendums from January 1991 through February 1997 that would have required the reporting of chemical use data and described the disposition of these proposals; and (2) discussed the findings of studies on the advantages and disadvantages of requirements to report chemical use data.

GAO noted that: (1) while two states, Massachusetts and New Jersey, require industries to report chemical use data, few other states have introduced legislation that would require such reporting; (2) for the period January 1, 1991, through February 28, 1997, GAO identified only 12 bills introduced in six different states that would have required industries to report chemical use data; (3) bills were introduced in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, and Michigan but not enacted; (4) in GAO's survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, GAO found no ballot initiatives or voter referendums that would have required industries to report chemical use data; (5) GAO identified several studies and reports that discuss the advantages and disadvantages of implementing requirements to report chemical use data; (6) interest groups, state agencies, and state-sponsored research institutes in Massachusetts and New Jersey have written reports and studies discussing the progress of programs that require reporting of chemical use data in those states; (7) these studies have reported positive impacts, such as more efficient use of toxic chemicals by industries; (8) however, they have also reported some problems in administering the programs and obtaining accurate data from industries; (9) in addition, one study, conducted by the Minnesota Office of Waste Management, concluded that the burden on the state's industries outweighed the benefits of requiring the reporting of chemical use data; (10) several studies by nongovernmental organizations have focused on the advantages of collecting chemical use data, such as assisting pollution prevention efforts, providing information to citizens on the actual amount of toxic chemicals present in their communities, and assisting emergency planning efforts; (11) on the other hand, some nongovernmental studies have concluded that providing such information could jeopardize industrial trade secrets, that the reporting requirements would be costly and time-consuming, and that the information reported may be underutilized; and (12) the Environmental Protection Agency has reported similar advantages and disadvantages of reporting on chemical use data.

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