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Do New Regulations Risk Innovation?

Posted on June 29th, 2016 by in Chemical R&D


By jarmoluk [CC0 Public Domain], via pixabay

Congressional overhaul of chemical regulations lauds increased safety, but does innovation take it on the chin?

Last week, President Obama signed into legislation the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemicals Safety for the 21st Century Act – an overhaul of the 40 year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). For a variety of reasons, both business and environmental groups agreed that the original act needed revision. For both, specificity was the main concern. Environmentalists feared the law was too weak, lacking clear protections and businesses indicate ambiguity in the legislation prompted states to step in, increasing the complexity of commerce across state lines.

Unlike the previous incarnation of the law – which was largely “management by exception” requiring the EPA to first compile evidence of harm – the new legislation requires chemical manufacturers to submit new chemicals for approval. The new legislation also give the EPA the authority to review chemicals already on the market.

As a consumer and someone who believes it’s our responsibility to be good stewards to the environment, the new regulations appear to be a step int he right direction of safety. As an engineer and a businessman however, I am concerned on the impact the new approval process represents for innovation and getting new products to market. According to an article in Time, the EPA will have 6 months to determine whether a chemical represents a security risk. Despite President Obama’s inaugural pledge to “restore science to its rightful place,” Time also reports the EPA has assessed fewer chemicals than ever – completing only one last year. With the chemical industry coming up with breakthrough innovations every day, can the government even hope to keep up?

And what does the new legislation hold for the future of know hazardous materials such as asbestos or formaldehyde? I was amazed to find that despite all that we know about these two substances, they are still being used in commercially available products in the United States. The following YouTube video from the folks over at SciShow provides an interesting and informative look at asbestos as well as some interesting historical facts of which I was unaware:

Advancements in the chemicals industry continue to improve our lives on a daily basis. Agrochemicals help us grow more food faster that remains nonperishable longer to feed a larger and larger population. Medicinal chemistry is helping us live longer lives of better quality. And plastics are integral in everything from the clothes that we wear, the buildings we live in and the electronics that power our modern society. While it is certainly prudent to be vigilant, over taxing regulations could stifle innovation and dissuade development of that next big thing.

How have regulations impacted the products manufactured by your company? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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