According to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, from 2010 through 2014 the ACC spent more than $51 million lobbying Capitol Hill, contributed $1.46 to federal campaigns and spent $1.8 million on more than 6,000 political ads during the 2014 election cycle. This money dump has helped block action on reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, as well as formaldehyde, flame retardants, BPA and other toxic chemical regulation. And it only gets worse.
With a $100 million annual budget, the ACC follows “a pattern modeled by the tobacco industry: deny the science, bring in its own experts to counter the evidence, launch misleading advertising campaigns, and pressure decision makers to abandon restrictions on the chemical’s use,” according to the report. And it’s the pressure that’s key: “In the 2013-14 election cycle, nearly 70 percent of ACC’s registered federal lobbyists had previously held jobs in Congress or in the executive branch.”
What does this mean to you? Since the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed 40 years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency has restricted just nine–yes, you read that right–of the 84,000 chemicals currently considered “safe” for use in commercial products in the United States. Chemicals as yet unrestricted include formaldehyde, identified as a “known human carcinogen” by the National Cancer Institute, yet still present in everything from pressed-wood furniture to nail polish to hair straightening treatments. Because our federal government is so slow to act on toxic chemical regulation, states have stepped up to pass regulations that manage toxic chemical regulation on a more local level.
But that’s not such a great scenario for the American Chemistry Council, which depends on keeping those 84,000 chemicals in circulation to maintain its fat budget. So the ACC has lobbied for toxic chemical regulation reform bills that would pre-empt state regulations.
Obviously, the ACC is made up of many individuals. But I can’t help but wonder how Cal Dooley, its president and CEO, sleeps at night. “I take offense when anyone would even insinuate our industry is supporting an increase in the body burden of chemicals,” Dooley said in video from a 2011 Congressional hearing that appears in the new movie Stink! which premieres next month. (Go see it: I got a preview and it’s amazing.) “Well, where do you think we’re headed?” replies Senator Tom Udall.
My thoughts exactly.