Washington, DC — The Environmental Working Group has found that the U.S. is keeping the ingredients and health and safety information on some 17,000 chemicals secret due to claims that the chemical details are confidential business information.

The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act allows chemical companies to say that the makeup of chemicals are trade secrets, making information on their ingredients and hazards only available to a few people within the EPA.

An Environmental Working Group report shows that information on 17,000 of the 83,000 chemicals listed by the EPA are kept secret, a number that includes 65 percent of new chemicals introduced since the mid-1970s. The majority of chemicals that are considered trade secrets, almost 13,600, were introduced since 1976.

Many of the chemicals are used in art supplies, plastic products, apparel, fabric, furniture and items intended for children. At least 10 chemicals that are among the 151 high-volume (more than 300,000 pounds are produced or imported per year) confidential chemicals are used to make products that are specifically for kids age 14 and under.

While the EPA has announced actions to study or regulate four groups of chemicals, the state of New York is developing a list of chemicals that state agencies cannot buy.

In order to implement an executive order that requires the state to buy environmentally friendly products, an advisory council has put forth a list of 85 chemicals that should be avoided. While some are already banned by the state, others like bisphenol A are not regulated. The list has been moved to a subcommittee for further review.

Safety equipment - photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/pierrelaphoto/ / CC BY-SA 2.0