The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires chemical manufacturers to produce any documentation they may come across that indicates their product could cause "substantial risk" to people or the environment. The companies have 30 days to notify the government once they become aware of this kind of information. This information could come in the form of worker data, scientific studies, letters from consumers, etc.
The EPA then posts this information so consumers are aware of these risks.
We decided to take a look at the program, and see what kind of files had been submitted.
We examined more than 2,000 filings in the EPA’s registry of dangerous chemicals for the past three years. In more than half the cases, the EPA agreed to keep the chemical name a secret. In hundreds of other cases, it allowed the company filing the report to keep its name and address confidential.
How did you get started? (tip, editor assignment, etc.)
We've been investigating EPA program related to chemical oversight and regulation for more than a year. We had heard about the 8(e)program several times and decided to take a look to see what was there.
What were the key sources? (people, documents, etc.)
The EPA's 8(e) web site; lawyers that had reviewed the program; policy experts and industry employees.
What was the biggest roadblock you had to overcome?
The EPA gave us very vague answers.
See complete Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series "Chemical Fallout."