The cost of generating health and safety studies is considerable and data owners have every right to expect some protection from disclosure to preserve the value of their intellectual property. This is no longer guaranteed as Lynn L. Bergeson, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Kathleen M. Roberts wrote in a two-part article in Bloomberg Environment Insights. The authors propose that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) practice of disclosing entire health and safety studies voluntarily submitted under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 6 is based upon a misinterpretation of TSCA Section 14(b)(2)(A)(i) and should be reconsidered in light of a recent judicial decision and the pressing need to acknowledge the global relevance of health and safety studies.
Many of the studies that will be relevant to EPA’s risk evaluations under TSCA Section 6 have significant monetary and competitive value, and data owners have every right to expect some protection from the disclosure of the study reports to preserve their value. If EPA as a matter of practice routinely posts entire study reports publicly, the reports would be rendered valueless for data compensation purposes. Some organizations have considered approaches that include the selective claiming of certain information elements in the study report as confidential to protect the value of the research while providing relevant information on the general findings and health and safety effects observed in the study. It is unclear, however, if this practice provides other stakeholders with sufficient information or if this practice is entirely effective in preserving the monetary and competitive value of the study report. EPA’s insistence that those who send in study reports accept the fact that the entire submission will be posted publicly also ignores the reality that many of these reports are jointly owned. Multiple entities often have title to the study as joint owners and its disclosure is generally subject to data sharing agreements that expressly prohibit its publication unless required by law.
Despite these concerns with the interpretation of TSCA Section 14(b)(2)(A)(i), submitters need to up their game, as it were, in identifying confidential business information (CBI) and certifying that release of such information would pose “substantial commercial harm.” For more information on the greater burden being placed on submitters, and for possible options to protect CBI, read the full article “Protecting the Value of Health, Safety Studies—Emerging TSCA Issues” online.