Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

EPA Loses 200 Documents on Chemical Trade Secrets

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

EPA Loses 200 Documents on Chemical Trade Secrets

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges it lost 200 confidential documents containing sensitive data belonging to chemical companies.

The papers may contain formulas for toxic chemicals or directions for manufacturing chemicals -- trade secrets worth millions of dollars to the companies.

The incident "will be an embarrassment to the agency which could damage our reputation and put into question our ability to handle sensitive information," an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press said. The agency thinks some of the documents were misplaced and others may have been destroyed after EPA finished with them, but their destruction was never recorded. Officials have no evidence they were stolen. "It was an accounting blip more than anything else," said an agency official who requested anonymity. Chemical industry officials want to know why the EPA's procedures for handling the papers weren't more secure. "This gives us grave concerns about how they manage confidential information," said Ralph Engel, president of the Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association. By law, the agency collects data on new and existing chemicals to determine their toxicity to humans. They usually are retained for about three years, then destroyed. The agency generally misplaces a few each year, but a recent audit of the department that guards confidential documents at EPA's Washington headquarters and at a few laboratories nationwide found 200 documents collected in 1994 and 1995 are missing. Last week, EPA began contacting the 84 companies whose documents are involved. The agency said the missing documents are troubling, but their disappearance is not a serious security breach. "More than one-half million of these papers are managed annually by EPA, and about 200 may have been misplaced, most likely within the agency," said Lynn Goldman, assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides and toxic substances. …

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