Information Economics and Chemical Toxicity: Designing Laws to Produce and Use Data
Michigan Law Review, Volume 87, June 1989
68 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2016
Date Written: May 31, 2016
Just as laws may create entitlements to the use of information, they may also be written to distribute information and to encourage information production. This Article discusses the ways in which law affects the generation and distribution of information related to chemical exposure and toxicity. It describes the economic impact of recently enacted right-to-know laws and proposes that better and more abundant data could be produced if the law paid greater attention to basic economic principles that influence research and information systems.
Toxicity information is necessary for intelligent private choices, as well as for the protection of public health. Yet the manufacturers and industrial users of commercial chemicals have little incentive to produce and distribute data about chemicals' adverse side effects and, indeed, even the identity of theses chemicals. Because generic product trade names have been substituted in the public domain for more specific and informative chemical names, it has been difficult for those who use chemicals, or for third parties, to undertake the task of data collection. As a result, the nature and extent of human exposure to chemicals have been masked.
The relative invisibility of chemicals hampers the market's ability to screen chemicals for toxicity and has hindered the development of chemical information services. The lack of data has also handicapped the scientific study of the health and environmental effects of industrial chemicals; and it has profoundly affected the law's attempt to deter and to compensate for chemical harms.
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