As publicly-accessible databases go, the U.E. Environmental Protection Agency's chemicals reporting area is a tad mind-boggling.

The 2012 "Chemical Date Reporting" set released today lists 7,674 chemicals that were manufactured, imported or used in quantities over a particular threshold. It related to 4,753 sites and 1,515 companies.

I expect that academics, officials and activists will find plenty to plumb in that database.

One thing that's important is that companies are now required to provide information on chemicals used in children's and other consumer products.

According to EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson, the information "will help EPA and others better assess chemicals, evaluate potential exposures and use, and expand efforts to encourage the use of safer chemicals."

So let's look at the fact sheet, relative to kids. It shows 354 chemicals used in children's products in 2012.

What's not clear, at least not right away, is how many of those 354 chemicals might be problematic.

So they list the top 20 and, broadly, what they were used for. Here are the top ten:

  • Calcium carbonate

  • Aluminum

  • Propane

  • Ethane

  • Butane

  • Calcium oxide

  • Ethyl benzene

  • Isobutane

  • Aluminum chloride hydroxide

  • Zinc

A lot of them were used for plastic and rubber products.

But, huh. That still doesn't tell me much.

So I did a quick search for Bisphenol A, a chemical many are concerned about, and I see some companies that have imported it, or versions of it.

But several of them have listed in the "national production volume for chemical" the following: Data withheld.

So, frankly, I'm not so sure WHAT this shows. Stay tuned. I've asked for help.

I do know the reporting is required under TSCA -- the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Yet here's the rub from the EPA press release today: "Chemicals used in consumer products, particularly those intended for children, present potential for direct exposure to the public and are priorities for assessment by the agency. Although reporting on these chemicals is compulsory, currently there are no requirements under TSCA that existing chemicals be evaluated for safety."

I recently wrote about TSCA and numerous calls for reform in this story.

Today, Jackson reiterated her view that "The CDR data also highlight the clear need for TSCA reform. Updating this critical law will ensure that EPA has access to the tools and resources it needs to quickly and effectively assess potentially harmful chemicals, and safeguard the health of families across the country."

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, has been pushing for reform. And he released a statement today, after the EPA announcement, saying he would continue: "This new EPA data exposes the widespread use of chemicals in everyday consumer products, including those intended for our children. Beyond collecting this data, the EPA has little power to require health and safety testing on any of these chemicals, even if experts suspect they are dangerous."

"I applaud EPA for using the limited authority available to it to make this information available, and will keep working aggressively on legislation to reform our broken chemical safety laws to better protect the health of our families," Lautenberg said.