WASHINGTON - Despite congressional moves to apply new cost/benefit analyses to toxic chemical regulations, an environ-mental group is pushing to retain federal limits on industrial toxins. The timing of the release of ``Toxics Watch 1995'' coincides with congressional debate on the application of risk assessment and cost/benefit analysis to environmental regulation, which Inform Inc., a New York-based environmental activist group, opposes.
``Risk assessment doesn't work,'' said Inform President Joanna Underwood. ``There are too many value judgments to make it the heart of our effort.''
Inform favors reducing sources of chemicals in the environment as a means of reducing their risk, regardless of the size of that risk.
Underwood said the report revealed ``we don't know what we don't know'' about chemicals and their toxicity, but she added that ``every pound of waste is a pound of risk.
``It is evident from [federal] data that industrial facilities are not aggressively pursuing source reduction, despite its status as our nation's No. 1 priority method for dealing with toxic waste,'' Underwood said at a press conference held March 14 in Washington.
But panelist Morton L. Mullins, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Chemical Manufacturers Association countered, ``We're putting our resources where there is good risk-based prioritization. We have to put things where we get the most bang for the buck.''
Another panelist, Edward Higgins, director of environmental policy for the Washington-based advocacy group Citizen Action, offered a compromise approach.
``Most consumers don't dispute the need to put our resources where they can do the most good. A lot of the information we need to make these decisions just isn't there and we're not doing a lot to create it,'' he said.
One of 10 pillars of the Republican Contract With America, risk assessment legislation has passed the House, but three versions of the concept are being argued in the Senate. Senate floor action is not expected until early to mid-May.
The Inform report notes four of five companies that produced more than 100 million pounds of carcinogenic wastes in 1991 increased their output in 1992, the latest figures available. Those companies included Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., which increased output by 14.4 percent; Hoechst Celanese Corp. of Somerville, N.J., 12.2 percent; and Shintek Inc. of Houston, 10.9 percent.
Further, the report says seven of the top ten generators increased their production of waste categorized by the federal government as dangerous to human health between 1991 and 1992.
The companies included Hoechst Celanese, 4.63 percent, to 695 million pounds; Dow, 29.32 percent, to 517 million pounds; and AlliedSignal Inc. of Morristown, N.J., 20.2 percent, to 393 million pounds.
Three of the top ten reduced their waste output, including DuPont Co. of Wilmington, Del., which cut its output by 10.3 percent, to 782 million pounds; and Solvay America, by 11 percent, to 413 million pounds.