From Regulation of Economic Activity

The Dilemma of Toxic Substance Regulation

How Overregulation Causes Underregulation

By John Mendeloff and Richard Schmalensee

Overview

Author(s)

Summary

In this provocative study, John Mendeloff shows that federal programs which set standards for toxic substances have twin dilemmas.The new standards that they establish are usually too strict and costly to justify the benefits they confer. But, at the same time, the slow pace of standard-setting means that many serious hazards are never addressed at all. Mendeloff argues that more extensive, but less strict, rulemaking could make both industry and workers better off and that changes in legislation are required to break the current stalemate.

Mendeloff looks at workplace risks regulated, and not regulated, by OSHA. He discusses the thorny issue of how much our society should value the prevention of occupational disease deaths. His innovative investigation of "underregulation" brings together diverse data to show that moderate reductions in current exposure levels would often be beneficial. Regulating Toxic Substances makes a major contribution to our understanding of how regulation works by demonstrating that the strictness with which standards are set is a major cause of the slow pace. Administrative rulemaking procedures offer opportunities for those concerned about the reasonableness of standards - judges and other public officials, as well as the affected industries - to try to block or delay them. An important implication is that less strict standards would not necessarily reduce overall protection and might increase it.

In a major discussion of regulatory reform, Mendeloff analyzes such alternatives to standard-setting as information and liability strategies and such generic changes in regulatory procedures as regulatory budget and regulatory negotiation. Finding that neither provides a sufficient response to the overregulation-underregulation problem, he proposes a three-step legislative package that could be applied at OSHA and other standard-setting agencies.

This book is seventeenth in the series Regulation of Economic Activity, edited by Richard Schmalensee.

Hardcover

Out of Print ISBN: 9780262132305 341 pp. | 6.25 in x 9.5 in