Marilyn C. Bracken
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Marilyn C. Bracken’s oral history interview begins with a discussion about the relationship between her family life and early career. Once Bracken became a mother, she transitioned out of the laboratory and began pursuing graduate work in information science. She worked for and with several government agencies before joining EPA’s Office of Toxic Substances as the deputy assistant administrator (DAA) for program information and toxic integration. Her responsibilities in program information included creating the TSCA Inventory, where the office decided to use the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) to assign unique identities to chemicals. She was also involved in developing Section 8 rules, and supporting industry efforts to develop internal reporting mechanisms. Internationally, she participated in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) discussions to facilitate data sharing and develop a “base set” of data for new chemicals. As the DAA for toxic integration, Bracken was responsible for facilitating interagency and intra-agency data sharing. From Bracken’s perspective, EPA’s culture of stovepiping, a lack of coordination throughout the administration, and procedural burdens within TSCA severely hampered any effort to create a holistic chemicals regulation policy, and Congress was critical of EPA’s performance. After the change in administration and the arrival of Anne M. Gorsuch as administrator, Bracken left the EPA because of the lack of administrative support.
Bracken believes that TSCA was unique in its authority to be a regulatory catchall with the ability to prevent pollution before it happened. She emphasized the role that access to information, both by the government and the public, plays in effectively carrying out that authority. She discussed the challenge that nanotechnology presents to the CAS system of chemical identity that she developed. Bracken argues that the procedural burdens to EPA action must also be addressed in a TSCA reform process, specifically proving “unreasonable risk” and the limitations around confidential business information (CBI). She concludes with a discussion of the changing language of “safety,” and the significance of the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances changing its name to the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
|1957||Carnegie Institute of Technology||BS||Chemistry|
|1967||American University||MA||Public Administration: Technology of Management|
|1971||American University||PhD||Public Administration: Technology of Management|
National Bureau of Standards
US Department of Agriculture
Consumer Product Safety Commission
The MITRE Corporation
US Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Testing and Certification Corporation
Metcalf & Eddy
Metcalf & Eddy de Puerto Rico, Inc.
Air and Water Technologies, Inc.
Paragon Global Services, Ltd.
Applied Biosciences International, Inc.
Bracken Associates, LLC
Institute for Defense Anaylses
|1966 to 1970||
National Institutes of Health Graduate Trainee Fellowship
Chairman’s Special Citation, US Consumer Product Safety Commission
Distinguished Alumna Award, American University
Presidential Rank Award, Meritorious Executive, US Government
Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science
Fellow, Society of American Military Engineers
Table of Contents
Chemistry. Children. NIH grant in information science. Department of Agriculture. Consumer Product Safety Commission. MITRE Corporation.
TSCA Inventory. Use of CAS system. Development of Section 8 rules. Industry reporting mechanisms. International development of a “base set” for new chemicals
Interagency cooperation. Prioritization. Section 9. Lack of mandate. Procedural hurdles. EPA culture of stovepiping. Interagency Testing Committee.
Science of structure-activity relationships. Congressional oversight. Lack of administrative support.
Pollution prevention. Information as the key to regulation. Nanotechnology. CBI. Procedural hurdles. “Unreasonable risk” vs. “safety.”
About the Interviewer
Jody A. Roberts is the Director of the Institute for Research at the Science History Institute. He received his PhD and MS in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and holds a BS in chemistry from Saint Vincent College. His research focuses on the intersections of regulation, innovation, environmental issues, and emerging technologies within the chemical sciences.
Kavita D. Hardy was a research assistant in the Environmental History and Policy Program at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. She received a BA in chemistry and in economics from Swarthmore College.