The Carter administration intends to limit sharply the export of foods, drugs, chemicals and other products that are banned or restricted from use in the United States.
In a policy outline to be published next week in the Federal Register, an interagency working group will propose that export licenses be required for the products that "pose a common, especially severe level of hazard."
The licenses would not be granted unless the government of the importing country, when fully informed about the product, had no objection, and unless the State Department found that the export would not hurt U.S. foreign policy interests.
Such a policy "will put the United States in a position of world leadership in the field" of international hazardous substance control, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Washington Post.
In addition, according to Robert Harris of the Council on Environmental Quality, one of the agencies involved, "It means the United States would be a more responsible exporter of substances that could threaten the health or welfare of people in the importing nations."
The two-year effort to come up with the policy began in the wake of the exports of children's sleepwear with Tris, a cancer-causing fire retardant. Although the clothing was banned here in 1977, sales continued abroad for more than a year and totaled 2.4 million pieces valued at $1.2 million, the report said.
Other problems arose with the continuing export of aerosol sprays containing the propellant chlorofluorocarbons that have been banned here for their destructive effect on the ozone layer of the atmosphere.
There was also the "very powerful and very hazardous pesticide Leptophos," manufactured by the Velsicol Co. for export only and never registered in the United States. Nearly 14 million pounds went to 50 countries.
Those exports were between 1971 and 1976, with subsequent vision and speech troubles among farmers in Egypt and elsewhere, the report said.
Nearly one-third of the 550 million pounds of pesticides exported in 1976 were not registered for U.S. use, and although such pesticides must be labeled unregistered, many went "to countries where training [in proper use] may not be required and warning labels may not be followed."
The same is true for many drugs and some medical equipment, such as X-ray machines. Yet pressures to expand world export trade will accelerate with growing world population, the study said.
That means many dangerous products could return through residues on imported crops, air or water transport and illegal diversion. "The world environment itself could suffer through release of hazardous substances to the global commons," the study said.
The proposed policy would require no news laws, only an executive order, the report continued, since the president may ban any export if he finds it "necessary to further significantly the foreign policy of the United States or to fulfill its declared international obligations."
Under the proposal, all government agencies would draw up lists of items they have banned or significantly restricted domestically.
A special task force would then advise the State Department on a final list, considering many factors: the likelihood of health damage or other undesirable effect, the duration and type of that effect, the ability of the receiving country to deal with it, whether substitutes are available and what the benefits of the item would be to the importing country.
The State Department would then pick substances to subject to export controls, based on foreign policy impacts, domestic repercussion, enforcement difficulty and the result of "consultation" with Congress on the idea. Harris said perhaps 100 items would be included on the initial list.
When a manufacturer sought an export license for one of the controlled substances, U.S. Embassy officials in the affected country would make sure the government knew all about the product. Failure to respond would be taken as no objection to the import. The Commerce Department would then consider granting the license to export.
The report also called for a streamlined and uniform hazard notification system for newly defined problems, and recommended that the State Department publish an annual summary of all bans and controls.
The proposed policy does not cover toxic wastes, because the State Department is in the process of drawing up a separate measure to deal with those. Neither does it cover nuclear materials, weaponry, alcohol, tobacco, narcotics and some pesticides and medicines which are already heavily regulated.
Hazardous factory operations or U.S. financing for such facilities are not covered, nor are products like infant formula which are approved for U.S. use but abused in other countries.
No estimates of the dollar value of hazardous exports are available, since they have never been monitored, the report said. A final policy recommendation will be made to President Carter in September after a 30-day public comment period.