A Toxic Scavenger Hunt: Finding the First 10 Lautenberg Act Chemicals

Jack Pratt is Chemicals Campaign Director

Recently, EPA identified the first 10 chemicals for evaluation under our country’s newly reformed chemical safety law. That motivated me to see how easy it would be to find these chemicals in consumer products. The answer: very easy. In fact, while you’ve probably not heard of many of these chemicals, the products that contain them are likely all too familiar.

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Posted in TSCA Reform, Uncategorized| Leave a comment

No, chemical industry, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (Part 2)

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Part 1 here]

We have been watching with growing alarm the rapidly unfolding efforts by leadership in Congress and the Trump Administration to gut health and safety protections that provide millions of Americans with clean air, water and safe products.  Support by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) for such efforts, detailed below, gives us profound worry and deep frustration given the trade association’s support of major reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act last year.

Many of ACC’s member companies worked for many years to move the industry towards strong federal legislation that can restore public and market confidence in the safety of their products.  Many of these companies have also been embracing sustainability commitments, and have acknowledged that a strong federal chemicals management system is critical for charting the path to a safer more sustainable future.  Those companies with a real commitment to safer chemicals and sustainability should be very alarmed that their trade association has endorsed legislation and the Trump Administration’s deregulatory executive order that would profoundly limit EPA’s and the rest of the Federal government’s ability to protect human health and the environment.

These actions by the executive and legislative branches will or would severely constrain EPA from acting to address chemical risks under the Lautenberg Act as well as other federal laws that protect our air, water, land, workplaces, schools and homes.

Here are the specifics:   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed

No, chemical industry, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (Part 1)

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

There is an extreme anti-regulatory and anti-science bandwagon moving fast through Washington, and much of the chemical industry seems to have jumped right on board.  We’re also seeing growing signs of industry pushback against even modest early actions EPA is taking to implement the Lautenberg Act, which reformed the obsolete Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and passed with strong bipartisan support only last June.

Companies have every right to provide their input to EPA and argue the case for their chemicals in accordance with designated processes the agency has established for this purpose.  But resorting to tactics of obstruction and delay won’t fool anyone.  That’s the very thing that brought about the public crisis in confidence surrounding this industry in the first place.

I’ll address these concerns in this and a second post to follow.  This post will address several attempts by some in the chemical industry to thwart EPA’s efforts to implement the new TSCA.  The second post will look at the industry’s main trade association’s unabashed – indeed, boisterous – support for a new Executive Order and multiple “regulatory reform” bills moving in Congress, which it embraces despite the fact that they would impose on EPA (and other agencies’) rulemakings – including those under the new TSCA – dozens of new knot-tying strictures, some of which the Lautenberg Act just got rid of.

This suggests that some in the industry have a very short memory:  What led the industry to finally support TSCA reform was its recognition that the public, other levels of government and the market itself have little confidence in the safety of its products or the ability of government to protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals.  Any relief it sought from its initial endorsement of a stronger federal chemical safety system will quickly dissipate if industry representatives – emboldened by the current political climate – take actions to stymie implementation of the new law and to buoy executive and legislative vehicles that would bring the regulatory system to a grinding halt.

So, let’s start with a few of the battles that some in the industry are waging to undercut recent EPA actions, authorized under the new TSCA, to restrict three highly toxic chemicals – trichloroethylene (TCE), methylene chloride (MC) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) – the first such actions taken under TSCA in nearly 30 years.  Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

EPA to consider perchlorate risks from degradation of hypochlorite bleach

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director and Maricel Maffini, Ph.D., Consultant

Virtually all types of food contain measurable amounts of perchlorate. Young children are the most highly exposed, and they consume levels that may be unsafe. Reducing exposure to perchlorate is of public health importance because it presents a risk to children’s brain development

One potentially significant source of the toxic chemical in food is hypochlorite bleach that, when not well managed, degrades to perchlorate. Bleach is used to sanitize food manufacturing equipment or to wash or peel fruits and vegetables. Thanks to a recent decision by Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs, we will better understand the risk posed by perchlorate-contaminated bleach and whether standards are needed to improve the management of bleach.

Reduce perchlorate exposure by improving bleach management

In 2011, an excellent report by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Research Foundation documented that hypochlorite bleach degrades into perchlorate. The report also included guidelines on better management of hypochlorite to preserve its effectiveness for drinking water utilities using it to disinfect water.

Most of AWWA’s recommendations are equally relevant to food manufacturers and anyone using bleach to disinfect food contact surfaces. The key recommendations are:

  • Dilute hypochlorite solutions on delivery. Cutting the concentration in half decreases the degradation rate by a factor of 7.
  • Store hypochlorite solutions at lower temperatures. Reducing temperature by 5oC decreases degradation rate by a factor of 2.
  • Keep pH between 11 and 13 even after dilution.
  • Avoid extended storage times, and use fresh hypochlorite solutions when possible.

The objective is not to reduce the use of bleach. Rather it is to preserve its effectiveness by preventing degradation to perchlorate through careful management.

Bleach: a food additive and a pesticide

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Posted in Drinking Water, Emerging Science, FDA, Food, perchlorate, Regulation| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments are closed

When it comes to lead, formula-fed infants get most from water and toddlers from food, but for highest exposed children the main source of lead is soil and dust

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

On January 19, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a major new draft report proposing three different approaches to setting health-based benchmarks for lead in drinking water. We applauded EPA’s action and explored the implications for drinking water in a previous blog. One of the agency’s approaches provides useful, and surprising, insights into where the lead that undermines the health of our children comes from. Knowing the sources enables regulators and stakeholders to set science-based priorities to reduce exposures and the estimated $50 billion that lead costs society each year.

The EPA draft report is available for public comments until March 6, 2017, and it is undergoing external peer-review by experts in the field in support of the agency’s planned revisions to its Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) for drinking water. Following this public peer-review process, EPA expects to evaluate and determine what specific role or roles a health-based value may play in the revised LCR. With the understanding that some of the content may change, here are my takeaways from the draft:

  • For the 20% of most exposed infants and toddlers, dust/soil is the largest source of lead. Since we know that 21% of U.S. homes (24 out of 114 million) have lead-based paint hazards, this should not be surprising.
  • For most infants, lead in water and soil/dust have similar contributions to blood lead levels, with food as a smaller source. If the infant is formula-fed, water dominates.
  • For 2/3 of toddlers, food appears to provide the majority of their exposure to lead. This result was a surprise for me. EPA used data from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Total Diet Study collected from 2007 to 2013 coupled with food consumption data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected from 2005 to 2011. In August 2016, FDA reported on levels of lead (and cadmium in food) commonly eaten by infants and toddlers based on a data set that is different from its Total Diet Study. FDA concluded that these levels, “on average, are relatively low and are not likely to cause a human health concern.”
  • For all children, air pollution appears to be a minor source of lead exposure. We think it is most likely because exposure is localized around small airports and industrial sources.

For a visual look at the data, we extracted two charts from the draft EPA report (page 81) that show the relative contribution of the four sources of lead for infants (0-6 month-olds) and toddlers (1 to <2 year-olds) considered by the agency. The charts represent national exposure distributions and not specific geographical areas or age of housing.

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Posted in Drinking Water, Emerging Science, EPA, FDA, Food, Health Policy, lead| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments are closed

Introducing our new podcast: You Make Me Sick!

[Edited on 17 February 2017. Click here to subscribe via iTunes or Google Play]

Today we are launching the second episode of our podcast, You Make Me Sick! On this episode, we talked with Dr. Brett Finlay, author of “Let Them Eat Dirt”, about the fascinating world of microbes.

Dr. Finlay’s research focuses on how bacteria and other tiny microorganisms living in and on us might not be all bad. We caught up with him in New York City to learn about fecal transplants and asthma, and to get some new evidence in the never-ending dogs vs. cats debate. Click below to listen.

 

[EPISODE 1 – Impact of lead on the developing brain]

Working at EDF’s Health Program, we learn new and fascinating things about the science of environmental health every day. We decided these stories of how chemicals can affect our health are too interesting and important to keep to ourselves. In order to bring you the latest and greatest in scientific research around environmental health, EDF Health is proud to present our new podcast, You Make Me Sick, hosted by yours truly and Dr. Jennifer McPartland.

Over the next few months, this podcast, which will be released every few weeks, will bring you the latest research from experts in the field of environmental health. We will be sitting down with them to discuss where the science has been, is, and will be.

Our first interview was with Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a professor at Simon Fraser University with expertise in children’s environmental health. His research ranges from childhood exposures to pesticides, mercury, tobacco smoke and other chemicals of concern. In this episode, we sat down with him in the EDF Washington office to learn specifically about how lead exposure affects children.

Click below to listen. While you're at it, make sure to subscribe to us via iTunes or Google Play!

Posted in Health Science| Tagged | Read 1 Response
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