EDF Health

Examining claims and concerns about the Udall-Vitter TSCA reform proposal

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

Links to blog posts in this series:  Part 1     Part 2

In my first post of this series, I described in some detail how the Udall-Vitter major redraft of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) both dramatically improves that bill and would be much better than current law (preemption aside).  In this second post, I’ll examine some specific concerns being raised and claims being made about the Udall-Vitter proposal.

Some of the claims and concerns suggest a huge underlying policy difference between the Udall-Vitter and Boxer proposals, when in fact the differences in the actual language or positions on those points are far smaller.  Others relate to an issue Senators Udall and Vitter have acknowledged remains to be resolved.  And at least one suggests a departure from provisions that were included in earlier Democratic TSCA reform bills.

I already addressed in my first post the most prominent concern raised about the Udall-Vitter proposal: that it would restrict states’ authority to regulate chemicals.  I noted that this issue of preemption of state authority was excluded from the scope of the Udall-Vitter negotiations, and that it is a critical issue that remains to be resolved. 

Let’s look at the other claims being made about the Udall-Vitter proposal.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| 1 Response

Real progress on chemical reform

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

Links to blog posts in this series:  Part 1     Part 2

[UPDATE 9-25-14: I have updated this post to link directly to a copy of the Udall-Vitter TSCA reform proposal, which – though not released by the Senators – is now available online here. My analysis of that proposal in this post remains unchanged. With a copy of the Udall-Vitter proposal now available online, I have also updated the introduction to my post, including removing some description of the back and forth that occurred last week].

The last week has seen the release of two proposals to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA) have been negotiating for much of the last year on a bipartisan TSCA reform proposal that heavily reworks nearly the entirety of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA, S. 1009), a bill originally introduced in May 2013 by Vitter and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).  A notable exception is CSIA’s controversial preemption section, which was excluded from the scope of the Udall-Vitter negotiations.

On September 18, Senator Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, released her own proposal, which is in the form of a redline of the Udall-Vitter proposal.

Both proposals are now available online, Udall-Vitter here and Boxer here.

This is the first of a series of three posts I’ll do examining these two proposals.  In this one I’ll take a deep dive into the Udall-Vitter proposal to show how it addresses the key concerns raised about CSIA and demonstrate that, by any objective measure, it represents a dramatic improvement over current federal law.  In the second post, I’ll examine the specific claims made by critics of the Udall-Vitter proposal.  In the third post, I’ll examine some of the features of the proposal from Senator Boxer, and conclude with why these two proposals present an opportunity.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Leave a comment

Missing the forest for the trees? Are we addressing the biggest risks from exposure to phthalates?

Lindsay McCormick is a Research AnalystRichard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist

A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives is the first to demonstrate a link between childhood asthma and prenatal exposure to certain phthalates.  Phthalates are a group of chemical plasticizers used in hundreds of everyday products, including home construction materials, toys, food packaging, medical devices, and synthetic fragrances found in personal care products, cleaning products, cosmetics, and air fresheners.  For the most part, it is impossible for the average consumer to know what products are made with phthalates; however, if you see the word “fragrance” listed on your shampoo or sun screen, it may well contain a phthalate.  

Several studies have suggested that phthalate exposure may have an adverse impact on children’s respiratory health (for example, see here, here, and here).   However, none of these studies has considered the potential role of prenatal exposure – exposures to the fetus in the womb – to phthalates.

The prenatal period is a critical developmental window for lung and respiratory health.  Thus, researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) hypothesized that prenatal phthalate exposure would be associated with later development of asthma in childhood.  To investigate this hypothesis, the researchers measured phthalate metabolite levels in the urine of 300 women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, and then followed the children of these women to assess the extent to which they developed asthma between the ages of 5 and 11.  Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation| Tagged , , | 2 Responses

Only a 2-month wait, down from 28 years: New EPA risk assessments find paint stripper chemicals pose significant health risks

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

In June, I blogged about the first final risk assessment EPA had issued in 28 years using its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), for the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE).  Happily, we only had to wait two months for EPA’s TSCA office to issue final risk assessments for three more chemicals.

One of the three is dichloromethane (DCM), also known as methylene chloride.  DCM is a common ingredient of paint strippers, the use on which EPA’s risk assessment focused.  As with TCE, EPA found DCM-laden paint strippers pose significant health risks to workers, consumers and the general public.  Here’s what EPA said in its press release:

The risk assessment for Dichloromethane (DCM), which is widely used in paint stripping products, indicates health risks to both workers and consumers who use these products, and to bystanders in workplaces and residences where DCM is used.  EPA estimates that more than 230,000 workers nationwide are directly exposed to DCM from DCM-containing paint strippers.

Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments closed

Nothing is forever – and chemical industry trade secret claims shouldn’t be an exception

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

A coalition of health, labor, environmental and environmental justice groups (including EDF), represented by Earthjustice, filed a petition today with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that requests EPA establish a limit on how long information on chemicals submitted and claimed confidential by the chemical industry under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) can be protected from disclosure.

The petition asks EPA to close a loophole in its current regulations that by default grants indefinite protection for nearly all chemical information claimed confidential.  Because EPA’s only option under its current regulations is to challenge these claims on a case-by-case basis, industry bears no responsibility to ensure that its claims remain valid over time.  The lack of any expiration date for such claims has contributed to a large backlog of excessive and often unwarranted claims – the protection of which imposes large costs on EPA and the American taxpayer and denies public and market access to information that could lead to better-informed decisions about chemicals.

The petition filed today offers a simple solution, one called for in virtually every internal and external review of EPA trade secret policy conducted over the last several decades (see list at the end of this post):  EPA should alter its regulations to create a “sunset” for confidential business information (CBI) claims, which would expire after a set period of time (5 years is proposed) unless the claimant shows that continued protection is warranted.  This approach would allow true trade secrets to continue to be protected while providing public access to information that no longer warrants trade secret protection.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Twice in 2 weeks: National Academy of Sciences again strongly affirms federal government’s science, agrees formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen

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

Just last week I blogged that a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) had fully backed the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) listing of styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

Today a separate NAS panel strongly endorsed NTP’s listing of formaldehyde as a “known human carcinogen” in its 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC).  As with styrene, this second NAS panel both peer-reviewed the RoC listing and conducted its own independent review of the formaldehyde literature – and in both cases found strong evidence to support NTP’s listing.  See the NAS press release here, which links to the full report.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence| Tagged , , , | Comments closed

National Academy of Sciences strongly affirms science showing styrene is a human carcinogen

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

It’s been a ridiculously long road to get here, because of the delay tactics of the chemical industry.  But yesterday a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) fully backed the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) listing of styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

We have blogged earlier about this saga.  In June 2011, after years of delay, the NTP released its Congressionally mandated 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC), in which it upgraded formaldehyde to the status of “known to be a human carcinogen,” and for the first time listed styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”  The chemical industry launched an all-out war to defend two of its biggest cash cows, filing a lawsuit to try to reverse the styrene listing (which it lost), and seeking to cut off funding for the RoC.  

In late 2011, the industry managed to get its allies in Congress to slip into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, without any debate, a rider that mandated NAS to review the styrene and formaldehyde listings in the 12th RoC.  Yesterday’s NAS report on styrene is the first installment, with the second one on formaldehyde expected shortly.

The NAS report could not be more supportive of the NTP’s listing of styrene, finding “that ‘compelling evidence’ exists in human, animal, and mechanistic studies to support listing styrene, at a minimum, as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” (emphasis added)  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence| Tagged , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

New bill puts BPA back in the spotlight

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., is Director of EDF's Health Program.

The hotly debated chemical BPA is back in the policy spotlight. This week Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass) joined Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Grace Meng (D-NY) to announce the Ban Poisonous Additives (BPA) Act.  The bill would ban the use of BPA or bisphenol A from food packaging and mandates extensive consideration of the hazardous properties of any BPA alternative, so as to avoid substituting chemicals that may pose just as many health risks (as increasingly it appears to be with the case of the common BPA replacement, BPS).

Low dose exposure to BPA has been associated with a wide range of health effects including behavioral problems, prostate, breast and liver cancer as well as obesity.  A study released just last week demonstrated how low dose exposure to BPA during fetal development can alter gene expression in the mammary gland of female rats, resulting in abnormal development of the breast and increased susceptibility to breast cancer later in life.   Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

EPA releases final risk assessment for TCE: One down, 84,999 to go*

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.  Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

EPA achieved a rather significant milestone today in releasing a final risk assessment for the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE).  This document is for the first of a group of 83 “work plan chemicals” EPA identified in 2012 as needing risk assessments and, where warranted, risk management.

Why do we call it a milestone?  It is the first final risk assessment issued by EPA using its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in – wait for it – 28 years.

The last time EPA issued a final risk assessment for a chemical under TSCA was in 1986, for asbestos.  (EPA has developed a few draft assessments under TSCA over the years, but today marks the first time since 1986 that one of them has been finalized.)

So, kudos to EPA for finally getting this risk assessment to the finish line.  Now what’s next?  Read More »

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

Imbalanced act: An EPA IRIS agenda that speaks 1000 words

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.  Rachel Shaffer is a research assistant.

[UPDATE 6/24/14:  Perhaps in response to this post of last week, an updated agenda for this week's IRIS meeting was posted by EPA today that reflects a somewhat more balanced set of speakers.  Industry interests appear to have consolidated their number of slots, down from a high of 8 to a high of 6 per issue, and down from a high of 6 to a high of 4 individuals per issue from the same consulting firm.  In addition, several additional slots are assigned to non-industry speakers.  If you wish to see the changes, here is the agenda we linked to that was current as of last week, and here's the updated agenda posted today.]

In comments EDF made at a November 2012 stakeholder meeting held by EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, we warned that the tendency of the IRIS program to respond to criticism by expanding opportunities for “public” input would serve to increase rather than decrease the imbalance in stakeholder input.

We noted that providing more opportunities for participation not only lengthens the timeline for completing assessments; it also virtually ensures the input received by EPA is imbalanced and badly skewed toward the regulated community. That’s because companies that produce and use each chemical to be assessed – and the trade associations and myriad hired consultants that represent them – have a clear vested financial interest in the outcome of the assessment.  They can and will take advantage of each and every opportunity for input, and they will be better represented than other stakeholders each and every time.

IRIS recently began holding bimonthly meetings focused on “key science issues” relating to upcoming assessments.  And guess what?  An army of industry representatives, including staff for trade associations and paid consultants, are overwhelming the agendas.

Exhibit A:  Have a quick look at the list of speakers in the agenda for this month’s bimonthly meeting.  A striking imbalance, no?  As many as 8 industry representatives are set to speak on a given issue, including 6 from the same consulting firm!  [UPDATE 6/24/14:  See the top of this post for a description of the updated, slightly more balanced agenda; here is the agenda we had linked to that was current as of last week, and here's the updated agenda posted today.] Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence| Tagged , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed
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