Monthly Archives: January 2010

TSCA-geek contest: And the answer is …

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

The “identify-that-quote” contest I posted yesterday attracted quite a few responses, some as comments on the post, others in emails to me.  Most people were on the right track in thinking that it was said decades ago, though one guess was of someone in the last decade.  (I have to agree it does read like something EU Commissioner Margot Wallstrom might have said.)

Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Regulation| 2 Responses, comments now closed

TSCA-geek contest: Who said this, and when?

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

No prize offered, but here's a little contest.  Who can guess who said the following, in what context and when — without cheating by googling a phrase from it?  Answer provided tomorrow.

"Most Americans had no idea, until relatively recently, that they were living so dangerously.  They had no idea that when they went to work in the morning, or when they ate their breakfast — that when they did things they had to do to earn a living and keep themselves alive and well — that when they did things as ordinary, as innocent, and as essential as eat, drink, breathe, or touch, they could, in fact, be laying their lives on the line.  They had no idea that, without their knowledge or consent, they were engaging in a grim game of chemical roulette whose result they would not know until many years later."

[Spoiler alert:  Here's a link to the answer.]

Posted in Health Policy, Regulation| 7 Responses, comments now closed

Chemical industry reacts to EPA on CBI: Burglars claim to like new alarm system

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

After EPA announced yesterday that it will deny certain confidential business information (CBI) claims that have masked the identity of risky chemicals, two chemical industry trade associations responded favorably, saying they “welcome” the move as “the right thing to do.”

Entirely missing from their responses, however, was any acknowledgment of the fact that the EPA policy shift would not have been necessary but for the huge number of illegitimate CBI claims made by none other than the member companies of those same trade associations.  In a classic case of industry-speak, the companies who have been effectively stealing information from the public about their chemicals try to obscure their nefarious role by now saying they welcome the new alarm system they have forced EPA to install.

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Posted in Health Policy, Regulation| Tagged , , | Comments closed

Connecting the dots: New report makes the health case for TSCA reform

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

The Safer Chemicals Healthy Families campaign, of which EDF is a founding member, is releasing an important report today:  "The Health Case for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act."  This report connects the growing number of dots linking chemical exposures to a number of serious chronic diseases that are rising in incidence.  These include certain types of cancer, including childhood cancers; learning and developmental disabilities; Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease; reproductive health and fertility problems in both women and men; and asthma.

The report provides a succinct review of the state of the science in each of these areas, and argues that the U.S. has an opportunity to help ameliorate both the rise in these chronic diseases and their associated health care costs — by enacting comprehensive reform of our nation's policies addressing the safety of chemicals.

Check out the report and news release.

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

EPA starts to chip away at chemical secrecy; but don't stop here!

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

Tomorrow's Federal Register will contain a short notice from EPA that partially corrects a decades-old Agency practice that has denied the public access to the identity of chemicals that present substantial risks.

This welcome action begins to pull back the curtain on the chemical secrecy that has been a hallmark of life for the public under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  As I noted in a previous post, this action is one of a host of changes needed to remedy the major excesses and abuses of confidentiality under TSCA.  EPA's action makes clear that some things can be done even as we await TSCA reform.

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Posted in Health Policy, Regulation| Tagged , | Comments closed

Won’t we ever stop playing whack-a-mole with “regrettable chemical substitutions”?

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

In recent days, two compelling cases have surfaced of so-called “regrettable substitutions” – industry responding to concerns about the use of one dangerous chemical by replacing it with another that is less well-studied, or at least not currently in the crosshairs.

Case 1:  Chinese manufacturers of children’s jewelry, responding to concerns and restrictions on the use of lead in such products produced for export to the U.S., have replaced it with cadmium, a known human carcinogen and developmental toxicant that, if anything is even more toxic to kids than lead – but is not subject to any restrictions in such kids’ products.

Case 2:  American food product manufacturers, responding to concerns about the devastating effects on the lungs of workers exposed to diacetyl – an artificial butter flavoring used in many products, most notably microwave popcorn – have begun to replace it with closely related chemicals likely to break down into diacetyl or otherwise have similar effects.

Are we destined forever to play this dangerous variant on the game of whack-a-mole, or can something be done? Read More »

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

Study raises big questions about worker protection in nanotech labs

Cal Baier-AndersonCal Baier-Anderson, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

When it comes to chemical exposures, workers are on the front line.  Workers are usually the most likely to be exposed to harmful levels of chemicals, because they are the ones producing, processing, handling, sampling and measuring, transferring and transporting chemicals in larger and more concentrated quantities.

Throughout history, workers have been the canaries in the coal mines; the first to exhibit the health effects of hazardous chemical exposures, from scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps, to mesothelioma in shipyard and construction workers to liver cancer in vinyl chloride workers.

For these reasons, EDF has argued that workers handling or otherwise likely to be exposed to nanomaterials must be protected from harm (see our earlier posts here, here and here).  Now, a new government study published in the respected journal Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that certain comfortable assumptions about nanomaterial laboratory safety may be downright wrong. Read More »

Posted in Health Science, Nanotechnology| Tagged , , , | Comments closed

How should the problem of “secret chemicals” be addressed?

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

A front page article by Lyndsey Layton in yesterday’s Washington Post – spurred by an intriguing new report by the Environmental Working Group – did a great job of exposing the extent to which the identities of chemicals in widespread use are hidden from view, and of exploring some of the many adverse consequences.

Neither the article nor the report, however, had much to say about how this problem of excessive reliance on confidential business information (CBI) claims by industry might be solved, especially in the context of impending reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

In this post I’ll provide some concrete proposals for addressing this serious problem.

Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed

EPA deserves an “A for Effort” for its new Chemical Action Plans

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

Just squeaking in under its self-imposed deadline, late on December 30 EPA issued the first batch of chemical action plans it has promised under its enhanced chemical management program.  In doing so, EPA has signaled its intention to do all it can using its existing authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – even as it also makes clear that authority is “both outdated and in need of reform.”  To my ear, that strikes just the right balance. Read More »

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