Not goodbye, but see you later

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

After nearly 35 years at EDF, I am retiring this week.

While I have had the privilege of working on many things in my time at EDF, for the last 20+ years my main focus has been on the Toxic Substances Control Act: making the case for why reform was so badly needed; helping shape what that reform should look like; traversing every twist and turn on the long and winding road to get the Lautenberg Act finally enacted; and providing EPA with our advice on how to get strong and lawful implementation of the law off the ground.

I don’t know that any of us who worked so hard on all of the above imagined what a tragic turn all of that work would take with the arrival of the Trump administration.  They simply handed over the keys to the chemical industry and its bevy of law firms, trade associations, and consultants, who quickly shattered the fragile consensus and good will that had allowed the reform to happen, and then systematically undermined the intent of the law in a manner that actually made many things worse than before.  EDF’s and my role necessarily shifted to one of vociferous opposition, documenting and challenging how EPA political appointees were thwarting the law, science, and the agency’s mission to protect health and the environment, including those at greatest risk.

Considerable damage was done to EPA, including to its most valuable resource, the career staff.  Considerable time will be needed to right the ship.  I am hopeful about the corrective actions that have already been taken by new EPA leadership and what they are signaling is still to come.

It is vital not only that the damage be fixed, but also that EPA work to realize a broader vision for what TSCA can be and must do to fully account for and protect those most exposed or susceptible to chemical risks – including fenceline communities, workers, and children.  Earlier this year we published a series of posts to this blog titled “Re-visioning TSCA” that lays out some of our thinking about why and how this work should begin immediately.

Enormous tasks lie ahead.  EDF has had and will continue to have a strong team working on TSCA, and we will shortly be announcing a new member who will lead this work.

I plan to take a break and return at a later point to continue to advise our team on this important work.

Finally, a note about the EDF Health blog:  Our program started it in February 2008 to be able to weigh in and talk about our work back then to ensure the safety of nanomaterials.  Some 820 posts later, we now regularly address a range of issues we work on relating to chemicals and health.  We also strive to do more than just opine on the issues – often using the blog to present the results of our research and analysis of problems and detailed recommendations for how they should be tackled.

I was startled to see that, over these years, I have contributed about 475 posts, more than 350 of them directly focused on TSCA.  That is a lot of words, but I hope they can still serve as a resource, and a window into what we believe can and needs to be done to protect everyone from toxic chemicals.

For now, I’ll just say, not goodbye, but see you later.

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5 Comments

  1. Jeff Cantin
    Posted September 29, 2021 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations and thank you Richard for your hard work and dedication.

  2. Libby Sommer
    Posted September 29, 2021 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on this milestone, Richard. I’ve appreciated your blog posts very much over the years. I wish you all the best in this new chapter. Thanks for your important work on TSCA reform and public health.

  3. Amy Arth
    Posted September 30, 2021 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    Best to you Richard in whatever you do to enjoy some time away. I very much appreciate your in-depth understanding of what was happening to TSCA during the Trump administration and your efforts to get TSCA back to what it was intended to do. Thank you!

  4. Christine Dimmick
    Posted September 30, 2021 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Thank you Richard for all of your work and efforts to protect us! Grateful.

  5. Wendy ClelandHamnett
    Posted September 30, 2021 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Richard, my best wishes for a wonderful and well-deserved break. Please accept my most heartfelt thanks for your 20+ years of work on TSCA. The importance of your work to the EPA implementation of the chemicals program can not be overstated. You held us to account in the most useful way – calling us out as needed, using data and analysis to illuminate both the mechanisms and significance of a program that is complex and often opaque. Most importantly, to my mind, you care deeply about the true success of the program, and wanted to work honestly with the Agency and the industry, as possible, to protect the vulnerable. I always looked forward to our meetings. Hoping there is lots of relaxation and fun in your future!