EDF Health

EPA’s scientific peer reviewers don’t mince words in blasting its 1,4-dioxane and HBCD risk evaluations

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

Late Friday is getting to be a popular time for the toxics office at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publicly release the peer review reports of its Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC).

As EPA did for the Committee’s peer review report on the agency’s first draft risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA quietly posted sometime quite late last Friday the SACC’s reports on the next two chemicals:  the likely carcinogenic solvent 1,4-dioxane and the developmentally toxic flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD).

Even a quick read of the Executive Summaries of those reports amply illustrates why EPA sought to bury them.  I’ll focus here on 1,4-dioxane.

The SACC did note that the content and organization of this draft risk evaluation was “much improved” over the first one for Pigment Violet 29.  So much for the good news; things went downhill from there for EPA.  Read More »

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Next TSCA chemical peer reviews and draft risk evaluations to be delayed. You’ll never guess why.

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

We’re hearing that EPA has cancelled the next meeting of its Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), which was scheduled for October 21-25.  The SACC is conducting peer reviews of EPA’s draft risk evaluations of the first 10 chemicals to undergo safety reviews under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Word is that the panel was to use its October meeting to peer-review the draft risk evaluations for methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP).  But release of those drafts has been delayed, leaving insufficient time for the SACC to review them before the meeting.

We’re also hearing why release of the drafts has fallen behind.  The drafts were on track for release late last month, but apparently were blocked based on objections about at least the draft risk evaluation for methylene chloride.  The objections were lodged by Dr. Nancy Beck.  Read More »

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Peer reviewers confirm EPA has failed to show Pigment Violet 29 doesn’t present unreasonable risk

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

Late on Friday, EPA quietly posted the final peer review report of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) for pigment violet 29, the first chemical for which EPA issued a draft risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended in 2016.

No wonder EPA posted it late Friday with no announcement.  The peer reviewers’ report confirms what EDF and others have been saying since release of the draft:  EPA has fallen far short of supporting its sweeping conclusion that the chemical does not present unreasonable risk, including to vulnerable subpopulations.  The report also faults EPA’s use of systematic review, and reiterates that EPA needs to submit its method to the National Academy of Sciences for review.  Read More »

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EPA’s latest move to deflect criticism of its TSCA risk evaluations: Muzzle its science advisors

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

Readers of this blog know that Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has voiced strong opposition to a number of decisions made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that aim to limit the risks it finds when evaluating the safety of chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

These decisions include:

  • excluding from its analysis known human and environmental exposures to a chemical, based on unwarranted assumptions that those exposures are adequately managed by other statutes;
  • claiming without support that workers are protected by assuming universal and universally effective use of personal protective equipment throughout chemical supply chains and the adequacy of OSHA regulations that either don’t apply or are decades out of date;
  • arbitrarily loosening EPA’s longstanding risk standards governing when cancer incidences are deemed unacceptably high; and
  • choosing not to exercise its enhanced authorities under TSCA to require submission of robust information on chemicals’ hazard and exposures, resorting instead to questionable assumptions and relying on voluntarily submitted industry data that are unrepresentative or of poor or indeterminate quality.

Through these decisions, EPA increases the likelihood that it will either not find unreasonable risk and thereby avoid regulating the chemical, or if that can’t be accomplished, find risks that are low enough that it can impose few restrictions, thereby burdening industry as little as possible.

In response to each of these decisions, EPA has received dozens of highly critical comments on its draft risk evaluations from state and local governments, labor and health groups, environmental NGOs and members of the scientific community.  And in the first several peer reviews conducted by its Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), many of the scientists voiced quite similar concerns during the committee’s public meetings (as of yet, final peer review reports have not been issued).

Rather than address the problems, EPA has adopted a new tactic to stifle the criticism, one that is quite chilling (literally and figuratively):  It is telling the SACC that these issues are off-limits to the peer reviewers because they represent policy decisions that are beyond the charge given to the SACC.  This is beyond the pale, for several reasons.  Read More »

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EDF comments flag serious flaws in EPA’s draft risk evaluation for 1-Bromopropane

This week, EPA held its Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) meeting to peer review its draft risk assessment on 1-bromopropaneone of the first 10 chemicals being evaluated under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

EDF provided both oral comments and written comments to the SACC, raising the following issues:

  1. EPA inappropriately and illegally excludes all exposures to the general population from releases to air, water and land based on the unsupported assumption that other statutes adequately address the exposures;
  2. EPA has failed to evaluate the risk to consumers of developing cancer from acute 1-BP exposure;
  3. EPA errs in deeming a 1 in 10,000 cancer risk level reasonable for workers;
  4. EPA lacks access to full studies and relies only on summaries, prepared by industry, of limited aquatic toxicity testing to conclude 1-BP presents no unreasonable risks to the entire environment; and
  5. EPA overstates OSHA requirements and erroneously assumes that workers always use appropriate personal protective equipment. Yet in 2018 alone, OSHA cited 2,892 violations of the respiratory protection standard identified in 1,281 separate inspections, and such violations were the fourth most common type of violation.

Recently EPA has publicly stated that a number of the topics above are policy decisions outside the SACC’s charge (particularly, 1, 3 and 5). In our comments, EDF strongly disagreed, noting that all three decisions have major direct scientific consequences, and clearly lead EPA to underestimate the chemical’s risk – to the environment, the general population, workers, and vulnerable subpopulations.

For our full set of oral and written comments, see here.

 

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Should EPA grant industry’s hypocritical request to now address 1,4-dioxane’s risks as a byproduct, it must meet a number of conditions

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

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) submitted extensive comments last week to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that raise numerous serious concerns with EPA’s draft risk evaluation for the likely human carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.  EDF’s comments are available here.

I want to use this post to highlight one of the many issues:  For years, the industry has urged EPA not to include 1,4-dioxane’s presence as a byproduct in various formulated products within the scope of its risk evaluation for the chemical; see comments specific to 1,4-dioxane from the American Cleaning Institute, Procter & Gamble, and the Household & Commercial Products Association; and more general comments urging exclusions for byproducts and “trace levels” from the American Chemistry Council and the Consumer Specialty Products Association Comment.

Not surprisingly, the Trump EPA’s draft risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane did just that, a major problem EDF objected to on legal and scientific grounds.

Then in late July, the industry abruptly reversed itself.  A comment letter submitted to EPA by the American Cleaning Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association says the industry has changed its mind and is now calling on EPA to include 1,4-dioxane’s presence as a byproduct as a condition of use in its risk evaluation.

Why the shift?  At this late hour it has dawned on the industry groups that any final action by the agency on the chemical that excludes 1,4-dioxane’s presence as a byproduct as a condition of use in its risk evaluation will not preempt states from acting to regulate this condition of use.

The industry’s hypocrisy aside, if EPA decides to grant this industry request, which has arrived long after EPA initiated the risk evaluation process, EPA should do so only subject to conditions that are critical to meet if its decision and risk evaluation are to maintain any semblance of credibility:

  • EPA needs to use its mandatory information authorities to require the submission and development of relevant information on the presence of 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct in industrial, commercial and consumer materials and products, as input into a revised draft risk evaluation.
  • EPA must promptly make all such information it receives public, subject only to redactions of information claimed confidential by the submitters that EPA determines meet all applicable requirements of TSCA section 14. It should be noted that much of the relevant information will constitute health and safety information that is not eligible for protection under section 14 and must be made public.
  • EPA needs to carefully and thoroughly develop and fully integrate an analysis of the potential exposures and risks arising from the presence of 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct into all aspects of its risk evaluation, given that inclusion of the presence of 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct will affect all of the exposure and risk estimates EPA has examined in the current draft risk evaluation.
  • EPA must publish a revised draft risk evaluation for public comment, providing the public with ample time to review the new draft and develop meaningful comments.
  • EPA must subject its revised draft risk evaluation to full peer review by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), providing the committee with ample time to review the new draft and develop meaningful comments.

Any credible evaluation of the contribution to 1,4-dioxane’s overall health and environmental risks due to its presence as a byproduct must be based on complete, reliable information that is publicly accessible, and must reflect input from both the public and expert peer reviewers.  For EPA to do anything less will simply cast yet more doubt on its trustworthiness and independence from industry interests.

 

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