EDF Health

Pandemic exposes need for cities to improve air pollution data collection to protect public health

Harold Rickenbacker, Ph.D., Manager, EDF+Business.

This is the fourth in a series of Global Clean Air blogs on COVID-19 and air pollution. EDF scientists and program experts share data about pollution levels during quarantine from a local and global perspective, and provide recommendations for governments and companies to Rebuild Better.

Los Angeles, California. 

We’ve long known that air pollution is linked to health problems like heart disease and asthma, and that these risks are highest for the elderly and people with existing heart and lung diseases. Now, new evidence shows the same people who have lived with polluted air for decades are also at increased risk for severe illness from Coronavirus.

These findings are generating unprecedented urgency to clean the air we breathe and underscoring the importance for cities across the globe to make air pollution monitoring a priority in a post-pandemic world.

But as local leaders grapple with how to tackle air pollution and protect vulnerable communities, they’re faced with a big challenge: they lack the localized data needed to properly protect public health and reduce harmful emissions.

New, lower-cost sensor technology is allowing scientists, advocates and government officials to map air pollution at the hyperlocal level, which can reveal pollution patterns within neighborhoods and even individual city blocks.

Policymakers tasked with rebuilding healthier and more resilient communities in a post-pandemic world can use localized data to work more effectively with residents and stakeholders to implement powerful interventions that reduce air pollution in overburdened communities.

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Companies Need To Invest In Clean Delivery Amid Pandemic Online Shopping to Reduce Air Pollution

Aileen Nowlan, Senior Manager, EDF+Business.

This is the third in a series of Global Clean Air blogs on COVID-19 and air pollution. EDF scientists and program experts will share data about pollution levels during quarantine from a local and global perspective, and provide recommendations for governments and companies to Rebuild Better.

COVID-19 means a lot more online shopping, which means a lot more delivery trucks that could contribute to a lot more air pollution in our neighborhoods.

As coronavirus shut down the economy, some regions saw a drop in air pollution. But as economic activity picks up, so does pollution – and if the habit of doing more shopping online persists, we could end up with worse air quality from fleets of diesel-powered delivery trucks.

At-home delivery is contributing to growing demand for freight movement, which is driving increased consumption of fossil fuels, especially diesel, and worsening air pollution. In fact, Amazon’s carbon emissions climbed 15% in the last year alone—even before coronavirus—due to increased sales.

During this pandemic, at-home shoppers are deluged with purchases arriving by cardboard box, each delivered by polluting trucks. Our new video encourages consumers to let companies know they’d like them to make the last mile of delivery to come from a zero-emissions vehicle, cleaner shipping options and local delivery lockers. Getting a finished product from the factory to your door, has costs beyond the price tag. More trucks are making more trips, hurting the planet, and our health.

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5 ways we’re holding the Trump Administration accountable on the TSCA 4-year anniversary

It’s been four years since Congress passed legislation overhauling our chemical safety system to better protect American families. In the time since that bipartisan achievement, the Trump administration has worked to systematically undermine the law and weaken chemical safety.

But we’re not sitting idly by, and we have the law on our side. This year, on the anniversary of the legislation’s passage, we’re highlighting some of the victories we’ve had and ways we’re fighting back to demand EPA protect the American people from harmful chemicals.

1. Winning important legal cases to hold EPA to the letter of the law

Last year, in response to a challenge from EDF, a federal court delivered a strong rebuke to the Trump EPA’s efforts to undermine the public’s right to know about the chemicals in our homes, schools, and workplaces. The ruling on our lawsuit means that companies can’t hide, and EPA must make public, more information about chemicals in use today.

And a ruling last year in a different case – brought by health, labor and environmental groups, including EDF – has already increased pressure on EPA to stop ignoring known sources of exposure to chemicals when assessing their risks. Conducting the comprehensive risk reviews that the law requires is critical to protecting health, especially for vulnerable populations, like children, pregnant women, and fenceline communities.

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Top takeaways from The Intercept’s investigation into Trump’s toxic rollbacks

Regulatory decisions by federal agencies in Washington often feel distant – bureaucrats moving paper in ways that don’t matter to regular people. But a devastating new story by reporter Sharon Lerner of The Intercept makes clear just how awful the Trump administration’s actions on chemical safety have been for average Americans.

Lerner shows that the Trump EPA has repeatedly bowed to industry lobbyists to allow dangerous chemicals to stay on or enter the market with little or no restrictions.

EPA’s actions are not abstract bureaucratic events to Angela Ramirez, who was diagnosed with breast cancer after years of living and working “near two facilities that were emitting a cancer-causing chemical called ethylene oxide.” EPA scientists knew “that exposure to ethylene oxide caused elevated rates of tumors in the brain, lungs, uterus, and lymph systems” – but under the Trump administration, following pressure from an industry trade group, EPA decided not to follow its own science deciding whether to limit the chemical.

Lerner reports that the Trump administration, stacked with political appointees who have worked, lobbied or advocated for the chemical, tobacco, and coal industries, has been systematically undermining EPA’s ability to use the best science and get the best expert advice to protect families. They’ve been attacking programs like the Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS, which provides evidenced-based analysis to the government to make public health decisions.

From Texas to Delaware and across the country, Lerner shows the impact of an administration that seems entirely focused on doing the bidding of industry, rather than pursing its legal mission to protect public health. They are doing so both broadly – weakening a new chemical safety law –and in a series of individual chemical assessment decisions. “Each time we see one of these assessments, there are ways in which the science has been played with,” EDF’s Lead Senior Scientist Richard Denison told Lerner.

To read more about what Lerner calls “Trump’s cancer gang” and their attacks on science and public health, check out her full article.

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The Court’s TSCA decision is a much bigger win for public health than first meets the eye

Robert Stockman is a Senior Attorney.  Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Yesterday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a landmark case involving a challenge to EPA’s so-called “framework rules” that lay out how it will implement core provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended in 2016 by the Lautenberg Act.

An array of health, labor and environmental groups, EDF among them, (see full list of petitioners below) had challenged EPA’s Risk Evaluation Rule and Prioritization Rule on the grounds that they deviated in significant ways from amended TSCA’s requirements.

We clearly won on a major issue in the litigation, but a careful reading of the Court’s opinion shows that we effectively won on another key issue even though the court ruled against us.  And several of the court’s other rulings either suggest it agrees with, or outright affirms, our view of TSCA’s core requirements.  On those remaining issues, the Court specifically did not foreclose any of our arguments, making it clear that they could be presented in legal challenges we bring to EPA decisions in risk evaluations and determinations for individual chemicals.

Read on for our analysis.  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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