EDF Health

Methylene chloride in paint strippers: A ban is the only health-protective path forward

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager and Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Last week, EPA signaled it will advance a delayed rule regulating consumer and worker use of methylene chloride-based paint strippers.  Numerous details of EPA’s announcement remain to be filled in, and we caution EPA to avoid approaches short of the ban that was proposed.

The record for EPA’s proposed ban is clear:  Allowing such products to stay on the market based on reliance on such factors as increased labeling, protective equipment, or training requirements simply will not protect the public’s or workers’ health.

Sadly, the companies that make the chemical and paint strippers containing it are already seeking to resurrect those old arguments.   Read More »

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Testing analysis for TSCA new chemicals embraced by EPA’s Beck has serious omissions

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.  Ryan O’Connell, EDF High Meadows Fellow, and Stephanie Schwarz, EDF Legal Fellow, assisted in the research informing this post.

[UPDATED 5-15-18:  See clarifications and a correction added in brackets below.]

As noted in a previous blog post, EDF recently filed a request for an extension of the public comment period on EPA’s draft Alternative Testing Methods Strategic Plan under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  This was due to the lack of public access to documents that Dr. Nancy Beck had prominently alluded to, without identifying, at EPA’s April 10, 2018, public meeting on the draft plan.  EDF requested a 30-day extension starting once the documents were placed in the docket for the draft plan.

On April 27, EPA provided a 15-day extension after placing the documents in question into the docket.  It turns out the documents (a letter and an attached spreadsheet) are from two animal welfare organizations, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).  They are not, were not submitted as, and apparently were not intended to be, comments on the draft plan, however; rather, they raise the groups’ concerns over the increase in testing of new chemicals under the new TSCA, based on an analysis they said indicates EPA more frequently included testing provisions when issuing consent orders for new chemicals after passage of the new law than it did before.

Given that the documents PETA and PCRM submitted were not comments on the draft plan and were not submitted in that context, it is all the more curious why Dr. Beck so prominently noted and expressed such enthusiasm for them at the EPA public meeting held about the draft plan – especially because it appears she did so before EPA had conducted any serious review of the documents, which as you’ll see below, is a big problem.

I suspect Dr. Beck’s interest in the PETA/PCRM letter and analysis has little to do with sparing laboratory animals and much more to do with her seeing the documents as providing a useful pretext for her concerted efforts to avoid imposing testing requirements on new chemicals – a clear priority for her previous employer, the American Chemistry Council (ACC).  Industry has incentives to avoid testing due to its costs and the risks that testing may reveal a chemical presents significant risks to health or the environment.

Now that we’ve had a chance to review the PETA/PCRM documents, I want to use this post to highlight two things:

  • First, the PETA/PCRM analysis erroneously understated the extent of testing EPA required prior to the passage of the Lautenberg Act, because it failed to count any of the testing requirements for two-thirds of the new chemicals it examined for which EPA issued consent orders in 2015 and 2016.
  • Additional context is required when assessing the extent of testing of new chemicals EPA was mandating under the new TSCA, which was not provided in the PETA/PCRM analysis.

Read More »

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Critical “blanks” in EPA’s methylene chloride announcement need to be filled in if it is to be health-protective

EPA’s announcement that it will move forward on its proposed rule to ban the use of methylene chloride in paint and coating removal products, while encouraging, left critical details unanswered.  We look forward to EPA filling in the blanks.

EDF posted a statement earlier on the announcement here.  In addition, here are five things the final rule must do to be health-protective:

  • Ban distribution in commerce and use of methylene chloride for paint and coating removal
  • Extend to both consumer and commercial uses to ensure that workers are also protected
  • Not provide exemptions based on training, labeling or use of protective equipment
  • Be finalized and implemented quickly
  • Require full compliance within as short as possible a period

 

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Scott Pruitt seeks to cook the books on EPA risk assessment science

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

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled his “secret science” initiative yesterday at a press conference to which no press were invited.  While EPA has yet to post the proposed rule or otherwise make it available to the public, it was made available by others.  The main thrust of the proposal is actually considerably different and, at least initially, more targeted, than advertised by Pruitt in recent weeks and by the House of Representatives Science Committee’s Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who authored the secret science legislation on which Pruitt’s proposal was to be based and appeared with Pruitt yesterday.

Yesterday both men stuck to their earlier talking points about the need to make sure all information EPA relies on is reproducible and fully publicly available, and never mentioned the change in the focus of the proposal.  I suspect both of them would have been hard pressed to describe the actual main focus of the proposal, which is now this:

When promulgating significant regulatory actions, the Agency shall ensure that dose response data and models underlying pivotal regulatory science are publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.  (p. 23, emphases in original)

But I am sure Dr. Nancy Beck, chemical industry toxicologist turned top political appointee in EPA’s toxics office, could in a heartbeat.

I would describe the new approach, while no less dangerous, as a laser-guided missile in comparison to the carpet-bombing approach taken by the House legislation and earlier iterations of the EPA proposal.   Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence, Regulation / Tagged | Comments are closed

EPA practices are hindering transparency and public confidence in TSCA’s new chemicals program

Stephanie Schwarz, J.D., is a Legal Fellow.  Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 1               Part 2               Part 3               Part 4

This is our final post in a series spurred by our review of 69 public files for new chemicals we received from EPA’s Docket Center.  For most of these chemicals, EPA made a determination that they are “not likely to present unreasonable risk” under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which greenlights their entry into commercial production.

In our previous post we demonstrated EPA is not complying with a number of provisions under TSCA that require the agency to make public the premanufacture notices (PMNs), notices of commencement (NOCs), and information that is submitted with them.  In this post we look further into how, through these failures and others, EPA has impeded meaningful transparency in the new chemicals program.

As originally enacted in 1976, TSCA recognized the value of public access to information, like health and safety information (see, e.g., TSCA § 14(b)).  Even in EPA’s original (1983) regulations establishing the new chemicals review program, EPA recognized that “[p]ublic participation cannot be effective unless meaningful information is made available to the interested persons” (see here p. 21737).  Among the many flaws of the original TSCA, however, was the law’s inability to ensure EPA delivered the promised transparency when it came to both information EPA receives and the agency’s decisions on new chemicals.

The amendments to TSCA in 2016 were meant, in part, to expand public access to information about both chemicals and agency decisions, and in doing so increase public confidence.  For instance, under § 26, EPA must now make available to the public “all notices, determinations, findings, rules, consent agreements, and orders.”  And under § 5, EPA must now make an affirmative determination on new chemicals, which under § 26 must be made public.  These changes, in addition to the original TSCA provisions, clearly envision a robust program under which the public is able to readily access non-confidential information on new chemicals and information on EPA’s decisions about them.  

Coupled with the policy changes EPA has made, the concerns we raise here make clear that EPA under this Administration intends to weaken a new chemicals program that Congress sought to strengthen through TSCA reform – and hide as much of it from public view as possible.

As implemented, however, a number of features of the new chemicals program severely hamper the ability of the public to understand EPA’s decision-making or engage in the new chemicals program.  In addition to the failings we have discussed in previous posts in this series, this post will address several others:

  • the convoluted and fragmented public information “system” EPA has created for PMNs;
  • the failure of EPA to provide access to agency-generated health and safety information on PMN substances; and
  • EPA’s failure to publish Notices of Commencement (NOCs) and EPA’s determinations on confidentiality claims for specific chemical identity in those NOCs.

Read More »

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EDF requests extension of comment period on TSCA Alternative Testing Strategic Plan due to key document missing from docket

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

Last night EDF submitted a request to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to extend the public comment period on its draft Alternative Testing Methods Strategic Plan under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

EPA held a public meeting about the draft Strategic Plan on April 10, 2018.  At that meeting, Dr. Nancy Beck prominently highlighted an analysis that EPA had received from a stakeholder that she described as robust and extensive, and her description of the analysis suggested that it has or could significantly influence EPA’s consideration of the issues raised by the draft Strategic Plan.  When asked if EPA would make this analysis available to the public, an EPA official stated that it would be made available.  But the analysis has not yet been published to the docket.  The due date for comments on the draft Plan is a week from today, April 26, 2018.

Given the emphasis Dr. Beck placed on the analysis and the apparently extensive nature of it, EDF believes the public should be provided access to the document and ample time to review, and if desired, comment on it.  Hence we have requested that:

1)  EPA publish a copy of the relevant analysis to the docket for the draft Strategic Plan.

2)  EPA extend the public comment period by 30 days after it publishes the relevant analysis in the docket.

Because the deadline is impending, EDF requested that EPA respond to this request within three business days, i.e., by Monday, April 23.

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