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The Trump EPA’s latest TSCA gift to the chemical industry is illegal and the height of hypocrisy

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

‘Tis the season for giving, but it’s not quite keeping in the spirit to have our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pile on giveaways to the chemical industry.  The latest one I’ll discuss in this post is not only in direct violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA); it exposes this EPA’s two-facedness when it comes to making public the information EPA relies on in making regulatory decisions that affect our health and our environment.

EPA’s failure to make health and safety studies available to the public is blatantly illegal and a slap in the face to the 2016 bipartisan reforms to TSCA that sought to increase public access to information on chemical risks.

First some background.  It has been a long time since EPA has proposed a rule to require testing to determine the hazards of a chemical; the last time was way back in 2011.  (That proposed rule was never finalized.  And despite Congress’ major expansion of EPA’s authority to require testing when reforming TSCA in 2016, EPA has steadfastly refused to even consider use of that new authority.)

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) filed comments opposing the 2011 proposed rule.  As I blogged about at the time, ACC insisted that, instead of calling on its members to provide the health and safety data sought through the proposed rule, EPA should seek to get it from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). ACC asserted that ECHA likely had already received the requested data under the European Union’s (EU) REACH Regulation.  I noted that’s not as easy as it sounds, because the chemical industry itself has thrown up major roadblocks to such inter-governmental data sharing.  But here’s the rub:  ACC further argued that, should EPA succeed in obtaining the health and safety data submitted to ECHA, EPA could and should deny public access to those data – despite the fact that TSCA clearly prohibits EPA from withholding health and safety studies.  ACC added that the public should make do with mere summaries of the studies, summaries that were prepared by the companies making the subject chemicals.

At the time, EPA was having none of this.  It indicated that if necessary it could use, and was considering using, its subpoena authority under section 11(c) of TSCA to get the studies from the companies that had submitted them to ECHA; see pages 16-17 of this 2013 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

That was then.  Now, with a former ACC senior official essentially running the TSCA office at EPA, the agency is virtually following ACC’s script.   Read More »

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The Trump EPA is poised to grant the chemical industry yet another of its wishes under TSCA

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

The chemical industry has long sought to have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rubber-stamp as “safe” as many of its chemicals as possible without imposing any burden on the industry to develop the information needed to actually demonstrate safety.  It has repeatedly pushed for EPA to set aside large numbers of chemicals in commerce and ensure they don’t have to undergo evaluations of their potential or actual risk.

During the debate over reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), various industry associations advocated for an approach that would have required EPA to quickly review all chemicals in commerce using whatever information was available (which is virtually none for the great majority of such chemicals), and set aside as “low-priority” any that EPA could not demonstrate were harmful.

It appears EPA is trying to install a new parallel process, outside of TSCA’s statutory boundaries, that EPA will use to set aside thousands of chemicals from any further review indefinitely and with no recourse for the public.

When that didn’t fly (more on this below), industry commenters demanded that, in promulgating its Prioritization Rule, EPA designate long lists of chemicals as low-priority without any review.  One of the few positives of that final rule was that it rejected those calls as well.

But lest you think the issue is settled, think again.  Leave it to the Trump EPA to find an even more devious way of granting the industry’s wish.   Read More »

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Need more evidence of the chemical industry’s bad faith on TSCA? Read this.

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

This story is about chemicals known as chlorinated paraffins.  They are used as flame retardants, plasticizers and lubricants, among other things.  They come in three main versions:  short, medium, and long-chain.  Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) have been banned or are set to be banned in a number of jurisdictions and are listed for elimination under the Stockholm Convention.  The U.S. is not a party to Stockholm and has not banned SCCPs.  However, in 2012 EPA secured agreement from their leading domestic manufacturer, Dover Chemical Corporation, and their leading importer, INOVYN (formerly INEOS Chlor Americas, Inc.), to phase them out in consent decrees issued to settle enforcement actions EPA had brought against the companies (more on that later).

Concern over the medium and long-chain variants (MCCPs and LCCPs) has been significant and growing, however.  This is because they, like SCCPs, are expected to be very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) and, given evidence of systemic toxicity as well as toxicity to aquatic and terrestrial organisms, are also expected to be PBTs (persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals).

The regulatory history of chlorinated paraffins under TSCA has been long and taken numerous, often troubling, turns.  We’ll only touch on some highlights here.   Read More »

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The TSCA new chemicals mess: A problem of the chemical industry’s own making

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

Nary a day goes by without a complaint being lodged by someone in the chemical industry, or in one of the myriad law firms that represent its interests in Washington, D.C., about the delays in EPA’s approval of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Here’s the irony:  Those delays and the general chaos in the TSCA new chemicals program are entirely of the industry’s own making.   Read More »

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This EPA has a blatant double standard when it comes to transparency on new chemicals under TSCA

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

I’ve blogged extensively over the past year about the Trump EPA’s moves to dismantle health-protective reviews of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  A remarkable feature of those moves is that they have been cast as an effort to improve transparency in the new chemicals review process.

A year ago when Scott Pruitt unveiled his intent to institute “Improvements to New Chemical Safety Reviews,” he cast it as necessary to increase the program’s transparency, using the word no fewer than five times in the press release.  When EPA released its “Points to Consider” guidance to aid companies in expediting getting their new chemicals through the review process, EPA touted it as a move to “improve transparency with the public.”

In fact, it seems that whenever the agency has acted to assist companies under the new chemicals program, it’s all about transparency.  But as for the public?  EPA has actually denied the public access to information it has a right to, and has taken steps to hide information from the public that it used to make available.   Read More »

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PART 2: EPA rams through its reckless review scheme for new chemicals under TSCA, your health be damned

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

Part 1               Part 2               Part 3

I blogged last week about how political appointees at EPA are starting to clear new chemicals to enter commerce based on a new – apparently unwritten and certainly not public – review process that ignores the law and will put the health of the public, workers and the environment at greater risk than even under the weak reviews conducted before Congress’ 2016 overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

In this post I’ll start to take a deeper look at the specific fragrance chemical that is the subject of EPA’s first decision under the new scheme:

Oxirane, 2-methyl-, polymer with oxirane, bis[2-[(1-oxo-2-propen-1-yl)amino]propyl] ether
CAS 1792208-65-1

Recall that, even as it declared the chemical safe, EPA noted its “potential for the following human health hazards: irritation, mutagenicity, developmental/ reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, and carcinogenicity.”  I’ll explore those hazard concerns more in a subsequent blog post.  Here, let’s consider use of and exposure to the chemical.

Here’s the thing:  None of the parameters of the intended use is binding.  They can be deviated from at any time without consequence.

With its decision, EPA has allowed this chemical to enter the market without any conditions whatsoever placed on how or how much of it can be produced or used or by whom.  This is in fact the aim of the new scheme and, barring another change in course, we can now expect this outcome for the great majority of new chemicals EPA reviews.  It will be achieved by EPA routinely making determinations that the chemicals are “not likely to present an unreasonable risk.”   Read More »

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