EDF Health

The Trump EPA’s actions on formaldehyde can be summed up in one word: Corrupt

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

Today, Heidi Vogt at the Wall Street Journal reported on the systematic efforts by the Trump Administration to derail chemical assessments under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).   

Decisions are being made as I write by conflicted EPA political appointees, not only to derail the beleaguered IRIS assessment for the carcinogen formaldehyde, but to transfer any further assessment of the chemical to be under the control of those same political appointees.

The WSJ article cites an upcoming report by Congress’ Government Accountability Office (GAO) that notes “EPA leadership in October directed the heads of the agency’s various programs to limit the number of chemicals they wanted IRIS to study or continue researching.  Nine of 16 assessments were then dropped, including one that looked at whether exposure to formaldehyde increases the risk of leukemia that ‘has been drafted and is ready to be released for public comment.’ ”  The chemical industry has long sought to undermine the findings of numerous governmental authorities that have identified the dangers posed by formaldehyde, one of the industry’s biggest cash cows.

IRIS itself has also long been a target of the chemical and allied industries, including those well represented by EPA political appointees who are now able to drive the assault on IRIS from inside the agency.

This post will provide more of the backstory to the WSJ’s excellent reporting.  It reveals additional decisions being made as I write by conflicted political appointees, not only to derail the beleaguered IRIS assessment for formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, but to transfer any further assessment of the chemical to be under the control of those same political appointees.  What is happening here we believe is ripe for further investigation.   Read More »

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ACC to retailers, consumers, and the rest of us: You just don’t get that TSCA implementation is coming along swimmingly

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

Regular readers of this blog know it is our view that, under the Trump EPA, implementation of the 2016 reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has pretty much gone off the rails, deviating from what the law requires, failing to reflect the best available science, and not protecting public health.  It’s a view shared by, among others, former top EPA officials, members of Congress, state and local governments, labor groups, firefighters, water utilities, public health groups, and a broad range of environmental groups.

But in this era of alternative facts, the chemical industry says that’s because we’re all simply misinformed.  And it’s taking steps to correct those alleged misperceptions.   Read More »

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The Trump EPA’s first TSCA risk evaluation is an epic fail

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

Yesterday Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed more than 100 pages of comments on a 40-page draft risk evaluation the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has prepared for Pigment Violet 29 (PV29).  PV29 is the first of 10 chemicals undergoing risk evaluations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Our comments were so much longer than the EPA document we were commenting on because there was far more to say about what information EPA failed to obtain, make available or consider than what EPA included in its draft.

The essence of our lengthy comments can be boiled down to a single sentence, however:  EPA has utterly failed to demonstrate that PV29 does not present unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.

For folks who want somewhat more detail than this, our comments start with a 4-page Executive Summary that capsulizes the many serious deficiencies we identified in EPA’s draft.  I’ll provide some highlights in this post.   Read More »

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The Trump EPA’s first risk evaluation under the new TSCA is a house of cards

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

I’ve been blogging about the deep problems surrounding the first draft risk evaluation the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released under the recently amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  This risk evaluation, which is now out for public comment, is on a chemical commonly called Pigment Violet 29, or PV29.  Among the many problems that immediately jumped out as we began our review of this draft evaluation are EPA’s reliance on clearly inadequate health and environmental hazard data to conclude the chemical is safe, as well as EPA’s illegal withholding from the public of the little hazard information it does have.

I suppose if you start with almost no reliable data on a chemical, are dead set against using your enhanced authorities to get any more data, and are hell-bent on finding the chemical is safe, this is how you might choose to conduct a risk evaluation.

This post will look at the other half of the risk equation, exposure.  EPA has even less information on exposures to PV29 than it does on hazard.  EPA has no actual data on the levels of PV29 released to or present in air, soil, sediment, surface water, people, other organisms, workplaces or products containing or made from the chemical.  It lacks any data from, and hasn’t used its authorities to require, monitoring in workplaces or any environmental media.

So what does EPA have?   Read More »

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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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