EDF Health

Hey Trump EPA, your extreme bias in favor of the chemical industry is showing again

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

[See UPDATE in brackets below.]

The Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released drafts of two more chemical risk evaluations it has conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  One is for the likely human carcinogen and neurotoxicant 1,4-dioxane, which contaminates public water systems serving more than 7 million Americans in 27 states at levels exceeding the level EPA has traditionally (until now) aimed to meet for general population exposures.  The other is for the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane, or HBCD, a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemical – toxic to human development and highly acutely and chronically toxic to aquatic organisms – that has been banned or heavily restricted in most of the rest of the developed world.

As might have been expected of the Trump EPA, the draft risk evaluations wholly exonerate HBCD and largely do so for 1,4-dioxane.  Especially in the latter case, EPA achieves its improbable finding through quite a sleight of hand:  EPA simply excludes most exposures to the chemical from the scope of its risk evaluation.

Trump EPA political appointees have repeatedly argued that the agency needs to be doing a better job at “risk communication.”  I guess we now know what that means.

Once finalized, EPA’s determinations that these chemicals “do not present an unreasonable risk” will mean it has no obligation or authority to impose any restrictions on their manufacture, processing, distribution, use, recycling or disposal.

We will be looking at these documents more closely in the very limited time EPA has provided for the public to review and comment on them.  But I want to draw attention right off the bat to a telling aspect of how the Trump EPA has presented its risk determination for 1,4-dioxane.

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New Report: Toxic Consequences – Trump’s Attacks on Chemical Safety Put Our Health at Risk

Sam Lovell, Project Manager.

Today, EDF released a report detailing the major threats to public health and future generations from the Trump Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attacks on the 2016 chemical safety law. Just three years after Congress passed bipartisan legislation, the Lautenberg Act, to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), implementation of the law has gone dangerously off the rails – putting public health at risk.

“At almost every turn, the Trump administration has failed to live up to the letter and spirit of the historic bipartisan reform of TSCA that Congress passed in 2016. Toxic chemicals can cause cancers and other life-threatening illness. The American people expect the Environmental Protection Agency to live up to its mission and to protect them from these threats.  At the three-year anniversary of our overwhelmingly bipartisan reform of TSCA, EPA continues to ignore expert scientific staff and walk back protections for workers and consumers. ” said Senator Tom Udall.  “EPA leaders – starting with Andrew Wheeler – must change course, commit themselves to protecting the public, and carry out the Lautenberg Act as Congress wrote it.”

The report notes that recent history holds countless stark examples of what can happen when chemical risks are not adequately addressed. We risk making similar mistakes unless the current EPA fundamentally changes course in its implementation of the law. The Trump Administration is allowing new chemicals onto the market with little or no health information and only cursory safety reviews; ignoring real-world exposures when evaluating chemicals already in use today; blocking needed restrictions on dangerous uses of toxic chemicals; and denying the public access to health information on chemicals. These are not merely process problems: the consequences of the Trump EPA’s actions will be felt by our children and subsequent generations.

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The Trump EPA is setting back chemicals policies by decades

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


Tacoma, WA 1972

As we approach the third anniversary of the historic passage of bipartisan legislation to overhaul our nation’s broken chemical safety system, we’re hearing that political appointees at the agency are gearing up to celebrate their “successes” in implementing the law.

Even more disturbing than its individual actions are the methodical steps the Trump EPA is taking to dismantle decades of progress in our country’s chemicals policies.

While the chemical industry may well have things to celebrate, it’s simply not the case for the rest of us:  Comments from former top EPA officialsmembers of Congressstate and local governments, labor groupsfirefighterswater utilitiespublic health groups, and a broad range of environmental groups make crystal clear that there’s nothing warranting celebration.  EPA’s actions are threatening the health of American families.

But as I reflect on how implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has gone off the rails under the Trump EPA, even more disturbing than its individual actions are the methodical steps it is taking to dismantle decades of progress in our country’s chemicals policies.  In this post, I’ll briefly highlight five such policies and how this EPA is undermining them:

  • Pollution prevention
  • Inherent safety and hazard reduction
  • Protection of vulnerable subpopulations and environmental justice
  • Holistic, real-world risk assessment
  • Public right to know

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Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation, TSCA Reform, Worker Safety / Tagged , , , | Read 2 Responses

Company safety data sheets on new chemicals frequently lack the worker protections EPA claims they include

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

Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA’s approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere “expectation” that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer’s non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).

How much farther under the bus will the Trump EPA throw American workers?

The typical course has been for EPA to identify risks to workers from a new chemical it is reviewing under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but then – instead of issuing an order imposing binding conditions on the chemical’s entry onto the market, as TSCA requires – to find that the chemical is “not likely to present an unreasonable risk” and impose no conditions whatsoever on its manufacturer.  This sleight of hand is pulled off by EPA stating that it:

expects employers will require and workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) … consistent with the Safety Data Sheet prepared by the new chemical submitter, in a manner adequate to protect them.

We have detailed earlier the myriad ways in which this approach strays from the law, is bad policy and won’t protect workers.  But here’s yet another gaping problem:  When we are able to look at the actual SDSs – that is, when EPA has made them available and when they are not totally redacted – we are frequently finding that the specific PPE that EPA claims to be specified in the SDSs – and that EPA asserts is sufficient to protect all workers handling the chemical – is not in the SDSs.   Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation, TSCA Reform, Worker Safety / Tagged | Read 1 Response

Round 2 on PV29 reveals even deeper flaws in EPA’s TSCA risk evaluation of the chemical

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

On Friday, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) submitted a new set of extensive comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to its March release of additional information on Pigment Violet 29 (PV29), the first chemical to undergo a risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) following the law’s amendment in 2016.

After EDF and others criticized both the dearth of health and environmental data on PV29, and EPA’s illegal withholding of those data, EPA released some additional information and opened a new comment period in mid-April.  In releasing the new information, EPA was quick to judgment, asserting that “[t]he release of these studies does not change the Agency’s proposed ‘no unreasonable risk’ determination as concluded in the draft risk evaluation published in November.”

EDF’s 100 pages of comments in Round 1 enumerated the myriad ways EPA has failed to demonstrate that PV29 does not present unreasonable risk.  Unfortunately, if anything, Round 2 has only deepened our concerns over the inadequacy of EPA’s risk evaluation.   Read More »

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EPA’s safety standard for perchlorate in water should prioritize kids’ health

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director and Maricel Maffini, Ph.D., Consultant

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon propose a drinking water standard for perchlorate. The decision – due by the end of May per a consent decree with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)— will end a nearly decade-long process to regulate the chemical that has been shown to harm children’s brain development.

In making its decision, EPA must propose a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) “at the level at which no known or anticipated adverse effects on the health of persons occur and which allows an adequate margin of safety.”[1] It must also set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) as close to the MCLG as feasible using the best available treatment technology and taking cost into consideration.

To guide that decision, EPA’s scientists developed a sophisticated model that considers the impact of perchlorate on the development of the fetal brain in the first trimester when the fetus is particularly vulnerable to the chemical’s disruption of the proper function of the maternal thyroid gland. As discussed more below, the model was embraced by an expert panel of independent scientists through a transparent, public process that included public comments and public meetings.

In April, a consulting firm published a study critiquing EPA’s model. The authors acknowledged the model as a valuable research tool but did not think it is sufficient to use in regulatory decision-making due to uncertainties. Therefore, the authors concluded that EPA should discard the peer-reviewed model and rely on a 14-year old calculation of a “safe dose” that does not consider the latest scientific evidence and has even greater uncertainties. They didn’t offer other options such as using uncertainty factors to address their concerns about the model’s estimated values.

Given the importance of the issue and the risk to children’s brain development, we want to explain EPA’s model, the process the agency used to develop it, and the study raising doubt about the model.

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Also posted in Drinking Water, EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, perchlorate / Tagged , , , | Read 2 Responses