Selected category: Health Policy

Mapping lead service lines: DC Water offers a model for utilities across the nation

Washington, DC’s water utility launched a helpful interactive map allowing residents to see whether water pipes are lead, non-lead, or if there’s no available information for nearly every building and public water source across DC – including residences, restaurants, retailers, schools, drinking water fountains, and even the White House and Smithsonian.

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

When I moved to Washington, DC four years ago the phrase “lead service lines” did not roll off my tongue. That began to change as I became aware of DC’s historical lead problems – and dramatically so in the wake of the crisis in Flint, Michigan.

But I’m not alone.  Even though experts estimate that up to 10 million homes across the U.S. have lead service lines – lead pipes connecting the drinking water main in the street to the home – it’s an issue that is not well understood by most Americans.

And that should come as no surprise given that few water utilities across the U.S. can even say with confidence where the lead services lines are in their systems, and fewer still proactively share what information they have with customers.  Lead service lines are an aging infrastructure, typically found in communities with older housing.  Local recordkeeping over the years has been inconsistent, leaving many utilities today to rely on incomplete, difficult to access, or non-electronic historical records. Many communities appear to have no documentation of when they ceased installing lead service lines altogether.

Read More »

Also posted in EPA, lead, States| Tagged , | Leave a comment

EPA issues first decisions mandated under the new TSCA

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

Today, EPA posted on its website risk determinations for four new chemicals it has reviewed under the new standards prescribed by the Lautenberg Act.  While the premanufacture notices (PMNs) for these chemicals were received by EPA prior to the June 22 signing of the new TSCA, EPA has reviewed them in the context of the new requirements.  (Unlike reviews of chemicals already in use, which may take some years to conduct, EPA reviews of new chemicals are generally to be completed within 90 days, which is why we’re already seeing these appear so soon after enactment.)

These decisions are notable in that they are the very first formal decisions EPA has made under the new law.  Based on an admittedly quick review of the decisions, I’ll offer a few observations.   Read More »

Also posted in TSCA Reform| Tagged , | 1 Response

We appear to have gotten lucky in the January 2014 West Virginia chemical spill

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

[UPDATE:  Please see additions below.  On reflection, my "got lucky" theme here may well have been a poor choice, as I certainly did not mean to imply that the spill was anything other than a nightmare for affected residents; rather, it was my attempt to again highlight the extent to which officials were flying blind at the time due to numerous systemic failures.  While the NTP study I discuss here answers some questions and I believe is cause for some relief, it did not address all concerns, leaves considerable uncertainty, and doesn't begin to undo the damage of this incident and its continuing aftermath.  Apologies to anyone who took my phrase to imply otherwise.]

Readers may recall that I blogged extensively about the January 2014 spill of chemicals into the Elk River near Charleston from tanks used to store the chemical near the river’s edge, which disrupted the drinking water supply and the lives of 300,000 residents for many weeks thereafter.

A key concern was the dearth of health data – both publicly available and otherwise – on the key chemical components of the spilled mixture, which was used to wash coal.  As I reported in a series of blog posts, despite scant data, federal and state officials rushed to establish – and then defend their establishment of – a concentration of one part per million (1 ppm) as the “safe” level of the main component, 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), of the spilled mixture.  I pointed to the lack of a scientific basis for that level, largely because of the lack of adequate health information.

That remained the case even after the chemical’s producer, Eastman Chemical, decided to make public its studies of the chemical that it had hidden, claiming them to constitute trade secrets.  I tried to be careful not to claim MCHM or other spilled chemicals posed health risks, but rather that the lack of safety data was highly concerning, given the widespread extent of exposure.

Among the many outcomes of the spill was an agreement by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) to undertake a thorough study of the potential health and environmental effects of MCHM and other component chemicals.  That study is now complete, and the results were released last week.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Science, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | 2 Responses

Protecting our most TENDR: Experts Call for Reducing Children’s Exposure to Neurodevelopmental Toxicants

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Today, a prominent group of health care professionals, scientists, and advocates including EDF published a consensus statement highlighting the significant scientific evidence linking impacts on children’s brain development to exposures to certain toxic chemicals.

Beginning in utero, children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals and exposures occurring early in development can result in lasting, later life outcomes. The TENDR (Targeting Environmental NeuroDevelopmental Risks) Consensus Statement, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, outlines troubling statistics on the high incidences of neurological disorders in children, ranging from ADHD and other behavioral disorders to reduced IQ. Some  of the exemplar chemicals featured in the statement include the PBDE flame retardants, phthalates, air pollution, and lead—all harmful chemicals that EDF has blogged about and been working to address through policy improvements, better exposure monitoring tools, and market action.

A number of factors contribute to neurological disorders, but exposure to neurodevelopmental toxicants is preventable. The TENDR statement calls on government, the business community, and health professionals to all redouble efforts to reduce children’s exposures to neurodevelopmental toxicants. We applaud the broad set of individuals and organizations that came together to develop and support the TENDR consensus statement, and hope that it will catalyze actions to protect children from chemicals that adversely impact their brain development.

 

Also posted in Air Pollution, Emerging Science, Food, Health Science| Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

Understanding basic process flows under the new TSCA

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

As an additional resource for people delving into the new Lautenberg Act that was signed by President Obama last week, I have developed some flow charts depicting the basic processes applicable to existing chemicals already in commerce and new chemicals prior to market entry.

Comparisons are shown between the processes under the old and new laws.

A PDF version is available here; or click on the thumbnails below.

 

FRL21-TSCA flowcharts 6-28-16 Slide1FRL21-TSCA flowcharts 6-28-16 Slide2FRL21-TSCA flowcharts 6-28-16 Slide3FRL21-TSCA flowcharts 6-28-16 Slide4

Also posted in TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed

What an honor

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

After 30 years in Washington, maybe I should be more jaded, but today was a big day. Not only did I have the incredible honor this morning of meeting with President Obama, but it was just prior to getting to witness his signing of a bill that I think is going to make a big difference in our lives.

When I started working on and with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) some 15 years ago and began trying to help build the case for its reform, never in a million years did I contemplate such an honor, let alone being able to work so closely on and then witness the historic signing of this strong new law.

The small group that met with the President included not only people in Washington who worked for this reform but also those who have been impacted by our broken law or stand to benefit the most from the new law:  Young adults and parents of children who have had chronic diseases and conditions like cancer and autism for which there is growing concern about the contribution of chemical exposures.   Read More »

Also posted in TSCA Reform| Tagged | Read 1 Response
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