Selected category: Health Policy

Separating fact from fancy in the TSCA Inventory reset mandated by the Lautenberg Act

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

A key reform under the Lautenberg Act is the requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) generate an accurate, up-to-date list of all chemicals in active commerce.  This is to be accomplished by promulgating a rule to do a full “reset” of the TSCA Inventory that distinguishes between active and inactive chemicals.  It is necessary because the 85,000 chemicals on that Inventory represent a cumulative listing of all chemicals that have been in commerce at some point since its establishment in 1979, but no doubt includes many that are not now in commerce.

I have blogged previously about why it is important that EPA and the public know how many and which chemicals are in use today in the U.S.  Among other reasons, it is essential that we understand the magnitude of the task that awaits EPA under the new TSCA, with respect to prioritization, risk evaluation, risk management, and substantiation and review of confidential business information (CBI) claims.  That has implications for the pace of the program and the resources EPA will need to do its job, which extends ultimately to reviewing the safety of all chemicals in commerce.

EDF provided EPA with our comments on what should be included in EPA’s upcoming rule establishing the Inventory reset.  Unfortunately, comments on that rule received from some in industry indicate that they are seeking to limit the Inventory reset in ways that are not allowed under the new law and are short-sighted or even counterproductive to the purpose of the reset.  I provide a critique here of three of those proposed limitations.   Read More »

Also posted in EPA, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Getting engaged … in shaping implementation of the new TSCA

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

When President Obama signed the Lautenberg Act into law in June, it marked the beginning of a new phase in the long battle to improve chemical safety. Much of the success or failure of the new law now hinges on how well it is implemented. There are both a critical need and numerous opportunities for those who have a stake in improving our chemical safety system to engage in shaping how the law will be implemented.

To that end, EDF has developed an Engagement Guide that provides an overview of some of the key provisions in the Lautenberg Act and associated opportunities for stakeholder engagement, including:

  • Safety Standard and Vulnerable Subpopulations
  • Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals
  • Prioritizing Chemicals in Use
  • Risk Evaluations of Existing Chemicals Deemed High-Priority
  • First Chemicals to be Reviewed
  • Restrictions on Chemicals that Present an Unreasonable Risk
  • New Chemicals Entering the Market
  • Transparency and Information Access
  • Legal Recourses
  • Preemption of State Authority

I hope you find it useful!

Also posted in EPA, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed

EDF files comments on three TSCA rules EPA is developing

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

Yesterday was the deadline for stakeholders to file written comments on three rules EPA is now developing, as required under the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA as amended by the Lautenberg Act).  EPA is moving quickly to get input on these rules, which it intends to propose in December in order to stay on track to finalize the rules by June of next year, as mandated under the new law.

The solicitation of written comments follows public meetings EPA held on August 9, 10 and 11 to get input from stakeholders on these rules, at which dozens of stakeholders provided oral comments.  Those meetings were the first EPA public meetings since the Lautenberg Act was signed into law on June 22.

The three rules (and associated docket numbers) on which EPA solicited comments are:

  • Risk-Based Prioritization Procedural Rule, which will set forth the process and criteria EPA will use to prioritize chemicals in commerce. Docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0399
  • Risk Evaluation Procedural Rule, which will set forth the process EPA will use to conduct risk evaluations of high-priority and industry-requested chemicals. Docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0400
  • Rule Establishing Fees for the Administration of TSCA, which will detail how EPA will collect fees from companies to defray the costs of administering core activities under the new law. Docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0401

EDF filed comments yesterday on all three rules, available here, here and here.

Several of the key recommendations from each of our comments follow.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Science, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Crucial – but unfulfilled – role local code officials have in protecting children from lead

Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director

The tragedy in Flint, Michigan has reminded us once again how dependent we are on state and local officials to protect us from hidden threats like lead. In hindsight, anyone with a basic understanding of the role of corrosion control in keeping lead out of the water we drink knows that changing the source of that water, especially to one as corrosive as the Flint River, must be done with extreme care. Based on criminal indictments that have been handed down, the officials ignored the federal regulations designed to prevent such a tragedy.

State and local building code officials will have a chance this October to show whether they have learned from Flint. As voting members of the International Code Council (ICC), code officials will cast their ballot on a simple proposal that can significantly improve the protections for children from lead hazards. The proposal by the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) would require that any contractor seeking a building permit to conduct renovations in homes built before 1978 be properly certified to ensure that their work leaves behind no dangerous levels of lead contaminated dust. Read More »

Also posted in EPA, lead, Regulation, Uncategorized| Tagged , , , , , , , | Read 1 Response

People deserve to know if lead pipes and paint are present where they live and work

Tom Neltner, the Chemicals Policy Director

We live in an increasingly transparent world. When it comes to the real estate market, companies are mining local government databases to let us know the size of a home, how much it’s worth, and even when the roof was last replaced.

Yet, you can’t find out if the house you might buy could poison your children with toxic lead. Federal law only requires that the seller or landlord reveal the presence of lead paint when you sign a contract to buy or rent a home.

We think that has to change.

People should be able to readily know if lead is present in the paint and water pipes where they live and work when they begin making important decisions, not when they are finalizing the deal. When shopping for a place to live, the best time to learn if there is lead at a property is when it is listed for sale or rent. Some opponents claim that revealing this information invades the resident’s privacy, but the presence of lead is not about anyone’s behavior. Rather, it’s a fact about the house, a legacy of the construction of the building. It is no different from the type of furnace or number of bedrooms.

There are signs of progress. In Washington, DC, the water utility has launched an online map that reveals information that can help improve transparency on lead pipes. Anyone can check online and see what’s known (and not known) about the presence of lead service lines that connect the drinking water main under the street to their home or business.

It’s a model other communities should follow. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made this type of transparency a priority for states and utilities. And the private sector needs to play a role, too — real estate innovators like Zillow and Redfin, who have transformed how we find homes, should include this information in their online listings.

It’s time that people begin to know the possible health impacts of their housing options when evaluating homes to buy or rent.

Also posted in Drinking Water, EPA, Flint, lead, Markets and Retail, Regulation, Uncategorized| Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments are closed

Lost opportunity for safer food additives

In DC, “Take Out the Trash Day” refers to federal agencies releasing unpopular decisions on Friday when the media and public are not watching.  It is especially common around the holidays or in August when many people, especially those in Congress are on vacation.  On Friday, August 12, FDA took out the trash by issuing a final rule regarding chemicals added to food more than two weeks before a court ordered deadline

Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director

On August 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule defining how companies should voluntarily notify the agency when they conclude that a chemical added to or used to make food is “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS).

The decision is a lost opportunity to close a widely-abused loophole that allows chemicals to be approved for use in food with no notification to or review by FDA. The rule allows the industry to continue making secret decisions about what we eat without the agency’s – or the public’s – knowledge.  The agency has the legal authority to significantly narrow the GRAS loophole to prevent companies from deliberately avoiding FDA’s safety review process.

Just two years ago, the senior FDA official overseeing food safety acknowledged that the agency “cannot vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals” as a result of the GRAS loophole. Read More »

Also posted in FDA, Food, GRAS, Regulation| Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed
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