Selected category: Health Policy

A parting gift from Dourson: A trove of revealing emails

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

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on the withdrawal of the nomination of Michael Dourson to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chemical safety office – which we applauded as a win for public health.  The Times article mentioned and provided a link to a 400-page trove of emails to and from Dourson that were obtained through a FOIA request filed in August by Greenpeace to the University of Cincinnati, where Dourson previously worked.

The emails shine a rare spotlight on a network, of which Dourson and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) are a part, that operates largely out of public view.  It involves a coordinated effort between the chemical industry and its private and academic consultants to generate science that invariably supports the safety of the industry’s chemicals, and pushes back against any regulatory and academic science that indicates otherwise.  The emails make for very interesting reading, if you can skip through the myriad emails about scheduling calls and meetings (which make up the bulk of any of our inboxes, I suspect).

To pique your interest, let me start with one email relating to Dourson’s nomination.   Read More »

Also posted in Industry Influence| Tagged , | Leave a comment

Children’s lead exposure: Relative contributions of various sources

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director and Dr. Ananya Roy is Health Scientist

Last week, we noted in our blog that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped the statement that paint, dust and soil are the most common sources of lead in its “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” booklet. Property owners provide this booklet to prospective homebuyers and tenants in housing built before 1978. The change implicitly recognizes that there is no safe level of lead in the children’s blood, and we must reduce all sources of lead exposure. It also acknowledges that the relative contribution of air, water, food, soil, dust, and paint to children’s blood lead levels is complicated. Exposure varies significantly based on age of the home, the child’s race and age, the family’s income-level, and region of the country. Any simplification obscures these important differences.

EPA’s scientists made this clear in a model published earlier this year that pulled together the available data, divided children into three age categories, and assigned children in each category into ten groups based on their overall lead exposure. For each group, they estimated the relative contribution of air, water, food, and soil/dust (from paint). Not surprisingly, children living in older homes with lead-based paint hazards by far have the most exposure to lead. For 1 to 6 year olds in the top 90-100 percentile, more than 70% of the lead in their blood is from soil and dust. The contribution from food is 20% and drinking water is 10%. For infants, soil and dust contributes to 50% of the lead in blood, while 40% is from water and 10% from food.

Since there is no known safe level of lead in blood, we must do even more to reduce children's exposure to lead-contaminated soil and dust.

However, to prioritize action at a national level, it is important to understand how different sources contribute to lead exposure in the average child as well as the most-exposed child. We used the underlying EPA data to calculate the average relative source contribution of different sources to blood lead levels for infants from birth to six months old, for toddlers 1 to 2 years old, and young children from 1 to 6 years old. The results indicate that infants have a much higher source contribution of lead from water in comparison to older children (Figure 1). For the average child 1 to 6 years old, food is the largest source of lead exposure, with 50%, followed by soil/dust then water.

Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, Emerging Science, EPA, Health Science, lead, Public Health| Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Response

EDF Applauds Dourson’s Reported Withdrawal from Chemical Safety Position

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

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

According to press reports, the nomination of Michael Dourson to lead EPA’s toxics office is being withdrawn.

Dr. Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist, said, “The withdrawal of Michael Dourson’s nomination is good news for the health of American families. It was clear from the beginning that Dr. Dourson was a dangerous choice. His record of mercenary science made clear he would have undermined public health and damaged the historic chemical safety reforms passed by Congress last year.

“The administration should now nominate a person of integrity, with a demonstrated commitment to protecting public health. Dr. Dourson must now leave the EPA, and the Administration should move forward to implement the new law as it was intended. Communities from California to North Carolina will be able breathe easier knowing Dr. Dourson will not be at EPA.”

Also posted in EPA, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Leave a comment

Is there no limit to industry’s overreach and hubris when it comes to new chemicals under TSCA?

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

We’ve already blogged about how changes the agency is making to its reviews of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) are illegal as well as bad policy.  But an industry letter and attachment added last week to EPA’s new chemicals docket shows the chemical industry isn’t done yet in seeking to eviscerate the program.

The letter and position statement were submitted to Jeffery Morris, Director of EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) by something called the TSCA New Chemicals Coalition (NCC).

They raise a multitude of red flags.

The NCC is a creation of the industry law firm Bergeson & Campbell (B&C). The letter to Morris describes NCC as “a group of representatives from over 20 companies that have come together to identify new chemical notification issues under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and to work collaboratively with you and your team to address them.”

First red flag:  Nowhere are the 20+ companies identified, not in the letter or associated position statement, nor on B&C’s web pages for NCC.  Such secrecy always sets off an alarm when it comes to the chemical industry’s history of forming misleading front groups and coalitions.  Why don’t the companies want their identities known?

Second red flag:  The NCC letter and position statement claim that “OSHA has in place an extensive regulatory scheme, as well as enforcement mechanisms, governing chemical exposure in the workplace” and refers to the “robust nature of the existing OSHA regulatory program” and its “overarching and comprehensive requirements” that apply in the workplace.  Now, anyone outside of industry readily acknowledges that OSHA’s ability to adequately address workplace exposures has been decimated over time – through sustained industry efforts on many fronts, including mounting legal challenges to OSHA’s authority and successfully pressing for reduction after reduction in its budget and staffing.  Those attacks continue today, and if anything have accelerated under the Trump Administration.

Why then, you may wonder, is NCC writing to the director of EPA’s TSCA office to tout OSHA’s sweeping authority over workplace chemical exposures?  By now you may be getting a sense of where this is headed … .   Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform| Tagged , | Leave a comment

Pennsylvania empowers municipalities to replace lead service lines

Pennsylvania was already one of the 11 states taking proactive efforts to support LSL replacement since 2015. HB-674 expands that effort.  Check our website for what states and communities are doing.

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

In October 2017, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed and Governor Wolf signed HB-674 which implements the State’s 2017-18 budget. Section 1719-E of the law includes a provision empowering municipal authorities to replace or remediate private water and sewer laterals if the municipality determines the work “will benefit the public health.” Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, lead, Public Health, Regulation, States| Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

EDF comments at EPA’s public meeting on identifying chemicals for prioritization stress legal requirements and urge adoption of sound and fair policies

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

EPA held a public meeting today on “Approaches to Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization” under last year’s reforms made to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by the Lautenberg Act.

EPA provided brief opportunities for stakeholders to provide comments.  Four of us from EDF gave oral comments at the meeting.  Below we provide links to those comments in written form and briefly describe them (in the order in which they were presented).

EDF Senior Attorney Robert Stockman’s comments argue that, under the law, EPA:

  • must use its broad information-gathering authorities under section 4, 8 and 11 of TSCA to collect all “reasonably available information” to inform the prioritization process;
  • should exercise those authorities in the processes leading up to and including prioritization; and
  • should start immediately to develop additional information on chemicals in its Work Plan.

EDF Project Manager Lindsay McCormick’s comments:

  • stress the need to use its information-gathering authorities to develop experimental data early in the prioritization process;
  • caution against over-reliance on voluntary information submissions;
  • urge EPA to avoid implanting a bias toward information-rich chemicals; and
  • remind EPA of its obligations to make full health and safety studies and underlying data publicly available.

My comments:

  • stress that the law sets a higher bar for low-priority than for high-priority designations;
  • urge EPA to identify only small numbers of low-priority candidates at a time;
  • caution EPA not to identify categories of chemicals as candidates for low-priority designations; and
  • argue EPA should consider ensuring a minimum set of hazard data is available for candidates.

EDF Senior Scientist Dr. Jennifer McPartland’s comments point to serious limitations and critical caveats relating to some of EPA’s proposed approaches for identifying candidates, including:

  • Canadian Categorization and Chemicals Management Plan;
  • Safer Choice Ingredient List; and
  • Functional category approaches.
Also posted in EPA, Health Science, TSCA Reform| Tagged , | Leave a comment
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