Selected category: Health Policy

One year and counting: On its first anniversary, near-term threats abound to implementation of our strong new chemical safety law

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

This week marks the first birthday of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemicals Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on June 22, 2016, after passing the Senate and House with overwhelming bipartisan support.

If balance is lost to short-term priorities of the new Administration and the chemical industry, the common ground so many of us fought for and found to support last year’s historic passage of the Lautenberg Act will quickly dissipate.

The Lautenberg Act significantly overhauled and substantially improved the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the core provisions of which had never been amended since their adoption in 1976.  Among the enhancements are new provisions that:

  • mandate safety reviews for chemicals in active commerce;
  • require safety findings for new chemicals before they are allowed on the market;
  • replace TSCA’s burdensome safety standard — which prevented the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even from banning asbestos — with a pure, health-based safety standard;
  • explicitly require protection of vulnerable populations like children, pregnant women and workers;
  • give EPA enhanced authority to require testing of both new and existing chemicals;
  • make more information about chemicals available, by limiting companies’ ability to claim information as confidential, and by giving states and health and environmental professionals access to confidential information they need to do their jobs; and
  • retain a significant role for states in assuring chemical safety, while strengthening the federal role.

Passage of the Lautenberg Act was made possible by the coming-together of members of both parties and a broad spectrum of stakeholders around two facts:  the old law wasn’t working for anyone, and a stronger federal chemicals management system was needed to restore lost confidence among the public and in the marketplace over the safety of chemicals.

At the one-year mark, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) remains confident that the law is strong and can and will ultimately deliver on its promises.  At the same time, its effective implementation in the near term is threatened on numerous fronts, unfolding as it is in one of the most anti-environmental and anti-regulatory climates this nation has faced in a long time.   Read More »

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

Pace and outcomes of EPA new chemical reviews appear to be on track

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

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday updated its website to provide a current snapshot of the status of new chemical reviews it has been conducting under last year’s amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The statistics show that, despite being faced immediately with a substantial increase in responsibilities and workload as a result of the major changes made to TSCA, EPA has made enormous progress in implementing the new requirements.

Because the changes made by the Lautenberg Act to TSCA’s new chemicals program were both extensive and immediately effective upon enactment, a temporary backlog developed while EPA implemented the new requirements in reviewing both chemicals that were under review at the time of the law’s passage and those that came in subsequently.

Yesterday's announcement and the related statistics indicate that the backlog has markedly declined since January, falling from 300 to below 150 cases.  In a press release EPA says it is committed to eliminating the backlog entirely by July.

Equally important in the statistics is the fact that many more chemicals are being subject to orders imposing conditions on their commercialization, relative to the old law:  For about half of the reviews completed to date, EPA has issued a consent order.  This is to be expected:  The new law requires EPA to issue such orders whenever it either lacks sufficient information to evaluate a new chemical, or makes a risk- or exposure-based finding that indicates potential concern.  In such cases, the orders must impose conditions sufficient to mitigate the concern.

Yesterday’s announcement is welcome.  EPA needs to stay the course.  And the chemical industry needs to recognize that restoring public and market confidence in our chemical safety system requires a robust new chemicals program.

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

Another tragic death — time for EPA to ban high-risk chemical paint strippers

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager.  

A few weeks ago, a 21-year-old man tragically passed away after being overcome by chemical fumes while refinishing a bathtub.  The young man was working for a small painting business in Tennessee.  His death is currently being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but is suspected to have been caused by methylene chloride exposure.  If confirmed, this would add to the dozens of reported deaths caused by the chemical’s use in paint stripping products over the past several decades.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has within its grasp the ability to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again. In January, EPA proposed to ban methylene chloride in paint and coating removal products – including those used for bathtub refinishing, and is considering a ban on such use of another highly toxic chemical called N-methylpyrrolidone.  The agency based its proposal on an extensive assessment of the scientific literature, which demonstrated not only lethal risks from acute methylene chloride exposure but also other health impacts from both short- and long-term exposure to both chemicals.

Products containing these chemicals are available at hardware and other retail stores across the country, and unless EPA acts promptly to finalize a ban, there will surely be more avoidable deaths and other health impacts due to use of high-risk chemical paint strippers.  In EDF’s recent comments to EPA, we strongly urged it to finalize these bans as soon as possible to protect public health.  EPA should not wait for another reason to take action.

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

Red tape and over-reach: That is the Regulatory Accountability Act, in a word – and a graphic

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

I blogged last week about the new-but-not-improved Senate Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), focusing on how it would reinstate some of the worst flaws of the old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that were fixed in the bipartisan TSCA reform legislation, the Lautenberg Act, signed into law last June.

Here are a few additional things to note.  This bill is scheduled to be marked up next Wednesday in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC).

I noted in my last post that RAA is sweeping in scope, and would affect dozens of federal laws and protections in one fell swoop.  My colleague Martha Roberts has just put up a blog post that illustrates this incredibly broad reach by providing a few tangible examples of protections that would be at risk if RAA were to be enacted.

And talk about red tape:  I’m including below her updated graphic depicting the vast bureaucracy RAA would create that all federal agencies would be forced to navigate (click on the thumbnail to enlarge it).

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

Our health protections at risk: TSCA reform undone by “regulatory reform”?

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager. Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

On February 24th, President Trump signed Executive Order 13777, calling on all government agencies to recommend regulations for “potential repeal, replacement, or modification.” As of this writing, EPA has received 46,050 comments on its regulatory reform process. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of these comments come from individuals across the country voicing their support for strengthening EPA’s regulatory protections, demonstrating that Americans stand strong in their opposition to regulatory roadblocks and rollbacks.

In compliance with this executive order, EPA held a stakeholder meeting last week to identify “regulatory reform” opportunities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The irony – and absurdity – of this process is that not even a year ago, Congress passed, with overwhelming bipartisan support, sweeping reforms to TSCA, finally providing EPA with new tools and authority to review and manage chemicals more effectively. The need for a credible regulatory agency—one able to make timely, independent, science-based decisions about chemical safety—was seen by all parties as essential to increase public confidence in the safety of chemicals. Under-regulation, not over-regulation, has been the clear problem in this arena for decades.  Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Industry Influence, Nanotechnology, Regulation, TSCA Reform| Tagged , | Comments are closed

New but not improved: The new Regulatory Accountability Act would severely threaten TSCA implementation and many other vital health protections

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

Last week, as anticipated, Senator Rob Portman introduced his updated Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA).  Sens. Hatch, Heitcamp and Manchin cosponsored the bill.

While it’s new, it can’t be said it’s improved.  Some problems raised with Sen. Portman’s earlier version of the bill were addressed but many were not and quite a few new very problematic provisions were added.

In March, I blogged about the irony that RAA would reinstate a number of requirements that Congress just last June removed from the old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) through the Lautenberg Act amendments that were enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support.  Unfortunately, many of those problems remain with Sen. Portman’s new version of RAA.  And, those flawed requirements would be imposed across the entire federal government, effectively rewriting dozens of federal statutes simultaneously.

I have updated my earlier analysis of RAA vs. the new TSCA to reflect the new version of RAA.   Read More »

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