Selected category: Health Policy

More than 50 public health scientists sign letter opposing Dourson’s nomination for EPA's toxics office

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

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

Today a letter was submitted to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee signed by more than 50 public health scientists from dozens of universities voicing their strong opposition to the nomination of Michael Dourson to lead the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP).

The scientists' letter states, in part:

Granting Dr. Dourson the responsibility of overseeing EPA OCSPP would threaten the agency’s ability to credibly and effectively address harmful chemical exposures.  Dr. Dourson has built a career of abusing science to mischaracterize real-world chemical risks and in doing so has jeopardized public health, including the health of those most vulnerable among us like pregnant women and children.

The letter comes in advance of a vote on his nomination by the Senate Committee, currently scheduled for this Wednesday at 10am EDT.  If he is voted out of committee, a majority vote of the full Senate would then be required for his nomination to be confirmed.

Also posted in Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Leave a comment

Eleven states support community lead pipe replacement with proactive policies

Tom Neltner, J.D.Chemicals Policy Director and Sam Lovell, Project Specialist

The largest source of lead in drinking water is lead service lines (LSLs) – the lead pipes connecting the water main under the street to homes and other buildings. Across the country, three dozen communities, large and small, are taking steps to protect public health and respond to concerns by replacing LSLs.

States play an essential role in helping or hindering progress by communities to replace LSLs by administering EPA drinking water rules, distributing federal funded loans, and approving rates some utilities charge customers.

We identified 11 states with proactive policies supporting community efforts to replace LSLs. These states have almost 3 million LSLs based on a 2016 estimate by the American Water Works Association: just short of half the nation’s LSLs. The 11 states are making a positive difference by:

A cross section of lead pipes. Photo Credit: Georgia Health News

  • Empowering communities with grants like Wisconsin, Virginia, Vermont, and New York have done;
  • Providing options to use rate funds like Indiana and Pennsylvania have done;
  • Requiring inventories of LSLs like Illinois, California, Washington, Indiana, and Ohio have done;
  • Setting long-term goals of fully removing all LSLs like California, Washington, and Michigan have done; and
  • Helping prospective homebuyers know whether the home has an LSL.

These policies won’t ensure that all 3 million LSLs are replaced, but it takes the states one step closer to achieving the goal that in 20 years no one will be drinking water through a lead pipe.

Read More »

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

No end to chemicals for which the Trump nominee to head EPA’s toxics office has conflicts of interest

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

[My colleague Ryan O’Connell assisted in the research described in this post.]

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

In a series of earlier posts to this blog, we have described and documented numerous conflicts of interests that Michael Dourson, the Trump Administration’s nominee to head EPA’s toxics office, would bring to the job if he is confirmed.

(A vote on his nomination by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is currently scheduled for this Wednesday at 10am EDT.  If he is voted out of committee, a majority vote of the full Senate would then be required for his nomination to be confirmed.)

Dourson has worked on dozens of toxic chemicals under payment from dozens of companies.  Two consistent patterns emerge when his reviews are examined:  The process he typically uses to conduct his reviews is riddled with conflicts of interest.  And his reviews typically result in him recommending “safe” levels for the chemicals that are weaker, often much weaker, than the established standards in place at the time of his reviews.

If confirmed, Dourson would oversee most of the chemicals and companies he has worked on and with.  The chemicals include numerous pesticides coming up for review shortly under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), as well as three chemicals that are among the first 10 EPA is now considering under the recently amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

To further gauge the impact Dourson could have if confirmed, we have looked a bit farther down the road.  TSCA requires EPA to be conducting risk evaluations on at least 20 chemicals by December 2019.  At least half of those chemicals are to be drawn from EPA’s so-called Work Plan for Chemical Assessments.

Using information available on the website of Dourson’s company, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), as well as his published papers, we compared the list of chemicals he/TERA have worked on to those on the EPA Work Plan.  We found that 22 chemicals overlap.  We then examined each chemical Dourson or TERA worked on to determine whether Dourson or TERA was paid for their work by their manufacturers or industrial users of those chemicals.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Leave a comment

Cincinnati adopts an innovative plan to eliminate LSLs that is a model for other cities

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

The Cincinnati City Council enacted three ordinances in June 2017 that establish an innovative legal framework to replace the city’s 27,000 lead service lines (LSLs) over the next 15 years. The Council acted after finding that “high levels of lead in water create serious health risks to residents of the City, particularly young children, and using lead service lines between public water mains and properties increases the risk that the lead content of drinking water to the properties served will increase to a dangerous level” and that “replacing lead service lines is in the best interest of the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare.” Although the City stopped allowing new LSLs in 1927, an estimated 1 in 9 service connections still have a portion made of lead pipe.

A member of the GCWW Repair Services Team replaces an LSL. Photo credit: GCWW

Cincinnati’s program is based on Madison, Wisconsin’s successful effort, which began in 2000 and was completed in 2011. Cincinnati is roughly three times larger than Madison in terms of population, service connections, and LSLs.

Under the program, residential property owners within Greater Cincinnati Water Works’ (GCWW) service area can receive between 40 and 50% off of the cost of replacing the portion of the LSL on their property up to $1,500 if they agree to have GCWW arrange for the replacement. Owners within the limits of the City of Cincinnati may choose to have the remaining cost assessed semiannually on their property tax bill and repaid over 5 or 10 years. Property assessments must be approved by the political entity where the property resides. As of today the assessment option is only available for the residential properties in the City. However, GCWW is reaching out to the other jurisdictions it serves to discuss expanding the assessment program to those jurisdictions as well.

GCWW will also be replacing the portion of the LSL on public property so that the entire service line is replaced. The City is committed to fund its share of the work from GCWW’s Capital Budget.

Read More »

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

Article reveals serious shortcomings in Georgia’s oversight of lead in drinking water

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

Safe drinking water largely depends on the integrity of the public water system and the vigilance of the state regulatory agency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the standards, conducts the research, and oversees the state regulatory agencies. As we saw in Flint, Michigan, these protections break down when the state regulatory agency fails to identify and address potential compliance issues. Criminal charges have been filed against both state and local officials.

The Flint tragedy prompted EPA to send letters in February 2016 to governors and state agencies reminding of them of their responsibilities under the Safe Drinking Water Act and asking for a meeting with each state to discuss concerns and a written response to key compliance challenges under the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). EPA posted the state responses online.

The tap sampling required under the LCR is critical since it triggers treatment of the water for small and medium systems and public education and lead service line replacement for all systems if treatment is insufficient. Given this central role, the LCR requires water systems to take water samples from the taps of properties most likely to have lead. For small and medium systems, single family homes with lead service lines are a top priority.

The sampling requirement is challenging since it depends on the cooperation of the resident to let the water stagnate in the lines for at least six hours and then take a first draw sample before anyone uses the water. Residents may need an incentive to cooperate, especially over many years.

A disturbing, three-part investigative report by WebMD and Georgia Health News provided insight into potential shortcomings by utilities that are likely to underestimate the levels. It also highlights Georgia’s apparent failure to identify the problems. The investigators checked on changes in the sampling sites over the years and looked up the sampling locations to determine if they fit the criteria laid out in EPA’s rule. It is an impressive deep dive into LCR compliance sampling issues.

Read More »

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Michael Dourson’s Toxic Wake: Locations Across the US Contaminated by Eight Chemicals “Blessed” by Trump EPA Toxics Nominee

Samantha Lovell is a Project Specialist.

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

Next Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Michael Dourson – who has made a career as a chemical industry hired gun – to lead the EPA toxics office.

In past blogs, we have documented deep concerns about Dourson’s extensive, longstanding ties to the chemical industry in addition to his earlier work for the tobacco industry. Dourson and his company Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA) were paid for their work by more than three dozen companies or trade associations, involving at least three dozen different chemicals.

Several recent news stories and reports have identified examples where Dourson or TERA helped industry play down health concerns about chemicals, including Dourson’s work in West Virginia involving the “Teflon” chemical PFOA and his study funded by Koch Industries in Chicago involving petroleum coke.

To illustrate the real-world impacts of his work, we have identified locations across the country where eight of the chemicals that Dourson has “blessed” have stirred concerns from residents about polluted water, soil, and air or poisoned residents and workers.

Read More »

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