Selected category: Health Policy

EDF files comments on three TSCA rules EPA is developing

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is 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 , , , | Leave a comment

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

Tom Neltner, J.D.is 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 , , , , , , | 1 Response

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

Tom Neltner, J.D.is 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 , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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, J.D.is 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

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 , | Comments are closed

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 , | Read 1 Response
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