EDF Health

The Trump EPA is throwing workers facing risks from new TSCA chemicals under the bus

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

We have blogged before (see here and here) about the steps initiated in mid-2018 by the Trump EPA to weaken new chemical reviews under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – rendering them even less health-protective than under TSCA prior to the 2016 reforms enacted in the Lautenberg Act.

As these debilitating policy changes – still never publicly described or released, and apparently still not written down even for use within EPA – have taken hold, we have seen dozens of flawed new chemical decisions emerge.  We blogged extensively about the first such decision made under the new regimen in late July 2018.  Since then, about 60 more final determinations reflecting the new policies have been posted on EPA’s website.  These decisions pertain mostly to premanufacture notifications (PMNs), along with a few for significant new use notices (SNUNs).  At least 80% of these chemicals were cleared to enter commerce without being subject to any conditions whatsoever.  EPA accomplished this by issuing a final determination that each cleared chemical, or significant new use of a chemical, is “not likely to present an unreasonable risk.”  For these determinations, EPA is required under TSCA to post a statement of its finding, which it does in another table on its website.

We have been closely examining these “not likely” determination documents.  Some deeply disturbing patterns are emerging.  This post will describe one of them.

A new addition to the long and growing list of illegal actions EPA has taken to render the new chemicals program weaker than under the old TSCA.

Most striking is that for a significant majority of these chemicals, EPA either identified significant risks to workers or indicated it had insufficient information to determine the level of risk to workers.  Under the 2016 reforms to TSCA, either finding – that there are or may be risks or that there is insufficient information to determine the level of risk – requires EPA to issue an order specifying conditions sufficient to eliminate the risk.  Yet EPA did no such thing; instead, it cleared the chemicals for unfettered market access.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform, Worker Safety / Tagged , | 1 Response

The Trump EPA’s actions on formaldehyde can be summed up in one word: Corrupt

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

Today, Heidi Vogt at the Wall Street Journal reported on the systematic efforts by the Trump Administration to derail chemical assessments under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).   

Decisions are being made as I write by conflicted EPA political appointees, not only to derail the beleaguered IRIS assessment for the carcinogen formaldehyde, but to transfer any further assessment of the chemical to be under the control of those same political appointees.

The WSJ article cites an upcoming report by Congress’ Government Accountability Office (GAO) that notes “EPA leadership in October directed the heads of the agency’s various programs to limit the number of chemicals they wanted IRIS to study or continue researching.  Nine of 16 assessments were then dropped, including one that looked at whether exposure to formaldehyde increases the risk of leukemia that ‘has been drafted and is ready to be released for public comment.’ ”  The chemical industry has long sought to undermine the findings of numerous governmental authorities that have identified the dangers posed by formaldehyde, one of the industry’s biggest cash cows.

IRIS itself has also long been a target of the chemical and allied industries, including those well represented by EPA political appointees who are now able to drive the assault on IRIS from inside the agency.

This post will provide more of the backstory to the WSJ’s excellent reporting.  It reveals additional decisions being made as I write by conflicted political appointees, not only to derail the beleaguered IRIS assessment for formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, but to transfer any further assessment of the chemical to be under the control of those same political appointees.  What is happening here we believe is ripe for further investigation.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform / Tagged , , | 1 Response

EDF to OMB: Ban on methylene chloride in paint strippers must protect workers in addition to consumers

Lindsay McCormick, Project Manager, and Joanna Slaney, Legislative Director

Over 11,000 concerned Americans have sent messages to Members of Congress over the last two weeks to urge EPA and OMB to protect workers – the population at most risk – from methylene chloride in paint strippers.

Today, EDF met with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft final rule on methylene chloride-based paint strippers. We urged the office to ensure the ban on methylene chloride-based paint and coating removers covers both consumer and most commercial uses – as the agency originally proposed.

Removing these deadly products from stores, workplaces, and homes is a critical step to protecting public health. Methylene chloride is acutely lethal. Exposure to the chemical has led to over 50 reported worker deaths since the mid-1980s, more than 40 of which are attributed to use of methylene chloride-based paint strippers. Many more deaths have likely gone unreported. The chemical is also associated with a host of other serious health effects, including neurotoxicity, cancer, and liver impairment.

Despite the facts that workers represent the vast majority of reported deaths and face the highest risks of other health effects, it appears that EPA is poised to finalize a rule that excludes a ban on commercial uses entirely – and will instead merely initiate a lengthy, uncertain process that may lead to certification and training approaches EPA had already considered and rejected as inadequate to protect workers.

Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Public Health, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

ACC to retailers, consumers, and the rest of us: You just don’t get that TSCA implementation is coming along swimmingly

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

Regular readers of this blog know it is our view that, under the Trump EPA, implementation of the 2016 reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has pretty much gone off the rails, deviating from what the law requires, failing to reflect the best available science, and not protecting public health.  It’s a view shared by, among others, former top EPA officials, members of Congress, state and local governments, labor groups, firefighters, water utilities, public health groups, and a broad range of environmental groups.

But in this era of alternative facts, the chemical industry says that’s because we’re all simply misinformed.  And it’s taking steps to correct those alleged misperceptions.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Comments are closed

The Trump EPA’s first TSCA risk evaluation is an epic fail

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

Yesterday Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed more than 100 pages of comments on a 40-page draft risk evaluation the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has prepared for Pigment Violet 29 (PV29).  PV29 is the first of 10 chemicals undergoing risk evaluations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Our comments were so much longer than the EPA document we were commenting on because there was far more to say about what information EPA failed to obtain, make available or consider than what EPA included in its draft.

The essence of our lengthy comments can be boiled down to a single sentence, however:  EPA has utterly failed to demonstrate that PV29 does not present unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.

For folks who want somewhat more detail than this, our comments start with a 4-page Executive Summary that capsulizes the many serious deficiencies we identified in EPA’s draft.  I’ll provide some highlights in this post.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Tagged , | Comments are closed

EDF considers potential health equity impacts of partial lead service line replacement

Tom Neltner, J.D.Chemicals Policy Director and Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager.

“LSL replacement initiatives should address barriers to participation so that consumers served by LSLs can benefit equitably, regardless of income, race or ethnicity.”

– A founding principle of the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative

States and communities across the country are taking important steps to accelerate replacement of lead service lines (LSLs) – lead pipes connecting the water main under the street to homes and other buildings. As part of this progress, many programs have strictly limited the standard practice of partial LSL replacement – replacing only the portion of the LSL on public property, which commonly arises when rehabilitating the main and reconnecting the existing line. Partial replacement is likely to increase, at least temporarily, lead levels in drinking water in homes and may not reduce lead exposure in the long run.

The default approach for most water utilities rehabilitating their main has been to simply alert property owners to the risk of partial replacement and advise them to hire a contractor to voluntarily replace the remaining portion of the LSL on their property.

Other utilities have rejected this approach and gone further to protect residents. For example, Washington, DC offers to coordinate private side and public side replacement to reduce costs and make participation easier but still expects the property owner to pay for the private side. Others, such as Cincinnati, OH, have required full LSL replacement, providing a significant subsidy to the homeowner and allowing the cost to be spread over ten years through a property tax assessment. Indiana American Water and Philadelphia, PA go even further and pay for the cost of full LSL replacement out of ratepayer or capital improvement funds. States are acting too, with Michigan requiring utilities to pay the cost of replacement on private property and Wisconsin requiring cost sharing. For more examples, see our webpages recognizing communities and states that are leading the way.

Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, Health Policy, lead, Public Health, States / Tagged , , | Comments are closed