Selected category: EPA

EPA simply must do better on transparency and chemical data access

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.  Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

[This is Part Two of a two-part series.  Here is a link to Part One.]

Under this Administration, EPA has taken some significant steps toward reversing decades of passivity and secretive practices that evolved under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) when it came to transparency in decision-making and providing access to chemical information it obtains or develops.

Several initiatives undertaken through what EPA originally termed its enhanced chemicals management program have developed and laid out clearer policies and procedures in areas such as:  chemical prioritization (leading to its Work Plan Chemicals Program); enforcing limits on and reviewing confidential business information (CBI) claims asserted by industry (leading to its declassification of hundreds of previously hidden chemical identities and health and safety studies that companies had illegitimately claimed confidential or no longer merited protection from disclosure, but that EPA had not bothered to review or challenge before now); and EPA’s regulatory efforts to reduce risks from exposures to toxic chemicals (leading to its Action Plans on high-concern chemicals and proposed follow-up activities for work plan chemicals where assessments – the first completed in decades – have identified significant risks).

EPA has also developed new databases and tools to provide greater access to chemical information in its possession and regulatory decisions and supporting documents it develops; these include the Chemical Data Access Tool and ChemView.

All of these efforts are still very much works in progress but hold significant potential to improve transparency, information access and risk reduction.

But sometimes the Agency does something that makes clear just how far it still has to go in these respects.  Unfortunately, a case in point is its recent effort toward assessing risks of a cluster of flame retardant chemicals, the brominated phthalates, some of which are in wide use and are showing up in everything from house dust to dolphins.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy| Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Very little, very late: EPA still lacks data on safety of widely used flame retardant chemicals

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.  Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[This is Part One of a two-part series.  Here is a link to Part Two.]

Last summer, EPA released a Problem Formulation and Data Needs Assessment describing the inadequacy of data available to conduct risk assessments on a group of brominated phthalate flame retardants – two of which are major components in widely used Firemaster products. 

This is the first of two blog posts on the comments EDF recently submitted to EPA on this document.  In this post, we discuss the growing public health and environmental concerns over use of Firemaster products and the recommendations we made to EPA on steps it needs to promptly take to address these concerns.  In our second post, we’ll lay out our serious concerns about the lack of transparency, limited data access, and allowance of unwarranted confidentiality claims that our review of EPA’s document brought to light.

 

First, a brief history

In the mid-2000s, Great Lakes Chemicals Corporation (now Chemtura) agreed to phase out production of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants due to mounting evidence of their health effects and their persistence and accumulation in people and the environment.  Soon after, the use of the company’s replacement Firemaster products skyrocketed.

The two main components of Firemaster products, 2-Ethylhexyl 2,3,4,5- tetrabromobenzoate (TBB) and bis(2-Ethylhexyl) -3,4,5,6- tetrabromophthalate (TBPH), are  high production volume (“HPV”) chemicals – each produced at more than one million pounds annually.

Unfortunately, use of these chemicals rose to such levels – replacing PBDEs in consumer products like polyurethane foam-based furniture and electronics – without sufficient data and review to establish their safety.   Read More »

Also posted in Emerging Science, Health Policy, Health Science| Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Advancing the ball while minding the gaps: EDF’s comments on EPA’s risk scoping documents for flame retardant chemicals

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

Until June 2014, EPA had not completed a chemical risk assessment under its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) authority in 28 years.  Since then, EPA seems to have been somewhat picking up the pace: Over the past year and a half EPA has completed four additional risk assessments through the TSCA Work Plan Chemical Program, which is designed to assess the risks of priority chemicals currently on the market.

Recently, EPA initiated its assessment process for the next set of Work Plan chemicals, including three “clusters” of flame retardant chemicals.  We fully support EPA’s current efforts to assess the risks of these flame retardants – with the end goal of managing identified risks – and have provided quite extensive comments on EPA’s initial scoping documents.  In this post, I’ll highlight some of our comments and recommendations; see the links at the end to access the comments themselves.   Read More »

Also posted in Food, Health Policy, Health Science| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Why is the nanotech industry so intent on keeping EPA from doing its job?

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

Ten years and counting.  That’s how long EPA has been trying to gather the most basic information on nanoscale materials in commerce.  And that’s how long the nanotech industry has been throwing up roadblocks – despite its rhetoric that it supports EPA’s effort, which it sees (in theory) as a means to “favorably and efficiently address unwarranted concerns that have been raised” about the products of nanotechnology.  This “say-one-thing, do-another” approach is both unfortunate and ironic, given that it has stymied getting to a well-informed government oversight system for nanotechnology that the industry should recognize is in its own best interest.

The latest round comes in the wake of EPA’s proposal of a reporting rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that would call on makers and processors of nanoscale materials – those in the size range of 1-100 nanometers (nm) – to provide the agency with information relating to the materials’ manufacture, processing and use, as well as available data relevant to understanding their potential exposures and health or environmental impacts. Here’s EPA’s succinct summary of the rationale for the rule:

Nanoscale materials have special properties related to their small size such as greater strength and lighter weight, however, they may take on different properties than their conventionally-sized counterpart. The proposal is not intended to conclude that nanoscale materials will cause harm to human health or the environment; Rather, EPA would use the information gathered to determine if any further action under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including additional information collection, is needed.

Despite this modest, common-sense objective, the proposal was met with vociferous opposition from the nanotech industry.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Nanotechnology, Regulation| Read 2 Responses

TSCA reform legislation: Consideration of costs and other non-risk factors

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

Part 1              Part 2              Part 3              Part 4              Part 5

[NOTES:  (1) This post reflects the latest versions of TSCA reform legislation:

(2) All of the earlier posts in this series have been updated to reflect these latest versions.]

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts looking at less talked-about, but critically important, elements of bipartisan legislative proposals to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  This post deals with how costs and other non-risk considerations factor into safety and regulatory risk management decisions.   Read More »

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

EPA rolls out its redesigned labels under the newly minted Safer Choice Program

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Today, the EPA Design for the Environment Program (DfE) Safer Choice program (formerly, the safer product labeling program) unveiled its newly redesigned family of three product labels. The voluntary Safer Choice program seeks to recognize and bring consumer awareness to those products whose chemical ingredients represent the safest among those within a particular chemical functional class (e.g., solvents). Today’s milestone is the result of a public process led by the EPA DfE program to solicit feedback on a new label that better communicates the goals and purpose of the program. After more than a year, and 1,700 comments and six consumer focus groups later, the new labels will be arriving soon to a store shelf near you. Read on to learn more about the program and the label redesign effort.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Markets and Retail| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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