EDF Health

In latest act of leadership, Cincinnati votes to cover the cost of replacing lead pipes for all residents

Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director

The Cincinnati City Council has voted unanimously to authorize Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) to pay 100% of the cost of replacing private lead service lines (LSLs) that bring drinking water to customers’ homes and other buildings. The Council’s December vote supports its larger strategy to “provide quality healthy housing for all income levels.” More broadly, the action is the latest act of leadership from the city as it works to address the environmental justice issues in its communities.

The ordinance gives GCWW the authority to help more customers pay to fully replace LSLs as the utility conducts infrastructure work on drinking water mains that connect to the lead pipes. Since 2017, the utility has subsidized up to 40% of a customer’s replacement cost through grants, and allowed customers to take a 10-year, interest-free loan.

Despite these incentives, the utility recognized that the cost of replacement was an obstacle for many customers, especially for low-income residents. About 60% of customers declined to participate, leaving them with partial LSL replacements that left lead pipes on private property in place. These partial replacements create higher short-term spikes in lead levels in drinking water and do not reliably reduce the risk of lead exposure over the long-term, as full replacement does. This is an important step for Cincinnati, as it ends LSL replacement practices that force customers to share in the costs that can lead to environmental justice and civil rights issues. Read More »

Also posted in Civil rights, Drinking Water, lead, Public Health / Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Civil rights complaint draws attention to the discriminatory impacts of common lead pipe replacement practice

Jennifer Ortega, Research Analyst, Environmental Health

This past Wednesday, Rhode Island’s Childhood Lead Action Project (CLAP) led a coalition of groups in submitting a civil rights complaint to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against the Providence Water Supply Board (Providence Water), pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The administrative complaint highlights the discriminatory effects that can result when utilities require customers to share the cost of replacing the lead pipes that feed into their homes. The complaint was submitted as part of CLAP’s larger Lead-Free Water RI campaign, which calls “for an equitable, statewide plan for full, free lead pipe replacements for all Rhode Islanders.”

In the complaint, CLAP, South Providence Neighborhood Association, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, National Center for Healthy Housing, and EDF allege that the water utility’s process of replacing lead service lines (LSLs) — the lead pipes that run from the water main to the water meter in homes — has a disparate impact on Black, Latinx, and Native American residents in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and EPA’s implementing regulations. Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, lead, Public Health / Tagged , , | 1 Response

EPA’s Significant New Use Rules under TSCA must reflect its policy goals

Lauren Ellis, Research Analyst, Environmental Health 

We recently submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a subset of proposed Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) published by the New Chemicals program under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). We commend EPA for issuing these proposed SNURs. Our review of some of the SNURs, however, raised concerns about chemical releases to the environment, risks to consumers, and the absence of worker protections. We believe EPA can address many of these concerns by following through on its stated policy goals. 

For all the chemicals in this batch, EPA had previously issued “consent orders” – which impose restrictions on a new chemical – because the agency found at the time of their initial review for market entry that the chemical substances may present an unreasonable risk to health or the environment. We strongly support EPA’s use of SNURs to follow up on consent orders it issues, as a consent order only applies to the original company that submitted a premanufacture notice (PMN) to EPA to domestically manufacture or import a new chemical. 

A SNUR is a separate action that requires any company seeking to engage in a “significant new use” identified in the SNUR to notify EPA at least 90 days before beginning that use, triggering EPA’s review of the potential new use. For new chemicals that received orders, a SNUR can conform to the order – meaning it mirrors the conditions in the consent order for the chemical – or it can apply more broadly to activities or uses that are beyond the scope of the consent order. Either way, SNURs enable the agency to review potentially risky uses prior to their commencement. 

In our comments, we call for four major changes to a subset of the proposed SNURs: 

Read More »

Also posted in PFAS, TSCA Reform / Tagged , , | 2 Responses

Flint area residents raise the bar on raising environmental justice concerns

Ugbaad Ali, Community Environmental Health Tom Graff Fellow

We all deserve to live in a healthy and vibrant community, yet many residents of Flint, Michigan, are overburdened by a lifetime of toxic exposures and environmental injustice. Recently, a coalition of environmental justice groups and community organizers in Flint used their combined power to organize against the siting of a new hot mix asphalt facility.

The Stop Ajax Asphalt Coalition was formed to protect neighboring communities from further environmental harm. The Coalition, which includes residents from Flint and Genesee Township, St. Francis Prayer Center, C.A.U.T.I.O.N, Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint, Flint Rising, Greater Holy Temple Church, Michigan United, R. L. Jones Community Outreach Center Campus, and Mi JustUs, submitted extensive comments and generated hundreds of public comments to contest the state’s permitting of a hot mixed asphalt facility by Ajax Materials Corp. near homes, schools, and parks.

Historically air permit decisions have been made in isolation, ignoring the cumulative impact from surrounding exposure sources. After hearing from the Coalition, the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which serves Michigan and five other states – weighed in with a letter that recommended Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) “conduct a cumulative analysis of the projected emissions from all emission units at the proposed facility, fugitive emissions from the proposed facility, and emissions from nearby industrial facilities, to provide a more complete assessment of the ambient air impacts of the proposed facility on this community.” It concluded that “because of the environmental conditions already facing this community, and the potential for disproportionate impacts, the siting of this facility may raise civil rights concerns.”

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) regional office also  raised serious civil rights concerns in a letter to EGLE, highlighting that the proposed location is near two HUD-assisted communities housing low-income families of color – and expressing concern that EGLE failed to engage HUD on a decision that could impact HUD-assisted residents.

“This isn’t a defeat for the citizens of Flint. We’re just getting started.” – Anthony Paciorek, Michigan United (ABC News)

Despite the public comments and federal agency letters, EGLE approved the air permit, but with tightened requirements. The Coalition remains concerned about the siting of the facility and is committed to challenging the state to require additional measures to protect their community. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Civil rights, Flint / Tagged , | Read 2 Responses

Helping EPA identify and protect those at greater risk from chemicals undergoing TSCA risk evaluation

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist, and Lariah Edwards, Ph.D., is an EDF-George Washington University Postdoctoral Fellow

EPA Administrator Michael Regan recently completed a five-day “journey to justice” tour, highlighting communities across three US states that have been adversely affected by decades of chemical and air pollution. EPA’s focus on protecting those whose health is at greater risk, including communities disproportionately burdened by harmful chemical exposures, must be a priority in its implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

This week, EDF submitted comments to EPA to support the agency’s review of nine widely used substances currently undergoing TSCA risk evaluation: 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde, and seven ortho-phthalates (phthalates). Our comments identify key groups that are at greater risk from these chemicals because they are more susceptible to their effects or are disproportionately exposed from environmental releases. Importantly, while our comments involved a broad review of the public literature, they do not capture all groups potentially at greater risk to exposure from these substances—and we strongly urge EPA to comprehensively identify all such groups using its information authorities as needed. Read More »

Also posted in TSCA Reform / Read 1 Response

Industry-requested risk evaluation for D4 under TSCA: EPA has improved its scoping approach, but must go further

Lauren Ellis, Research Analyst, Environmental Health

Earlier this week, EDF submitted comments to EPA on the agency’s draft scope for the manufacturer-requested risk evaluation of D4 under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This is EPA’s first draft scope under the Biden Administration – providing an opportunity to see where improvements have been made and where challenges still exist (see EDF’s and others’ comments on the last set of draft scopes under the Trump Administration).

In our comments, we applaud the agency for developing a more comprehensive chemical risk evaluation plan than EPA provided in past scopes. For instance, in its draft scope document, EPA indicated its intent to assess exposure occurring via environmental release to capture fenceline exposures – a necessary step toward addressing environmental justice considerations under TSCA. EPA also indicated it would not assume the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when evaluating and making determinations on potential risks to workers – a highly problematic approach taken in the past. However, the draft D4 scope also revealed areas still needing further improvement, including greater detail on how the agency will approach differential risks across the population and address combined exposures from different sources.

Last year, the Silicones Environmental, Health and Safety Center (SEHSC), on behalf of Dow Silicones Corporation, Elkem Silicones USA Corporation, Evonik Corporation, Momentive Performance Materials, Shin-Etsu Silicones of America, Inc., and Wacker Chemical Corporation, asked EPA to evaluate D4, or octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, under TSCA’s provisions governing manufacturer-requested risk evaluations. In October 2020, EPA granted that request. Critically, when conducting manufacturer-requested risk evaluations, EPA must adhere to the same requirements under TSCA as EPA-initiated risk evaluations, including consideration of all reasonably available information and use of the best available science.

D4 is a high production cyclic siloxane chemical, with an annual U.S. production volume of 750 million to 1 billion pounds. It has widespread industrial, commercial, and consumer uses, including as a reactant to make other silicone chemicals; in adhesives, paints, and plastic products; and in food packaging, personal care products (e.g., hair, skin, and nail products), over-the-counter medications (e.g., anti-gas drugs), and medical devices (e.g., breast implants).

D4 hazard, exposure, and risk has been considered by the Government of Canada and the European Chemicals Agency, among others. In 2009, a Health Canada screening assessment concluded that D4 is harmful to the environment and its biodiversity. In Europe, D4 is currently restricted in wash-off cosmetics (concentration limit of 0.1 % w/w); and recently, the European Chemicals Agency proposed further restrictions on D4 in other consumer and commercial uses due to potential risk. Notably, here in the U.S., EPA has received 39 separate “substantial risk reports” on D4 under TSCA Section 8(e), highlighting health concerns such as reproductive toxicity and immunotoxicity. Given the results of previous risk assessments on D4, and the significant number of risk reports provided to the agency, EPA must comprehensively assess the potential risk of D4 in all relevant uses to best protect public health.

Despite EPA’s movement toward a more comprehensive, public health protective approach to risk evaluation (see EDF’s Re-visioning TSCA after the Trump years blog series), the draft D4 scope highlights significant issues that remain, including:

  • Insufficient indication of specific “potentially exposed and susceptible subpopulations” that will be included in the risk evaluation;
  • Absence of a revised systematic review method and a specific systematic review protocol for D4;
  • Inadequate plan to use information authorities under TSCA to fill the extensive data gaps identified;
  • Failure to consider combined exposures to D4 in the workplace (e.g., when a worker is engaged in multiple activities involving potential exposure to D4);
  • Failure to consider combined exposures to individuals who fall into multiple receptor categories (e.g., individuals exposed to D4 in both the workplace and as resident of a fenceline community);
  • Insufficient commitment to consider relevant “background exposures” of D4 that may fall outside of TSCA’s direct regulatory authority but are relevant to evaluating risks from “TSCA uses” (e.g., exposures from food packaging, personal care products, and medical applications); and
  • Insufficient detail on how EPA plans to assess and incorporate uncertainty associated with the use of modeled or surrogate data when evaluating potential D4 risk.

EDF commends EPA for improvements made from previous scopes, and urges the agency to address the identified deficiencies in the final D4 scope.

See EDF’s comments for more detail.

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