EDF Health

EPA Updates its 3Ts Guidance for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water

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

Earlier this month, EPA released its updated 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water Toolkit, which provides guidance for schools and child care facilities seeking to ensure children are safe from lead in water.  The new 3Ts – an update to the agency’s 2006 guidance – is now a web-based toolkit that includes modules, customizable templates, and factsheets.

Overall, the new toolkit is an improvement.  While the protocol itself is largely the same, the new toolkit is more user friendly and written for the non-technical audience, making it more likely that school and child care staff will use it.  EPA has also reframed the toolkit from “Training, Testing, and Telling” to “Training, Testing, and Taking Action” – placing more emphasis on the critical step of addressing lead sources than the previous version.  “Telling” is now integrated throughout the entire toolkit to highlight the importance of communication at every step. The agency has also developed a helpful flushing best practices factsheet, which is a topic that often causes considerable confusion.

In EDF’s June 2018 report on our pilot of 11 child care facilities, “Tackling lead in water at child care facilities,” we recommended EPA update its 2006 guidance to address four key gaps.  The agency has made progress on the two most important of those but leaves the other two unresolved. The most important change to the guidance is that the agency has removed the 20 parts per billion (ppb) action level and instead recommends action whenever there are “elevated lead levels.” While EPA does not define an elevated lead level, a deep dive into the appendix suggests that levels over 5 ppb warrant follow-up. The updated guidance also puts a greater emphasis on the identification of lead service lines (LSLs) and includes LSL replacement as a permanent control measure, though not as an explicit recommendation. Further, the agency did not update the protocol to deal with challenges posed by aerator cleaning and hot water heaters.  Below we explore each of these issues in further detail. Read More »

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

Have we learned anything in the last 4 decades when it comes to allowing chemicals like PCBs onto the market?

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.  Stephanie Schwarz, J.D., is a Legal Fellow.

The Science section of today’s New York Times reports “Killer Whales Face Dire PCBs Threat” – more than four decades after Congress largely banned PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Concentrations of the chemicals in the blubber of orcas living in waters off the coasts of industrialized countries remain high, and new research indicates the contamination presents an existential threat to the survival of these populations.

Reading the article brought to mind concerns we have raised in recent comments to EPA on proposed rules it has issued for new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Read More »

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

The TSCA new chemicals mess: A problem of the chemical industry’s own making

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

Nary a day goes by without a complaint being lodged by someone in the chemical industry, or in one of the myriad law firms that represent its interests in Washington, D.C., about the delays in EPA’s approval of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Here’s the irony:  Those delays and the general chaos in the TSCA new chemicals program are entirely of the industry’s own making.   Read More »

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

EPA needs to get its SNURs in order under TSCA

Stephanie Schwarz, J.D., is a Legal Fellow.  Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

On Friday EDF submitted comments to EPA on a batch of Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published on August 1 pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The SNURs relate to 145 new chemicals for which EPA had earlier issued consent orders that imposed certain conditions on the substances.  Those consent orders date back to when EPA was still pursuing the development of such orders for many new chemicals it reviewed, and prior to the recent “pivots” it has been making in an effort to avoid issuing orders by circumventing the requirements of the TSCA provisions governing new chemicals.

TSCA anticipates that EPA will promulgate SNURs to follow up on consent orders.  In fact, TSCA section 5(f)(4) requires that when EPA issues an order, EPA must either promulgate a SNUR or provide a statement explaining why EPA is not doing so.  And when EPA does promulgate such a SNUR, the SNUR must “identif[y] as a significant new use any manufacturing, processing, use, distribution in commerce, or disposal of the chemical substance that does not conform to the restrictions imposed by the … order.”

EDF strongly supports EPA’s use of SNURs to follow up on consent orders it issues.  That is because the order only applies to the original company that submitted a premanufacture notice (PMN) to EPA for a new chemical.  A proper SNUR then requires that company or any other company that seeks to deviate from the conditions in the order to first notify EPA, triggering a review of that “significant new use.”

While EDF supports EPA’s issuance of SNURs for these 145 new chemicals, our review of the proposed SNURs raised concerns, prompting us to file “adverse” comments.  Our comments raise two major concerns:

First, EPA has adopted an ad hoc testing policy in the direct final rule that does not comply with the requirements of TSCA, without sufficient explanation, and without providing any notice and opportunity for public comment on the policy. EPA needs to avoid adopting such an ad hoc policy.

Second, as noted above, TSCA (as well as EPA’s longstanding policy) requires SNURs to “conform” to the restrictions in the corresponding orders.  Yet we identified numerous inconsistencies between the orders and SNURs.  EPA must ensure that the final SNURs identify as a significant new use any activity that is not consistent with the restrictions in the corresponding consent orders.

See our comments for details.

NOTE:  EPA had published the SNURs both as a direct final rule and as a proposed rule, noting that if it received any adverse comments, it would withdraw the direct final rule and consider the comments received in the process of finalizing the proposed rule.  We expect EPA will now pursue this course.

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

What a new head of EPA’s TSCA office will face and need to do

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

News reports today indicate that the President is nominating Alexandra Dapolito Dunn for Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, which implements the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Here is our first take on what she will be facing and need to do, if confirmed:

The major reforms Congress made to TSCA in 2016 passed with strong bipartisan support because they struck a careful balance among competing interests.  Since that time, however, every aspect of the law’s implementation by the Trump Administration has gone badly off the rails, skewed heavily in the chemical industry’s favor at the expense of the public’s health.

In EDF’s view, any credible nominee for the OCSPP Assistant Administrator needs to understand and acknowledge this stark imbalance and take steps to address it.  The AA should be able and willing to facilitate a fundamental shift in TSCA implementation back to a course that comports with the law, reflects strong science, and is protective of public and worker health, including that of vulnerable subpopulations.

If she is confirmed, Ms. Dunn will have her work cut out for her, given the forces arrayed within and outside the agency that have led to the current imbalance.  That is a challenge that will need to be faced head-on.

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

Walmart joins ranks of retailers pulling toxic paint strippers from shelves – when will EPA follow suit?

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D.is Vice-President for Health.

Today, Walmart announced that it will stop selling paint strippers containing methylene chloride or N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in stores by February 2019 – making it the first general merchandise retailer to take such action.  Walmart’s announcement follows the strong leadership demonstrated by Lowes, Home Depot, and Sherwin Williams, all of which have committed not to sell methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint stripping products by the end of the year.  Importantly, Walmart’s action goes beyond its U.S. stores, including those in Mexico, Canada, and Central America, as well as their online store.

The announcement signals an important step by Walmart to better protect consumers from dangerous paint strippers. Methylene chloride is highly neurotoxic and acutely lethal. The chemical is responsible for over 50 reported deaths from acute exposure over the last 35 years – though many more likely have gone unreported. NMP is linked to fetal development problems, including low birth weight and birth defects.

EDF has advocated for several years for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban both methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint strippers, using its enhanced authority under the reformed Toxic Substance Control Act.  In January 2017, EPA proposed to ban methylene chloride and restrict NMP in paint strippers, but action has stalled under the Trump Administration.  For over a year, the agency made no effort to finalize these actions – even taking steps to delay any progress.

Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Markets and Retail, Public Health, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Tagged , , , , , | Read 1 Response