EDF Health

Is there no limit to industry’s overreach and hubris when it comes to new chemicals under TSCA?

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

We’ve already blogged about how changes the agency is making to its reviews of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) are illegal as well as bad policy.  But an industry letter and attachment added last week to EPA’s new chemicals docket shows the chemical industry isn’t done yet in seeking to eviscerate the program.

The letter and position statement were submitted to Jeffery Morris, Director of EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) by something called the TSCA New Chemicals Coalition (NCC).

They raise a multitude of red flags.

The NCC is a creation of the industry law firm Bergeson & Campbell (B&C). The letter to Morris describes NCC as “a group of representatives from over 20 companies that have come together to identify new chemical notification issues under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and to work collaboratively with you and your team to address them.”

First red flag:  Nowhere are the 20+ companies identified, not in the letter or associated position statement, nor on B&C’s web pages for NCC.  Such secrecy always sets off an alarm when it comes to the chemical industry’s history of forming misleading front groups and coalitions.  Why don’t the companies want their identities known?

Second red flag:  The NCC letter and position statement claim that “OSHA has in place an extensive regulatory scheme, as well as enforcement mechanisms, governing chemical exposure in the workplace” and refers to the “robust nature of the existing OSHA regulatory program” and its “overarching and comprehensive requirements” that apply in the workplace.  Now, anyone outside of industry readily acknowledges that OSHA’s ability to adequately address workplace exposures has been decimated over time – through sustained industry efforts on many fronts, including mounting legal challenges to OSHA’s authority and successfully pressing for reduction after reduction in its budget and staffing.  Those attacks continue today, and if anything have accelerated under the Trump Administration.

Why then, you may wonder, is NCC writing to the director of EPA’s TSCA office to tout OSHA’s sweeping authority over workplace chemical exposures?  By now you may be getting a sense of where this is headed … .   Read More »

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

EDF comments at EPA’s public meeting on identifying chemicals for prioritization stress legal requirements and urge adoption of sound and fair policies

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

EPA held a public meeting today on “Approaches to Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization” under last year’s reforms made to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by the Lautenberg Act.

EPA provided brief opportunities for stakeholders to provide comments.  Four of us from EDF gave oral comments at the meeting.  Below we provide links to those comments in written form and briefly describe them (in the order in which they were presented).

EDF Senior Attorney Robert Stockman’s comments argue that, under the law, EPA:

  • must use its broad information-gathering authorities under section 4, 8 and 11 of TSCA to collect all “reasonably available information” to inform the prioritization process;
  • should exercise those authorities in the processes leading up to and including prioritization; and
  • should start immediately to develop additional information on chemicals in its Work Plan.

EDF Project Manager Lindsay McCormick’s comments:

  • stress the need to use its information-gathering authorities to develop experimental data early in the prioritization process;
  • caution against over-reliance on voluntary information submissions;
  • urge EPA to avoid implanting a bias toward information-rich chemicals; and
  • remind EPA of its obligations to make full health and safety studies and underlying data publicly available.

My comments:

  • stress that the law sets a higher bar for low-priority than for high-priority designations;
  • urge EPA to identify only small numbers of low-priority candidates at a time;
  • caution EPA not to identify categories of chemicals as candidates for low-priority designations; and
  • argue EPA should consider ensuring a minimum set of hazard data is available for candidates.

EDF Senior Scientist Dr. Jennifer McPartland’s comments point to serious limitations and critical caveats relating to some of EPA’s proposed approaches for identifying candidates, including:

  • Canadian Categorization and Chemicals Management Plan;
  • Safer Choice Ingredient List; and
  • Functional category approaches.
Also posted in Health Policy, Health Science, TSCA Reform / Tagged , | Comments are closed

CBS News covers a chemical's tragic impact; points to urgent need to ban high-risk uses of methylene chloride

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager.  

This morning, CBS News focused on the tragic story of Kevin Hartley—a young man who died at the age of 21 while working with a product that contains methylene chloride. Kevin’s story, powerfully relayed by his mother Wendy, illustrates the need to ban high-risk uses of this chemical.

As we have previously noted, in January, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to ban methylene chloride in paint and coating removal products. The agency based its proposal on an extensive assessment of the scientific literature, which demonstrated not only lethal risks from acute exposures to methylene chloride but also a host of other acute and chronic health impacts, like harm to the central nervous system, liver toxicity, and cancer.

Products containing this chemical can be readily found in most hardware stores in America and more tragedies are all but certain, if EPA does not promptly finalize its proposed ban.

The ongoing debates in Washington over the implementation of a new chemical safety law passed just last year are often dense and dry. In sharing her son Kevin’s story, Wendy Hartley reminds us that how these policies are applied has a very real human impact. That is why EDF continues to demand EPA better protect American families from toxic chemicals like the one highlighted by CBS News today.

Please watch the story: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/dangers-of-common-paint-stripper-chemical-methylene-chloride/

Also posted in Public Health, TSCA Reform / Tagged , , , | Read 1 Response

Federal government updates real estate disclosure booklet to address lead in drinking water

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

In June 2017, the federal government updated the “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” booklet to expand the information provided on lead in drinking water from a few lines to a full page. Since 1996, when someone rents or buys a home built before 1978, the property owner or landlord is required to provide them with a copy of this booklet. The last update to the booklet was made in 2012.

What is removed?

  • Statement that paint, dust and soil are the most common sources of lead. The new version does not make the comparison. See our September 2017 blog for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest estimates on sources of lead exposure.
  • Running water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking. The new version is silent on length of time to flush water and instead highlights taking a shower, doing laundry, or doing a load of dishes as options to flush the line at the tap. The change was necessary because homes with lead service lines, the lead pipe that connects the main under the street to the home, often experience higher levels of lead after 30 seconds of flushing.

What background is added?

  • Lead pipes, faucets and fixtures are the most common sources of lead in drinking water.
  • Reminder that older homes with private wells can have lead plumbing materials too.
  • Some states or utilities offer programs that pay for water testing for residents.

What are the new recommendations?

  • Regularly clean your faucet screen (also known as an aerator).
  • If using a filter to remove lead, follow directions to learn when to change the cartridge.
  • Use only cold water to make baby formula.
  • Contact your water company to determine if your home has a lead service line and to learn about lead levels in the system’s drinking water and water testing for residents.
  • Call EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 for information about lead in drinking water and 1-800 424-LEAD for other questions about lead poisoning prevention.

Read More »

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

EDF comments at EPA’s public meeting on new chemical reviews question the credibility and legality of recent changes

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

EPA held a public meeting today to present information on major changes it is making to its review of new chemicals under last year’s reforms made to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by the Lautenberg Act.

EPA provided brief opportunities for stakeholders to provide comments.  Two of us from EDF – I, and my colleague Robert Stockman, Senior Attorney – gave oral comments at the meeting.  We are providing those comments here in written form.

Through these actions, many clearly contrary to the law, EPA is returning the new chemicals program to its dark ages under the old TSCA, making it again into a black box within which EPA acts as if its only stakeholder is the chemical industry.

My comments are available here.

Robert Stockman’s comments are available here.

As the comments make clear, EDF believes the changes EPA is making and discussed today are both contrary to the requirements of the new TSCA and represent a retreat from the credible, transparent and accountable new chemicals program Congress sought to establish under the new law.

As I noted in my comments:  “Through these actions, many clearly contrary to the law, EPA is returning the new chemicals program to its dark ages under the old TSCA, making it again into a black box within which EPA acts as if its only stakeholder is the chemical industry.”

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

Too little, too late: Why SNURs alone are not a sufficient alternative to consent orders for new chemicals

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

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of making some major changes to its policies and practices governing new chemical reviews.  This post discusses one of the most troubling ones.  

The SNUR-only approach EPA is now deploying differs dramatically from and provides far less risk protection than would result from it simply doing what the law requires:  using orders, with SNURs as backup.

As I have previously described, last year’s Lautenberg Act made extensive changes to section 5 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governs the review of new chemicals prior to their manufacture and use.  Among these changes is a requirement that EPA must evaluate potential risks, and mitigate potential unreasonable risks, of a new chemical under its “conditions of use,” which the new law defines to include “reasonably foreseen” circumstances of production, processing, distribution, use or disposal, as well as those intended by the company submitting notice of the new chemical to EPA.  If EPA identifies potential risk or significant exposure or lacks sufficient information on a new chemical, it must issue an order prohibiting or limiting the conditions of use of the chemical in order to mitigate any unreasonable risk.

After passage of the Lautenberg Act until recently, and in keeping with the new law, if EPA’s review identified risk concerns relating to conditions of use beyond those strictly identified by a company submitting a new chemical notice to EPA, the agency made a “may present an unreasonable risk” finding and pursued development of a consent order with the company sufficient to ameliorate those concerns.  (While EPA has authority to issue unilateral orders, it typically negotiates with the company to arrive at a consent order that both parties sign.)

Now EPA is indicating it will instead make a “not likely to present an unreasonable risk” finding for the intended conditions of use, and says it can address any concerns over reasonably foreseen uses without issuing an order by developing only a significant new use rule (SNUR).  This “SNUR-only approach” is inconsistent with the law, a matter I won’t discuss further here.  However, it also raises a host of policy concerns, some of which I lay out in this post.

The SNUR-only approach EPA is now deploying differs dramatically from and provides far less risk protection than would result from it simply doing what the law requires:  using orders, with SNURs as backup.

There are ample reasons why Congress called on EPA to use orders to address concerns and then use SNURs as backup:  Orders (including consent orders) and SNURs are not created equal.  This post discusses 12 key differences, with respect to:

(Spoiler alert:  Deep dive ahead. Let me apologize to and warn readers in advance that this post gets rather into the weeds, as the issues are complicated and the details are important.)   Read More »

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