EDF Health

Why now is the moment for cities around the world to act decisively on air pollution

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

This is the second in a series of Global Clean Air blogs on COVID-19 and air pollution. EDF scientists and program experts will share data about pollution levels during quarantine from a local and global perspective, and provide recommendations for governments and companies to Rebuild Better.

New COVID-19 air quality/ transportation measures in Bogotá, Colombia.

Around the world, we’ve seen dramatic improvement in air quality as a result of the response to COVID-19. While it’s come from an artificial and unwanted brake on the global economy, it’s drawn renewed attention to the devasting impacts of outdoor air pollution.

As many large cities around the world emerge from lockdown, city authorities need to act decisively to prevent air pollution rebounding and even exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels. That was the conclusion of participants in a “Clear Skies to Clean Air” webinar I moderated last week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Defense Fund, in collaboration with the World Bank.

The improvements in air quality seen during the COVID-19 lockdown have shown individuals and policymakers what is possible and could open the door to reinvigorated efforts to address pollution.

London and Bogotá demonstrate clean recovery strategies

The webinar heard from policymakers on the front lines of addressing air pollution: Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor of London, with responsibility for environment and energy; and Claudia López, Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia.

New COVID-19 air quality/ transportation measures in London.

Cities need devolved powers if they are to address local air pollution, argued Rodrigues: “We can’t have a centralised approach … Citizens deal with their local authorities, mayors know what is needed in their cities. Devolving powers, alongside funding, is absolutely critical so we can push the electrification agenda and the reclamation of roads, so we can avoid a car-based recovery.”

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A PSA for the Trump EPA: The chemical industry isn’t your “client” for the new chemicals program

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

So much for the Trump EPA’s constantly ballyhooed commitment to transparency under TSCA.

I blogged a few short weeks ago about just how brazen EPA officials have become in aligning themselves with the chemical industry when it comes to the agency’s review of companies’ requests to commercialize new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Yet it just keeps getting worse.  Read More »

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“Illegal, unscientific, and un-health protective”: Summing up EPA’s final methylene chloride risk evaluation

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

Today, the Trump EPA released its first final risk evaluation and determination under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), for the carcinogenic and acutely lethal chemical methylene chloride.

Sadly, despite EPA’s rush to issue this document as the 4th anniversary of TSCA reform on June 22 approaches, EPA doubled down on the illegal, unscientific, and un-health protective approach it has taken in all of its draft risk evaluations for the first 10 chemicals reviewed under TSCA.

EDF will be closely examining this final document, but it is already apparent that EPA has grossly and systematically underestimated the exposures to and risks of methylene chloride.  Read More »

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EPA’s own words reveal what its new chemicals program has become – a captive of industry

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

“The agency’s goal is to allow the commercialization of products,” said EPA associate deputy assistant administrator for new chemicals Lynn Dekleva.

Readers of this blog know that EDF is no fan of how the Trump EPA has implemented – in our view, twisted – the 2016 reforms made to the review process for new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Decision after decision over the last 3.5 years under this administration has undercut public health and benefitted industry interests, despite some noble efforts by career staff to chart a better course.  In recent weeks the Trump EPA’s intentions have been even more clearly revealed, thanks to the trade press’s reporting of EPA political appointees’ comments delivered to industry audiences.  That’s what this post is about.  Read More »

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NGOs call on EPA to revise the draft scopes for its upcoming risk evaluations to comply with TSCA and its own regulations

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

Environmental Defense Fund, Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families yesterday told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the 20 draft scope documents the agency released for public comment on April 9 and April 23, 2020, fail to meet TSCA and EPA regulatory requirements.  The groups called on EPA to revise the drafts to include the information that both TSCA and EPA’s Risk Evaluation Rule require be included, and then make the revised draft scopes available for public comment.  Read More »

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Former chemical industry official Beck, now at Trump White House, again interferes to weaken EPA action on dangerous chemicals: This time it’s PFAS

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

It was only in February that Reveal News’ Elizabeth Shogren exposed the Trump White House’s role in dramatically weakening the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft risk evaluation for the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), which is linked to fetal heart defects at low doses.  The White House’s 11th-hour intervention, led by former chemical industry official Dr. Nancy Beck, forced EPA to rely on a different health effect that would allow 500 times greater exposures to the ubiquitous toxic chemical.

There was every reason to expect this episode was not a one-off, given Beck’s other actions both while at EPA and once arriving at the White House.  Sure enough, last week Ellen Knickmeyer of the Associated Press exposed another such incident, this time involving a group of chemicals collectively known as “perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances” or PFAS that are showing up as environmental contaminants all over the country.

Beck’s first order of business was to compel her former colleagues at EPA to submit the proposed PFAS rule for White House review, which neither the Obama administration nor the Trump administration up to that point had deemed necessary.

Knickmeyer reported on documents obtained by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, ranking member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, that detail Beck’s largely successful effort to scale back a rule EPA first proposed in 2015.  Called a Significant New Use Rule, or SNUR, it would require companies seeking to import products containing certain PFAS to notify EPA in advance, thereby allowing EPA to determine whether to allow the import and impose needed restrictions.  Sen. Carper made the documents public via a letter he sent to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler calling on EPA to finalize the original rule instead of the watered-down re-proposed rule EPA released for public comment in February.  Read More »

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