EDF Health

PART 3: Busting more industry-perpetrated myths about new chemicals and worker protection under TSCA

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

Part 1          Part 2         Part 3

I have been blogging in the last few weeks about myths the chemical industry is perpetrating about the adequacy and legality of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent reviews of the risks that chemicals just entering the market may present to workers.  In this post, I address another such myth that, unfortunately, EPA has swallowed hook, line, and sinker.  This myth was laid out by one of the industry witnesses at the March 13 House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on EPA’s failures to protect workers from chemical risks.

One wonders when EPA will start doing what Congress told it to do, first in 1976 and then again, with renewed vigor in 2016:  Protect workers under TSCA – using TSCA’s authorities to meet TSCA’s health standard, not OSHA’s.

I’ll get to this third myth in a moment.  But let me first try to crystallize what is at stake in this debate.  While the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has always given EPA authority to regulate workplace risks, the 2016 amendments to TSCA strengthened EPA’s authority and mandate to protect workers.  TSCA now expressly identifies workers as a “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation.”  See the definition of that term in paragraph 12 here.  TSCA then requires EPA to identify and assess potential risks to such subpopulations when reviewing both new and existing chemicals.  Finally, it requires EPA to use its TSCA authorities to impose restrictions on any chemical found to present an “unreasonable risk” – which is TSCA’s health standard – to any such subpopulation.

In a word, TSCA requires EPA to protect workers under TSCA – using TSCA’s authorities to meet TSCA’s health standard, not OSHA’s.

Both before and after the 2016 TSCA amendments, the chemical industry has sought to compel or convince EPA not to regulate workplaces under TSCA, and instead to defer to OSHA.  Industry wants this because OSHA’s authority and capacity are severely limited and its legal requirements for regulating toxic substances (“health standards” in OSHA parlance) allow vastly greater risks to workers than do TSCA’s (see my previous post).

Sadly, under the Trump EPA, industry is getting its wish.  At industry’s urging, EPA is acting in a manner that is wholly contrary to TSCA – and is less health-protective than even under TSCA before the 2016 reforms.

Now let’s get back to more myth-busting.   Read More »

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

PART 2: Busting more industry-perpetrated myths about new chemicals and worker protection under TSCA

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

Part 1          Part 2         Part 3

This post shows why the chemical industry has been so anxious to convince EPA to defer to OSHA rather than regulate worker risks from new chemicals under TSCA.

I started blogging last week about myths the chemical industry is perpetrating when it comes to EPA’s review of the risks new chemicals may present to workers.  In this post, I address another such myth, one that the industry promotes to argue why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can and should defer to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in addressing the risks posed by new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  This myth was on full display at last week’s House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on EPA’s failures to protect workers from chemical risks.

Myth #2:  OSHA regulations provide ample protection of workers from any exposures to new chemicals EPA is reviewing under TSCA.   Read More »

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Long-Delayed Methylene Chloride Ban Finalized but Still Leaves Workers at Risk

Increasing pressure from families, lawmakers, and advocates forces EPA’s half-step on deadly chemical

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has finalized a rule that bans methylene chloride in paint strippers for consumer uses but still allows use of the deadly products in workplaces. Instead of banning commercial uses, as it originally proposed to do more than two years ago, EPA is merely starting a process to gather input on what a possible future certification and training program might look like – delaying any action for years.   Read More »

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

PART 1: Busting industry-perpetrated myths about new chemicals and worker protection under TSCA

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

Part 1          Part 2         Part 3

This week the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing on EPA’s failures to protect workers from chemical risks.  It featured a number of compelling testimonies from worker representatives:  auto workers, firefighters, teachers, and farmworkers.  It also featured testimony from a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) official, who made the case for why it is so critical that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) comply with the mandates and use the enhanced authorities Congress gave the agency under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to protect workers exposed to chemicals.  He detailed why OSHA is unable to do so, describing OSHA as “outmatched” and having “exhausted its capacity” in the face of decades of severe budget cuts and limited legal authority.

The chemical industry is perpetuating damaging myths about worker protection at EPA and OSHA, which have unfortunately taken a firm hold in the Trump EPA.

Unfortunately, the hearing also included testimonies from two chemical industry representatives who painted a highly deceptive picture of what EPA has done to protect workers under the new TSCA and the adequacy of OSHA regulations regarding chemical risks in the workplace and the extent of compliance with them.  This and future posts will address the damaging myths these witnesses are perpetuating, which have unfortunately taken a firm hold in the Trump EPA.

Myth #1:  EPA is committed to protecting workers when reviewing new chemicals under TSCA.   Read More »

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

EDF statement in advance of House hearing on failure by the Trump EPA to protect workers from toxic chemicals

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

Tomorrow, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change will hold an oversight hearing on “Mismanaging Chemical Risks: EPA’s Failure to Protect Workers.” In advance of the hearing, Environmental Defense Fund lead senior scientist, Dr. Richard Denison, made the following statement:

“Under the Trump Administration, every aspect of EPA’s implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — our recently reformed chemical safety law — has gone off the rails. The Trump EPA has abdicated its authority and responsibility under the law to address risks to workers. Among the ways EPA has shirked these duties are the following:

  • Clearing new chemicals despite risks to workers. EPA has approved new chemicals for unfettered market access even where the agency has identified significant risks to workers or has indicated it has insufficient information to determine risks to workers. EPA has done so for many dozens of chemicals.
  • Abandoning worker protections from methylene chloride. EPA is poised to finalize a ban of methylene chloride-based paint strippers far narrower than the one it proposed over two years ago. While consumer uses will be banned, EPA will not limit commercial uses, leaving workers, who are most at risk from these products, unprotected.
  • Ignoring worker safety in chemical risk evaluations under TSCA. In the only draft risk evaluation of a chemical issued to date, EPA relied exclusively on a single undocumented workplace air concentration value, provided through a private personal communication by a conflicted industry source, as the basis to conclude that workers across the supply chain for this chemical face no significant exposure to the chemical.

“Oversight of this EPA’s reckless approach to worker protection under existing law is long overdue.  We applaud the subcommittee for holding this hearing. This EPA is putting the public’s health – especially worker’s health — at risk by systematically weakening and undermining chemical safety: the agency must be held accountable.”

 

 

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A gap remains in the circular economy conversation: Toxic chemicals in packaging

Boma Brown-West, Senior Manager, Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director, and Michelle Harvey, Consultant.

This is the first blog in a series evaluating the challenges associated with single-use food packaging waste.

This week Walmart joined a growing number of companies that are trying to advance the circular economy for packaging. Like previous commitments from NestleCoca-Cola and McDonald’s, Walmart is stepping up its efforts to use more recyclable packaging, incorporate more recycled content, and accelerate development of collection and recycling infrastructures. EDF has a long history fighting for greater and smarter plastics recycling, so we are pleased to see more companies working to eliminate plastic packaging waste from our environment. However, something is often missing from their statements: commitments for safer packaging free of toxic chemicals.

What defines safer packaging?

There are many facets to sustainable packaging: recyclability, reusability, lower material and energy inputs, and the avoidance of toxic chemicals.  A significant amount of virgin plastic used in packaging currently contains toxic chemical additives such as ortho-phthalates or contaminants such as heavy metals. These chemicals have been linked to diseases and health disorders, such as reproductive problems and impaired brain development. When tainted plastic packaging is reused or recycled, these toxic chemicals persist and may accumulate to worrisome levels until the packaging is retired, posing long-term threats to our health.

Read More »

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