EDF Health

EDF requests extension of illegally and unreasonably short comment period on proposed rule with incomplete docket

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

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today submitted a request to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to extend the mere 15-day period EPA has provided for public comments on a proposed modification to a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR).  The proposed SNUR modification was published in the Federal Register just last Thursday (February 8), and stated that comments must be received by February 23.

EPA must comply with its own requirements and provide electronic access to a public file containing all relevant documents prior to commencing at a minimum a 30-day comment period on this proposed rule.

EPA’s own regulations require EPA to provide the public with at least 30 days to comment on SNURs, see 40 CFR 721.160(c)(4) and 721.170(d)(4), making EPA’s 15-day comment period illegally short.

EDF requested that EPA provide at least 30 days for public comment – with that period to commence only after a complete public docket of relevant materials is made available by EPA.  As our request details, the docket EPA has provided for this proposed SNUR is woefully incomplete, missing even basic documents that preclude the public from being able to provide meaningful comments on the proposal.   Read More »

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Hiding its tracks: The black box of EPA’s new chemical reviews just got a whole lot blacker

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

[UPDATED 1-8-18:  See updates below]

We have been blogging about damaging changes being made to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new chemicals review program for some time.  Despite the reforms made in 2016 under the Lautenberg Act that were intended to significantly strengthen new chemical reviews, Scott Pruitt’s EPA has been moving since August of last year to seriously weaken the program.

Late yesterday, EPA made a change to its new chemicals website that not only reverses changes made to implement the Lautenberg Act, but actually makes the site less transparent than it has been for decades.

EPA's intent is now quite clear:  to prevent the public from knowing when EPA’s professional staff flagged any concern in their initial review of a new chemical.

The change makes clear that the agency is now planning to cover its tracks as it weakens new chemical reviews:  EPA will now hide from the public any information about whether its initial review of a new chemical raises any concerns or warrants a more extensive review.  Is this what Scott Pruitt meant when he said he intended to bring increased “transparency” to the review program – a term he used no fewer than five times in his August news release previewing changes he was making?   Read More »

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Federal court of appeals gives EPA one year to update lead-based paint standards

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

Update: On July 2, 2018, EPA issued the proposed rule after the court gave it a 90-day extension. The agency has one year – until July 1, 2019 – to issue a final rule. Blog clarified on timing.

This week, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update its regulations defining lead-based paint and how much lead in dust represents a hazard. The court gave EPA 90 days to issue a proposed rule and one year later to publish a final rule with an option to convince the court that it needs additional time. The court said the agency had unreasonably delayed action on a citizen’s petition submitted in 2009. The science showing the need for action has only become more compelling in the eight years since EPA acknowledged the shortcoming of its rules. Rather than drag out this litigation, the agency should move quickly to revise its lead-based paint hazard standards to better protect children’s health.

EPA set the dust-lead hazard standard in 2001 after determining that a child living in a home with those levels had only a 1 to 5% chance of having an elevated blood lead level (EBLL) as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The scientific evidence now shows that the risk is greater than previously estimated. In addition, CDC has tightened its definition of an EBLL. As a result, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the risk to a child of having an EBLL in a home that meets EPA’s current dust-lead hazard standard is more than 50%.

Read More »

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Systematic slowdown: EPA indefinitely delays virtually all proposed actions to restrict chemicals under TSCA

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.  My colleague Ryan O’Connell assisted in the research described in this post.

By the time the long-awaited reforms of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) passed in June of 2016, nearly all stakeholders had come to agree that we needed a stronger federal chemical safety system, one that gave EPA more authority and more resources to act.  Only through this could public confidence in the system begin to be restored – to the benefit of both business and public health.

That was then.  A scant 18 months later, the law is being implemented by an Administration hell-bent on rolling back existing or indefinitely delaying new health protections, even those called for by large bipartisan majorities in Congress.  And the chemical industry?  So much for the influence of its better angels who supported reform.  It’s now going for broke, grabbing what it can while it can.

Virtually every proposed action that would impose restrictions or conditions on specific chemicals has been either moved to the “long-term action” attic or simply deleted altogether.

Yesterday, the New York Times and The Intercept ran stories spotlighting EPA’s decision to back-burner proposed restrictions on high-risk uses of three highly toxic chemicals – trichloroethylene (TCE), methylene chloride (MC), and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) – relegating them to the bureaucratic dustbin of “long-term actions.”  Not coincidentally, the chemical industry has strongly opposed all of the proposed restrictions.

But those aren’t the only proposed actions on chemicals for which this EPA has applied the brakes.  An examination of EPA’s two most recent semi-annual “unified agendas” – that trumpeted by the President last week, and the preceding one issued this past April – reveals a much broader and more disturbing pattern:  Virtually every proposed action that would impose restrictions or conditions on specific chemicals has been either moved to the “long-term action” attic or simply deleted altogether.   Read More »

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Good news and bad news for children: FDA’s 2014 to 2016 food testing for lead

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director and Maricel Maffini, Consultant

In Environmental Defense Fund’s June 2017 “Lead in food: A hidden health threat” report, we evaluated the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) publicly available data for 2003 to 2013 from its Total Diet Study (TDS). Since the 1970s, the TDS has tracked metals, pesticides, and nutrients in food. We found that 20% of baby food samples had detectable levels of lead compared to 14% for other foods. We also identified eight food types where more than 40% of samples had detectable lead. Finally, based on an analysis from EPA, we estimated that more than 1 million young children exceeded FDA’s limit for lead and that eliminating lead from food would save society an estimated $27 billion annually.

In November 2017, FDA publicly released TDS data for 2014 and 2015. And this December, the agency provided us with TDS data for 2016 in response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. We evaluated the combined information[1] and have an update that is both good news and bad news. The good news is that the overall trends for detectable rates of lead in baby food and other food, especially in 2016, appear to be on the decline. There is a similar downward trend in apple and grape juice, especially the ones marketed as baby food. Unfortunately, there appeared to be stubbornly high rates of detectable lead in teething biscuits, arrowroot cookies, and baby food carrots and sweet potatoes.

Read More »

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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 »

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