EDF Health

The Big Squeeze: Dangers for public health lurk in recent EPA re-org efforts

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Over the past several months, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made or proposed a number of distressing shifts in offices or staff that support critical chemicals-related activities and scientific research. The programs affected include the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, the Safer Choice program, and the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER). Not coincidentally, each of these programs has been in the crosshairs of certain segments of industry and its allies in Congress and the Administration.

This blog post briefly reviews the proposed or implemented shifts and their implications.   Read More »

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FDA on Lead in Grape Juice: Too Late, and Way Too Little Improvement

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

On March 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be leading the U.S. delegation in the Netherlands proposing that the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopt a maximum lead limit of 40 parts per billion (ppb) in grape juice. The current limit, set by Codex in the 1980s, is 50 ppb. While a small step in the right direction, FDA’s proposal falls woefully short of adequately protecting children from lead.

For context, the 40 ppb proposed Codex limit would be 2.6 times greater than the 15 ppb lead action level established for drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1991 and 8 times FDA’s limit of 5 ppb for bottled water. In addition, a child drinking a single 8-ounce serving of juice with a lead concentration of 40 ppb will be exposed to 160% of FDA’s maximum daily intake level of 6 micrograms of lead per day. This level, set in 1993, should be much lower because it does not reflect scientific discoveries of the past 25 years showing harm to children at lower levels.

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Lead in hot water – an issue worth testing

Preliminary testing results: 50% (7 of 14) of water heater tanks tested in child care centers had levels over 50 ppb with one at 2,680 ppb. For all but one of these, flushing through the tank drain significantly reduced the lead levels in the water heater. At the hot water tap, only 4 of 161 (2%) samples were above EDF's action level (3.8 ppb). Water heaters may function as “lead traps,” but more investigation is needed. Best to avoid using hot water for cooking or drinking.

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director. Analysis conducted by Lindsay McCormick, Project Manager.

Last March, I was giving a talk on lead and drinking water at the National Lead and Healthy Housing Conference. A questioner from a state health department asked me why the standard lead testing methods only sample cold water when experience suggests that people use hot water when making infant formula, dissolving powered drinks, and cooking food. After mumbling for a few minutes that people are supposed to drink cold water, I realized that I really didn’t know the answer – but should.

When risk assessment ignores real life, we are bound to miss something important. For hot water, I think we may be.

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American Water lays out a plan for replacing lead pipes in its Indiana systems

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

Update: The IURC issued an order on March 7 scheduling an evidentiary hearing for May 7, 2018 at 9:30 am at its offices in Indianapolis.  

The Indiana subsidiary of American Water Company filed a plan in January 2018 with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to fully replace lead service lines (LSLs) in the communities it serves within the next 10 to 24 years. The company estimates that 50,000 of its 300,000 customers in the state have lead pipe in a portion of the service line connecting the main under the street with the building.

The plan is the first submitted to the IURC in response to legislation enacted by the Indiana General Assembly in April 2017 and authored by Rep. Heath VanNatter. If the IURC approves the plan, the company can seek Commission approval to include LSL replacement on private property as an eligible infrastructure improvement whose costs can be covered by rates paid by customers.

With the plan, American Water is essentially embracing the goal articulated by EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council and the American Water Works Association that the United States needs to eliminate LSLs. We applaud that goal and American Water’s commitment – while it will take time to achieve, people should not be drinking water through lead pipes, even with optimal corrosion control. Read More »

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Wisconsin law removes crucial barrier to lead pipe replacement

Tom Neltner, J.D.Chemicals Policy Director and Sam Lovell, Project Specialist

Yesterday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed legislation that takes an important step to replacing the 240,000 lead service lines (LSLs) in communities across the state. SB-48 allows municipalities and water utilities to provide financial assistance to property owners to replace LSLs on private property. We described the legislation in an earlier blog – and applauded the critical work of state advocates in building support for the law.

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Formaldehyde delay rule – another defeat for Trump EPA

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

March 17, 2018 update: The court ordered EPA's rule vacated as of June 1, 2018 based on an agreement by the parties.  This rule would have delayed the compliance deadline for the formaldehyde from composite wood products rule from 12/12/17 by one year.  The parties agreed that until March 22, 2019, products certified as compliant by the California Air Resources Board is sufficient to comply with EPA's rule. EPA has updated its webpage to provide details. The parties reserved their right to appeal the order.

On February 16, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suffered another defeat in the courts.

In the latest case, the United States District Court for Northern California found that EPA violated the law when it gave industry a one-year delay to comply with formaldehyde emission standard for composite wood products. The standard was supposed to go into effect on December 12, 2017, one year after it was published in the Federal Register. Administrator Pruitt originally proposed a three month delay because, with the change in Administration, the agency failed to make a certification program essential to industry compliance operational, as originally planned. On September 25, 2017, the agency issued a final rule that gave a one-year extension instead, concluding that the delay “provides a balanced and reasoned timeline for importers, distributors, and regulated entities to establish compliant supply chain and comply with the [rule].” It also extended other deadlines in the rule.

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