Selected category: Health Policy

In 2016 industry-funded paper, Dourson and Beck sought weaker standard for lethal paint stripper chemical

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

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

[See clarification added on 10-26-17 in brackets below.]

The New York Times’ investigation “Why Has the E.P.A. Shifted on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry Insider Helps Call the Shots” published this past Sunday cited evidence that Nancy Beck – a political appointee in EPA’s chemical safety office who until May was a senior official at the American Chemistry Council (ACC) – is questioning the need for EPA’s proposed rule to ban the use of the deadly chemical dichloromethane (also called methylene chloride) in paint and coating removers.  These products are responsible for dozens of deaths in recent years.

The Times’ story also noted in its last paragraph that Beck and Michael Dourson – the Trump Administration’s controversial nominee to lead EPA’s chemical safety office – are co-authors on a 2016 paper that was funded by ACC.  That paper was published in the industry’s go-to journal, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, where Dourson has published most of his papers.

The paper is of interest and relevant for another reason as well:  Dourson and Beck assert that the acceptable risk levels EPA has set for 24 chemicals are all too stringent and should be relaxed by anywhere from 2.5 to 150 fold.  (Funny, isn’t it, how the numbers for all 24 chemicals all went in the same direction?)

Among these 24 chemicals is the paint-stripping chemical dichloromethane (aka methylene chloride).  This chemical is a particularly concerning one:  It is a likely carcinogen and is linked to numerous other chronic health impacts, but it is also acutely and tragically lethal.   Dourson and Beck call for EPA’s standard for the chemical to be relaxed to a level that is 8.3 times less protective. [Clarification added 10-26-17:  This factor applies to EPA's ingestion standard (reference dose); Dourson and Beck's proposed adjustment to EPA's inhalation standard (reference concentration) was 2.5-fold less protective.]

The Times article makes clear that, despite her prior work on this chemical while at ACC, and the fact that this chemical is made by numerous ACC companies, Beck has not recused herself from making decisions about its risk and regulatory responses – decisions that are being considered at EPA even as I write.  Indeed, as I noted earlier this week, her astounding ethics agreement gives her wide latitude to work on issues in which ACC has financial interests in order to ensure those interests are taken into account.

In Dourson’s nomination hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on October 4, he was repeatedly asked if he would, if confirmed, recuse himself from work on chemicals he had been paid by industry to work on, and he repeatedly refused to say he would do so.

One more reason that Michael Dourson should not be entrusted with our health and the Senate should reject his nomination to head EPA’s toxics office.

Just yesterday, Dourson’s nomination was voted out of the committee by an 11-10 vote.  The fight over his nomination now moves to the full Senate.

 

Also posted in Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform| Tagged , | Comments are closed

Top 5 takeaways from this weekend’s NY Times investigation into industry influence in EPA’s toxics program

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

The lead article in Sunday’s print edition of the New York Times, titled “Why Has the E.P.A. Shifted on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry Insider Helps Call the Shots,” presents an 8000-word exposé of the Trump Administration’s takeover of the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety program.  It focuses on the outsized role played by Dr. Nancy Beck, who arrived at the Agency on May 1 fresh from her job as a senior official at the chemical industry’s main trade association, the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

For those who have not had the chance to read the article, I provide here my take on some of its most compelling and disturbing findings:

  1. Immediately upon her arrival at EPA as a political appointee, Dr. Beck made extensive changes to the near-final “framework rules” implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  2. Dr. Beck’s changes were objected to by career staff in multiple offices across the Agency.
  3. Dr. Beck is actively working to jettison proposed rules that would ban high-risk uses of trichloroethylene and methylene chloride.
  4. Dr. Beck has been cleared to work on issues directly relating to her prior employer’s interests.
  5. While at ACC, Dr. Beck frequently worked with Michael Dourson, the industry toxicologist-for-hire that President Trump nominated to head the EPA chemical safety office and who is facing stiff opposition from many Senators.

For a bit more detail on each of these, keep reading.   Read More »

Also posted in Industry Influence, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Read 1 Response

Dourson’s account of his work on PFOA is incomplete and misleading

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

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

In testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) on October 4 and in responses to Questions for the Record submitted by Senators after the hearing, Michael Dourson, the Trump Administration’s nominee to run EPA’s chemical safety program, provided information about his work on a DuPont chemical called PFOA (also known as C8) that is incomplete and misleading.  His selective responses to Senators’ questions reinforce the already serious concerns about his nomination and his suitability for the job.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed

Pollution is responsible for 9 million deaths globally: Two-thirds are due to air pollution

Dr. Ananya Roy is a Health Scientist

Over the last few weeks as forest fires engulfed large areas of California, air quality in the Bay area plummeted. Doctors and pediatricians were on high alert to deal with the health impacts felt most acutely by children and the elderly. Pediatrician’s offices had phone messages that said “If you are concerned about air pollution and calling to make an appointment for your child’s asthma please dial …” and advised citizens to use face masks and air purifiers and stay indoors. News outlets compared air pollution levels there to winter days in Beijing or New Delhi where air pollution is a more consistent threat. These fires drive home the reality of the effect of pollution on health.

Time and time again pollution related news from across the country and globe have made headlines, ranging from lead and PFOAS in water Flint and Hoosick Falls, benzene in Houston, to the “Airpocalypse” in Beijing and New Delhi. Though these articles highlight the disastrous effects of pollution from major pollution and weather events, the constant and ongoing silent impact of air pollution on the lives of children and communities remains underappreciated.

GAHP, The Lancet Report

Today, the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, an initiative of The Lancet, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), Pure Earth, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with additional coordination and input from United Nations Environment, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Bank, and others provide the first comprehensive global analysis of the health and economic impacts from all forms of pollution (air, water, soil, occupational). My colleague Elena Craft and I were contributors to this report.

The analysis carried out through the Global Burden of Disease framework estimated that pollution across air, water, soil, and occupational exposures costs the global economy $4.6 trillion per year, approximately 6.2% of global GDP, and resulted in 9 million deaths in 2015. This is equivalent to 16% of all deaths worldwide. Three times more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined; and fifteen times more than all wars and other forms of violence.

Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Health Science| Tagged , | Read 1 Response

More than 50 public health scientists sign letter opposing Dourson’s nomination for EPA's toxics office

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

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

Today a letter was submitted to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee signed by more than 50 public health scientists from dozens of universities voicing their strong opposition to the nomination of Michael Dourson to lead the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP).

The scientists' letter states, in part:

Granting Dr. Dourson the responsibility of overseeing EPA OCSPP would threaten the agency’s ability to credibly and effectively address harmful chemical exposures.  Dr. Dourson has built a career of abusing science to mischaracterize real-world chemical risks and in doing so has jeopardized public health, including the health of those most vulnerable among us like pregnant women and children.

The letter comes in advance of a vote on his nomination by the Senate Committee, currently scheduled for this Wednesday at 10am EDT.  If he is voted out of committee, a majority vote of the full Senate would then be required for his nomination to be confirmed.

Also posted in Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed

Eleven states support community lead pipe replacement with proactive policies

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

The largest source of lead in drinking water is lead service lines (LSLs) – the lead pipes connecting the water main under the street to homes and other buildings. Across the country, three dozen communities, large and small, are taking steps to protect public health and respond to concerns by replacing LSLs.

States play an essential role in helping or hindering progress by communities to replace LSLs by administering EPA drinking water rules, distributing federal funded loans, and approving rates some utilities charge customers.

We identified 11 states with proactive policies supporting community efforts to replace LSLs. These states have almost 3 million LSLs based on a 2016 estimate by the American Water Works Association: just short of half the nation’s LSLs. The 11 states are making a positive difference by:

A cross section of lead pipes. Photo Credit: Georgia Health News

  • Empowering communities with grants like Wisconsin, Virginia, Vermont, and New York have done;
  • Providing options to use rate funds like Indiana and Pennsylvania have done;
  • Requiring inventories of LSLs like Illinois, California, Washington, Indiana, and Ohio have done;
  • Setting long-term goals of fully removing all LSLs like California, Washington, and Michigan have done; and
  • Helping prospective homebuyers know whether the home has an LSL.

These policies won’t ensure that all 3 million LSLs are replaced, but it takes the states one step closer to achieving the goal that in 20 years no one will be drinking water through a lead pipe.

Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, lead, States| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed
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