EDF Health

EPA’s draft risk evaluation of carbon tetrachloride is riddled with unsupported exclusions and assumptions

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

Next week, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), established under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to peer-review EPA’s draft chemical risk evaluations, will meet to review the latest of those drafts, for the likely human carcinogen carbon tetrachloride.

As with other recent draft risk evaluations, EPA has been scheduling the SACC meetings in the middle of rather than following the public comment period.  This means the public has at best a few weeks to digest these huge documents and draft and submit comments in order to have them be part of the record that the SACC is allowed to take into consideration in its peer review.

However, we have learned that EPA is now further constraining the SACC’s schedule, requesting that the panel members come to the peer review meeting with their comments already drafted, and then delivering their final report within 60 days rather than the 90 days previously provided.  These developments further jam both the public and the SACC in their efforts to ensure EPAs work is subject to a robust peer review.

Whatever the reasons for EPA making these changes, EDF decided to expedite our initial comments to seek to ensure they could be considered.  We submitted comments last week, a full week before the February 19 deadline, to ensure the SACC received and had sufficient time to review them in advance of the peer review meeting.

We deemed this critical because of the glaring gaps and flaws in EPA’s draft that lead it yet again to drastically understate the risks of this chemical.  These include the same problems that have plagued the draft risk evaluations for other chemicals, as well as new ones.  Read More »

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

The Trump EPA’s “Working Approach” to new chemical reviews is only working for the chemical industry

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

On Tuesday EDF filed detailed comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Working Approach to Making New Chemical Determinations under TSCA.”

The document is a major disappointment, to say the least.  The Trump EPA has worked very hard to render this long-awaited update of its approach to reviewing new chemicals under TSCA an empty exercise.  Despite Administrator Wheeler’s promises in January 2019 to the contrary:

  • EPA has still failed to provide any legal or scientific justification for its Working Approach.
  • EPA provided no actual response to the many detailed comments it received on its 2017 framework, instead issuing a 1.5-page document that dismisses many of the comments merely as having “stemmed from a misunderstanding of the Agency’s intent.”
  • EPA held a public meeting – but did so without first providing the Working Approach to stakeholders; EPA then limited their comments at the meeting to 2-3 minutes each and ended the meeting well ahead of schedule.
  • EPA’s new framework ignores the earlier comments it received, retaining all of the core flaws of the 2017 Framework and in fact doubling down on several of them.

Most remarkably, EPA seems to want to make clear that the Working Approach is hardly worth the paper on which it is written.  Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

A closer look at the environmental justice implications of EPA’s proposed lead in water rule

Tom Neltner, J.D., Chemicals Policy Director, Lindsay McCormick, Program Manager, and Sam Lovell, Project Manager.

See all blogs in our LCR series.

Household-level changes that depend on ability-to-pay will leave low-income households with disproportionately higher health risks.

 

EPA Environmental Justice Analysis of the proposed rule.

Reviewing a rulemaking docket can be intimidating, especially for a major rule like the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed revisions to its Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), which includes 853 supporting documents and tens of thousands of pages. Though we cannot claim to have read all of the documents, we did a targeted scan of key materials, knowing that they often yield insights and results that are lost in the summary that appears in the Federal Register. 

The effort for us paid off when we read EPA’s Environmental Justice (EJ) Analysis of the LCR proposal revisions (the Proposal), commissioned in response to Executive Order 12898. The Order directs agencies to identify and address, “as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations” in rulemaking. The agency’s contractor essentially found:

  • The current LCR disproportionately impacts low-income and minority populations as they are more likely to live in older housing that has lead service lines (LSLs), the most significant source of lead in drinking water.
  • The Proposal’s corrosion control requirements should help reduce current disparities. Because water treatment is consistent across an entire community, stronger requirements that reduce the ability of lead to leach into water from LSLs, leaded solder, and other sources should mitigate, but not eliminate, the disproportionate burden in homes with LSLs.
  • The Proposal may make disparities worse if it depends on individual household’s ability to pay for LSL replacement (LSLR). The report stated that “Household-level changes that depend on ability-to-pay will leave low-income households with disproportionately higher health risks.”[1]

In the Federal Register notice, EPA glossed over the third point and concluded that the Proposal is “not expected to have disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority populations and low-income populations.”[2] The agency ignores the fact that the Proposal makes no change to the current LCR provisions that rely on a household’s ability to pay when it says water systems are “not required to bear the cost of removal of the portion of the [LSL] it does not own.”[3] We are aware of only a small – but growing – number of communities that have funding options to assist households with the cost of LSLR on private property.

Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, EPA, lead, Regulation / Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

The Trump EPA reaches a shocking new low in failing to protect workers under TSCA

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

Just when I thought EPA putting workers’ health at risk by shirking its responsibilities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) couldn’t get any worse, it has.

The notion that worker protection can or should be relegated to the equivalent of a shock avoidance experiment is deeply offensive if not outright immoral.

In its risk evaluations of existing chemicals (see our comments here and here) and its reviews of  new chemicals (see our comments here) entering the market, EPA has found ways bordering on the diabolical to avoid identifying or to understate the extent and nature of risks to workers making or using those chemicals.  The agency:

  • Simply assumes without evidence that workers will wear fully effective personal protective equipment (respirators and gloves).
  • Distorts OSHA regulations and claims they apply where they don’t.
  • Treats voluntary instruments that impose no binding requirements as if they were mandatory.
  • Assumes that if the average worker’s exposure does not exceed its acceptable risk level, then it doesn’t matter if there are exceedances for those workers most highly exposed.
  • Has unquestioningly accepted and used manufacturers’ undocumented data on workplace exposure levels even when data from more authoritative sources show far higher exposures.
  • And has adopted a cancer risk benchmark that is as much as two orders of magnitude more permissive of risk than warranted under TSCA.

All this despite TSCA’s express identification of workers as a “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation” that warrants special protection.

As appalling as all of this is, it just got worse. Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Comments are closed

EPA still has a very long way to go on transparency under TSCA

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

EPA recently held a public meeting where it unveiled its first set of confidential business information (CBI) claim “determinations.”  These came three and half years after updates to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) required EPA to review CBI claims and publicly state the basis for its decision to approve or deny each claim.  EPA also recently finally started assigning “unique identifiers” to chemicals where it approves a claim to hide the chemical’s identity from the public.  These identifiers also come very late, having been called for starting immediately under the 2016 reforms to TSCA.

EPA also recently began posting to its ChemView database premanufacturing notices (PMNs) it receives on new chemicals, as well as some of the documents it generates when reviewing new chemicals (though these are exceedingly hard to find).

These and a few other modest recent improvements are certainly better late than never.  Their slowness in arriving, however, is a stark illustration of the far greater priority the Trump EPA has given to favoring the chemical industry’s interests over the public interest.

Moreover, EDF’s examination of these recent measures reveals both how far behind EPA still is in meeting TSCA’s mandates to provide chemical information to the public, and that EPA is failing to comply with a number of those mandates.

Last Friday EDF filed comments with EPA detailing both the shortcomings in what EPA has done and what it has failed to do.  We also provided a host of recommendations for improvements to the EPA websites and databases that are critical if they are to meet the public’s right to know about chemicals and EPA’s review of them under TSCA.  This post will summarize some of the key findings detailed in our comments.  Here is a list of topics covered in our comments and, more briefly, in this post:

Read More »

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What connects cross country skiing and chemical safety?

Sam Lovell, Project Manager.

An idyllic afternoon gliding through fresh snow may seem as far removed as you can get from Washington, D.C. decision-making about toxic chemicals. However, as recently reported by Outside Magazine, there’s an intriguing connection here that ought to give skiers, and the rest of us, some pause.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a new chemical for use in ski wax. Just a few months before, the agency had planned to deny the chemical market entry based on the concern, among others, that exposure could “waterproof the lungs” – causing severe, acute harm. Due to the abrupt reversal in EPA’s decision, EDF began looking further into this case and made public records and Freedom of Information Act requests.

The intervening steps that resulted in this chemical getting the green light to market reveal serious problems in EPA’s new chemicals program regarding transparency and industry influence.

Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Industry Influence, PFAS, TSCA Reform / Tagged , | Comments are closed