EDF Health

EPA needs to stop misleading the public and its peer reviewers about the data it has obtained from the European Chemicals Agency

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

In numerous assessment documents issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed in its implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA cites as a source the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).  ECHA is the agency that administers the European Union’s (EU) REACH Regulation, which (unlike TSCA) requires the registration of chemicals in commerce by companies that wish to continue to produce and use the chemicals in the EU.

When companies register chemicals under REACH, they are required to develop and submit a “dossier” of certain information on production and use as well as on physical-chemical properties, fate, hazard, exposures and risks.  ECHA then makes information available on its website.

In its draft risk evaluations for the first 10 chemicals undergoing evaluations under TSCA, as well as in some of its support documents for high-priority substance designations under TSCA, EPA has heavily relied on these dossiers.  But in doing so, EPA has grossly mischaracterized the source and nature of the data it references as coming from ECHA.

EDF has been raising concerns about EPA’s mischaracterizations for some time now (see section 1.E of our comments on EPA’s draft risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane), but they persist.  And as recently as yesterday, members of the peer review panel reviewing EPA’s draft documents have been led by EPA statements and citations to assume a degree of completeness and government review of these data that is simply false.

EPA needs to immediately cease and desist in its mischaracterizations.  Read More »

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1,4-dioxane: The case of the disappearing tumors

Rachel Shaffer is a consultant.  Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

As we highlighted in a previous post, EDF filed extensive comments on EPA’s draft risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane. Among the many concerns we raised was a decision by the Trump EPA to completely dismiss female mouse liver cancer data used by EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program as key inputs to its cancer risk modeling conducted in 2013. The Agency appears to be trying every trick in the trade – such as excluding most exposure sources and routes – in its effort to conclude that the chemical presents few or no risks to human health or the environment. Read on for more on this latest one. Read More »

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Should EPA grant industry’s hypocritical request to now address 1,4-dioxane’s risks as a byproduct, it must meet a number of conditions

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

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) submitted extensive comments last week to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that raise numerous serious concerns with EPA’s draft risk evaluation for the likely human carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.  EDF’s comments are available here.

I want to use this post to highlight one of the many issues:  For years, the industry has urged EPA not to include 1,4-dioxane’s presence as a byproduct in various formulated products within the scope of its risk evaluation for the chemical; see comments specific to 1,4-dioxane from the American Cleaning Institute, Procter & Gamble, and the Household & Commercial Products Association; and more general comments urging exclusions for byproducts and “trace levels” from the American Chemistry Council and the Consumer Specialty Products Association Comment.

Not surprisingly, the Trump EPA’s draft risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane did just that, a major problem EDF objected to on legal and scientific grounds.

Then in late July, the industry abruptly reversed itself.  A comment letter submitted to EPA by the American Cleaning Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association says the industry has changed its mind and is now calling on EPA to include 1,4-dioxane’s presence as a byproduct as a condition of use in its risk evaluation.

Why the shift?  At this late hour it has dawned on the industry groups that any final action by the agency on the chemical that excludes 1,4-dioxane’s presence as a byproduct as a condition of use in its risk evaluation will not preempt states from acting to regulate this condition of use.

The industry’s hypocrisy aside, if EPA decides to grant this industry request, which has arrived long after EPA initiated the risk evaluation process, EPA should do so only subject to conditions that are critical to meet if its decision and risk evaluation are to maintain any semblance of credibility:

  • EPA needs to use its mandatory information authorities to require the submission and development of relevant information on the presence of 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct in industrial, commercial and consumer materials and products, as input into a revised draft risk evaluation.
  • EPA must promptly make all such information it receives public, subject only to redactions of information claimed confidential by the submitters that EPA determines meet all applicable requirements of TSCA section 14. It should be noted that much of the relevant information will constitute health and safety information that is not eligible for protection under section 14 and must be made public.
  • EPA needs to carefully and thoroughly develop and fully integrate an analysis of the potential exposures and risks arising from the presence of 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct into all aspects of its risk evaluation, given that inclusion of the presence of 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct will affect all of the exposure and risk estimates EPA has examined in the current draft risk evaluation.
  • EPA must publish a revised draft risk evaluation for public comment, providing the public with ample time to review the new draft and develop meaningful comments.
  • EPA must subject its revised draft risk evaluation to full peer review by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), providing the committee with ample time to review the new draft and develop meaningful comments.

Any credible evaluation of the contribution to 1,4-dioxane’s overall health and environmental risks due to its presence as a byproduct must be based on complete, reliable information that is publicly accessible, and must reflect input from both the public and expert peer reviewers.  For EPA to do anything less will simply cast yet more doubt on its trustworthiness and independence from industry interests.


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Taking on the lead challenge: State and community action accelerates across the country

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

In January, we reported on the tremendous progress made by states and communities in 2018 to replace lead service lines (LSLs) – the estimated 6.1 million lead pipes across the country that connect homes and other buildings to the water main under the street. At that time, our tracker stood at 95 communities and 16 states working to replace LSLs.

Half a year later, and the total number of communities (including municipalities and water utilities) EDF has learned of that are leading the way has swelled to 181.[1]

  • 7 communities located in Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin have publicly announced that they completely replaced all known LSLs.
  • 108 communities have publicly set a goal of eliminating LSLs on public and private property, totaling more than 381,000 LSLs. Nearly ¾ of these communities are served by the investor-owned utility, American Water’s, operations in Missouri (34 communities), Indiana (27 communities), and Pennsylvania (19 communities). For the remaining states, Wisconsin is leading the way with 11 communities followed by Michigan with five; Colorado and Massachusetts with two; and Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, New Jersey, and Washington each with one.
  • 66 communities are publicly taking steps to replace LSLs but have not yet set a goal of full replacement. These communities include 15 in Wisconsin; 12 in New York; 11 in Illinois; seven in Michigan and Massachusetts; five or fewer in Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia; and Washington, D.C.

Read More »

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Trump EPA caves again to industry demands on new chemicals, and workers pay the price

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

Isocyanates are nasty chemicals, including when they are left over as residuals after manufacturing other chemicals.  Here are the kinds of risks they pose, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

Isocyanates are powerful irritants to the mucous membranes of the eyes and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts.  Direct skin contact can also cause marked inflammation.  Isocyanates can also sensitize workers, making them subject to severe asthma attacks if they are exposed again. There is evidence that both respiratory and dermal exposures can lead to sensitization.  Death from severe asthma in some sensitized subjects has been reported.

In prior reviews of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA has repeatedly indicated that “[i]socyanate exposure has been identified as the leading attributable cause of work-related asthma, and prevalence in the exposed workforce has been estimated at 1-20 percent.”

Both NIOSH and EPA have raised even greater concern over activities involving spray application of chemicals containing isocyanates.  In 2006, NIOSH issued a rare alert calling for workers to undergo medical surveillance and wear high-efficiency respirators and gloves when engaged in such activities.

Even in the recent past, when reviewing new chemicals containing isocyanate residuals, EPA has typically (1) issued a consent order subjecting the company submitting the chemical for review to multiple conditions in order to limit workplace inhalation exposures to the residuals, and (2) followed up with a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) that extends those conditions to other companies, requiring them to notify EPA prior to engaging in any activity that exceeds those workplace limits.  And the only case since TSCA was amended in 2016 where EPA found a new chemical “presents an unreasonable risk” – as opposed to the more common, lower-bar finding that it “may present an unreasonable risk” – involved residual isocyanates present after manufacture of two new chemicals.

In such cases EPA has imposed some combination of three types of conditions on manufacture of such chemicals:  prohibitions on activities that could generate inhalable forms of the chemical and result in inhalation exposures; strict requirements for the use of high-efficiency respirators and gloves; and a strict limit on the amount of isocyanate residuals allowed to be present in the new chemical, typically in the range of 0.1% to 0.2%.

So it is quite disturbing to see how EPA has dealt with the most recent such new chemical for which EPA has issued its final decision – which requires that companies employ NONE of these protections.  Read More »

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ASDWA releases useful guidance to help states develop lead service line inventories

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

As we have explained in past blogs, it is critical that states have rough estimates of how many lead service lines (LSLs) each drinking water utility in the state may have in order to develop sound policy decisions and set priorities. Congress recognized the importance of LSL inventories when it directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 to develop a national count of LSLs on public and private property in the next round of the 2020 Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey. States have a crucial supporting role in the Needs Survey since it is the basis of allocating State Revolving Loan Funds to the states.

This month, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) released a useful guidance document to help states develop LSL inventories. The guidance builds on the lessons learned from:

  • Mandatory surveys conducted by California, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin;
  • Voluntary surveys conducted by Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Washington; and
  • Responses to requests for updated Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) service line preliminary materials inventories conducted by Alabama, Louisiana, Kansas and Texas.

Read More »

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