Category Archives: States

Conflicted West Virginia chemical spill panel is repeating many of CDC’s mistakes

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

Yesterday, the chair of a “Health Effects Expert Panel” convened by the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project (WV TAP) held a press conference to present the panel’s preliminary findings from its review of the “safe” level set by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for MCHM and other chemicals that spilled into the Elk River in early January and contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginia residents.

A final report from the panel apparently won’t be released until May, but a press release issued yesterday sounds far from preliminary in saying the panel supports CDC’s methods, assumptions, toxicity data and “safety factors.”  While providing no details, the release indicates the panel is using the same flawed and incomplete summary of a toxicity study used by CDC in its rush to set a safe level for MCHM.  And it parrots CDC’s erroneous use of the term “safety factors,” which is at odds with the National Academy of Sciences’ strong recommendation that such term should be avoided as it is highly misleading.

In addition to choosing to rely on the same summary CDC used of a 1990 study conducted by MCHM’s manufacturer, Eastman Chemical, the panel accepted at face value Eastman’s interpretation that the study identified a no-effect level.  That conclusion has been questioned and cannot be independently assessed because Eastman has not provided the actual quantitative data from the study.  Moreover, the study used a protocol dating from 1981 that has been extensively revised at least twice since then.  These are among the many problems identified with this study.

It appears the panel’s main departure from CDC was to assume the most highly exposed population would have been formula-fed infants instead of older children.  The panel’s “safe” level is 120 parts per billion (ppb), a value about 8-fold lower than CDC’s level of 1 part per million (ppm).  That seems an improvement over the CDC’s methodology.

The panel’s conflict of interest

However, the process by which the panel itself was formed and the clear conflict of interest (COI) involved – a conflict that only came to light in response to a reporter’s questions at yesterday’s press conference – are deeply concerning.

The company selected by WV TAP to convene the Health Effects Expert Panel is named Toxicology Excellence in Risk Assessment (TERA), founded by Dr. Michael Dourson.  TERA has a long history of working with the petrochemical and related industries.  Acknowledged sources of industry funding noted on its website include the American Petroleum Institute, PPG Industries, Eli Lilly, the American Cleaning Institute (formerly called the Soap and Detergent Association), Procter & Gamble, and the Nickel Producers Environmental Research Association.

While TERA was chosen by WV TAP to convene the Health Effects Expert Panel, TERA’s role is far more substantial.  TERA appointed its own founder, Dr. Dourson, as chair of the panel, and Dourson was the only one of the panel’s members to speak at yesterday’s press conference.

At the press conference, a reporter asked Dourson whether he or TERA had worked for Eastman Chemical, Dow Chemical (the maker of the other chemicals that spilled on January 9) or trade associations that represent their interests.  Dourson’s response to this question was apparently the first public disclosure of his affiliations with these companies.  According to the Charleston Daily Mail:

During the event, Dourson acknowledged his nonprofit organization TERA had conducted some work for Dow Chemical, one of the makers of a chemical believed to have been involved in the spill. He said they’ve also done work for Eastman Chemical, the maker of crude MCHM, but not recently. TERA has done work for the state of West Virginia in the past as well, he said.

On its website, TERA says it’s received between 31 and 40 percent of its funding since 2008 from industry and industry related work. The rest comes from “government and other nonprofit work.”

The fact that an individual and company that have done work directly for the companies that make the spilled chemicals were selected not only to convene the expert panel, but to chair it and serve as its spokesperson, points to a clear conflict of interest.  And the fact that the conflict was only revealed because a reporter happened to ask the right question is even more troubling.

A quick search for recent work done by Dourson and TERA funded by Dow turned up the following:

TERA also convenes and manages several other projects that are heavily funded by the chemical industry and promote its agenda.  These include:

Anyone else see a problem here?

 

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

No more just California Dreamin’: First three priority products proposed

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Today the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced its first three draft priority products—the next major milestone in the implementation of its Safer Consumer Product (SCP) regulations to address chemicals of concern in the marketplace.  While we’re still at the start of a long process, today’s announcement is the clearest indicator to date of the impact these regulations may have on consumer products.

The release of the draft priority products follows DTSC’s release last September of its candidate chemicals list and from within this list, the subset initial candidate chemicals list.  Together with the initial candidate chemical list, the identification of the draft priority products now defines the possible set of chemical-product combinations that may head toward alternatives assessment.  Read on for a description of the chemicals and products and of the next phase of regulatory actions.  Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy| Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

States act while Congress fiddles

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

Lest anyone thought that efforts by state legislators to protect their citizens from toxic chemical exposures would slacken despite Congress’ inability to take such action, this week’s announcement that legislators in at least 26 states are introducing such bills should dispel that notion.

Safer States, a national coalition of state-based environmental health organizations, notes that “between 2003 and 2011, 19 states adopted 93 chemical safety policies. The majority of legislation passed with healthy bipartisan support – 99% of Democratic legislators and 75% of Republican legislators voted in favor of bills, and both Republican and Democratic governors signed them into law.”

That trend shows no signs of abating in 2013, based on a list of state legislative activities underway, compiled by Safer States (more detail here):  At least 26 states are each to consider multiple legislation and policy changes this year that will:

  • restrict or label the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in receipts, children's products and food packaging;
  • require removal of certain toxic flame retardants from children's products, home furniture or building materials;
  • change disclosure rules so that concerned consumers will have a way to identify toxic chemicals in products;
  • encourage manufacturers to remove identified toxic chemicals in favor of safer alternatives.
  • ban cadmium, a dangerous, persistent metal that is often found in inexpensive children's jewelry;
  • ban formaldehyde from cosmetics and children's products; and
  • promote green cleaning products in schools.

The chemical industry frequently argues it just can’t live with a “patchwork” of requirements that vary from state to state.  But that’s just what it’s creating by dragging its feet on reform of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has never been amended since its adoption nearly four decades ago. 

State legislators, like nature, abhor a vacuum.

 

 

Also posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Memo to ACC et al.: What’s said in Maryland doesn’t stay in Maryland

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

It’s only a little more than 30 miles from Washington, DC to Annapolis, the Capitol of the State of Maryland.  But to judge from testimony given there on February 24 and March 1 by representatives of the chemical, formulated products and food industries, you’d think Annapolis existed in a parallel universe, with only a passing resemblance to the one in DC.

The occasions were hearings on companion bills introduced into the Maryland State Senate, SB 637, and the State House of Delegates, HB 759, titled the “Healthy Kids, Healthy Maryland – Toxic Chemical Identification and Reduction.”

Actually, the industry associations’ testimonies suggest either of two alternative universes.  In one of them, Maryland should do nothing to address dangerous chemical exposures because the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and other related laws are working quite well, thank you very much.  Residing in this parallel universe are the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the American Cleaning Institute (ACI, until recently the more accurately named Soap and Detergent Association), the Maryland Industrial Technology Alliance and the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA).

In the other parallel universe, Maryland should do nothing to address dangerous chemical exposures because it will only get in the way of TSCA reform, which is just around the corner.  Inhabiting this alternative universe are the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Can Manufacturers Institute, and yes – as another indication that it just can’t quite make up its mind about TSCA reform – once again, the American Chemistry Council.  Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Regulation, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

The States we're in on chemical policy reform in 2011: 30 and counting

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

Today, legislators in 30 states and the District of Columbia introduced or announced plans to introduce bills aimed at reducing the impact of chemicals on public health.  These actions send a strong signal that states will to continue to respond to the mounting public concern over unsafe, under-regulated and inadequately tested chemicals — in the face of continued inaction by the U.S. Congress to do so.

The bills differ in scope and content, but all of them address chemicals, products or policy needs that have fallen through the cracks in the 35 years since the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted.

With strong, bipartisan majorities of Americans embracing the need for stronger chemical laws, these latest actions make clear that states will continue to act until there is a strong federal system in place that restores confidence in our government's ability to assure the safety of all chemicals we use and encounter in our daily lives.  Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

A healthy state of affairs: U.S. states do the public’s bidding by acting to control dangerous chemicals, even as Washington fiddles

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist and Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

A new report documents that state-level legislation to control toxic chemicals adopted over the past eight years has passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.  The report also highlights that both the pace of adoption and the scope of such legislation have grown significantly – a trend expected to continue until Congress enacts meaningful, comprehensive reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The report, Healthy States: Protecting Families While Congress Lags Behind, was released today by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Safer States, a coalition of state-level organizations working for chemicals policy reform.  The report analyzes 71 chemical safety laws that were adopted between 2003 and 2010 in 18 states encompassing 41% of the U.S. population.  The state laws enacted broadly fell into two categories:  those that place restrictions on individual dangerous chemicals, and those that embrace more comprehensive chemical policies.

The report’s main finding is that these laws passed with overwhelming support – and that support was strongly bipartisan:

  • Of more than 9,000 roll call votes cast, 89% favored the legislation, outnumbering opposing votes by more than 8 to 1.
  • Nearly three-quarters of Republican legislators (73%) voted in favor of the legislation, as well as nearly all Democrats (99%).
  • Ten Republican governors and 12 Democratic governors signed these bills into law.

What we find most remarkable about these new numbers is that they mirror almost exactly the views of the American electorate.  Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | Comments closed

State-level nano regulation: Yes, indeed, the industry "should have seen it coming" – it caused it!

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

I just read an interesting column by John DiLoreto, CEO of NanoReg, that appears online at Nanotechnology Now.  It's titled "We Should Have Seen It Coming: States Regulating Nanotechnology."  It nicely describes the important role states play in advancing environmental policy and regulation – especially when the feds are asleep at the wheel.  And it also gives a neat rundown of the various state actions aimed at nanomaterials that are underway.

But, search as I might, I couldn't find a single acknowledgment in Mr. DiLoreto's latest column – or in his earlier related column titled "What Drives the Regulation of Nanomaterials?" – of the role the nanotechnology industry itself played in bringing all of this on itself.

That's quite an omission, in my view, given that the industry's actions (or, more accurately, the lack thereof) played a central role in getting us to where we are (or, more accurately, aren't) today on nanotechnology oversight.  That includes driving states to feel they had to step in to fill the federal void.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Nanotechnology, Regulation| Tagged , , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

States unite to support TSCA overhaul; chemical industry is increasingly odd one out

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

Yesterday, at its annual meeting, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Congress to enact strong and comprehensive reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

ECOS is comprised of the heads of the environmental agencies in the U.S. states and territories.  Its new resolution includes major elements of reform that EDF and the other health and environmental members of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families have been calling for.  Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | Comments closed

Save OEHHA!

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

[Note:  This post was originally posted as a comment on Gina Solomon's blog post on Huffington Post.  The context is a pending budget proposal from the Governor's office in California to eliminate the State's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) under CalEPA and disperse some but not all of its functions to other agencies.  This proposal, if implemented, would in my view be truly tragic.  If you agree, make your voice heard!]  Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy| Tagged , | Comments closed
  • About this blog

    Science, health, and business experts at Environmental Defense Fund comment on chemical and nanotechnology issues of the day.

    Our work: Chemicals

  • Categories

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • Filter posts by tags

    • Alternatives assessment (3)
    • American Chemistry Council (ACC) (55)
    • bipartisan (6)
    • bisphenol A (19)
    • California (1)
    • carbon nanotubes (24)
    • children's safety (23)
    • consumer products (48)
    • Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) (4)
    • endocrine disruption (28)
    • flame retardants (20)
    • formaldehyde (15)
    • industry tactics (41)
    • nanosilver (6)
    • PBDEs (16)
    • prioritization (35)
    • risk assessment (69)
    • Safe Chemicals Act (24)
    • Safer Chemicals Healthy Families (33)
    • Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) (20)
    • test rule (17)
    • U.S. states (14)
    • WV chemical spill (11)
  • Archives