EDF Health

The Trump EPA is poised to grant the chemical industry yet another of its wishes under TSCA

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

The chemical industry has long sought to have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rubber-stamp as “safe” as many of its chemicals as possible without imposing any burden on the industry to develop the information needed to actually demonstrate safety.  It has repeatedly pushed for EPA to set aside large numbers of chemicals in commerce and ensure they don’t have to undergo evaluations of their potential or actual risk.

During the debate over reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), various industry associations advocated for an approach that would have required EPA to quickly review all chemicals in commerce using whatever information was available (which is virtually none for the great majority of such chemicals), and set aside as “low-priority” any that EPA could not demonstrate were harmful.

It appears EPA is trying to install a new parallel process, outside of TSCA’s statutory boundaries, that EPA will use to set aside thousands of chemicals from any further review indefinitely and with no recourse for the public.

When that didn’t fly (more on this below), industry commenters demanded that, in promulgating its Prioritization Rule, EPA designate long lists of chemicals as low-priority without any review.  One of the few positives of that final rule was that it rejected those calls as well.

But lest you think the issue is settled, think again.  Leave it to the Trump EPA to find an even more devious way of granting the industry’s wish.   Read More »

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Need more evidence of the chemical industry’s bad faith on TSCA? Read this.

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.  Stephanie Schwarz, J.D., is a Legal Fellow.

This story is about chemicals known as chlorinated paraffins.  They are used as flame retardants, plasticizers and lubricants, among other things.  They come in three main versions:  short, medium, and long-chain.  Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) have been banned or are set to be banned in a number of jurisdictions and are listed for elimination under the Stockholm Convention.  The U.S. is not a party to Stockholm and has not banned SCCPs.  However, in 2012 EPA secured agreement from their leading domestic manufacturer, Dover Chemical Corporation, and their leading importer, INOVYN (formerly INEOS Chlor Americas, Inc.), to phase them out in consent decrees issued to settle enforcement actions EPA had brought against the companies (more on that later).

Concern over the medium and long-chain variants (MCCPs and LCCPs) has been significant and growing, however.  This is because they, like SCCPs, are expected to be very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) and, given evidence of systemic toxicity as well as toxicity to aquatic and terrestrial organisms, are also expected to be PBTs (persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals).

The regulatory history of chlorinated paraffins under TSCA has been long and taken numerous, often troubling, turns.  We’ll only touch on some highlights here.   Read More »

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Have we learned anything in the last 4 decades when it comes to allowing chemicals like PCBs onto the market?

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.  Stephanie Schwarz, J.D., is a Legal Fellow.

The Science section of today’s New York Times reports “Killer Whales Face Dire PCBs Threat” – more than four decades after Congress largely banned PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Concentrations of the chemicals in the blubber of orcas living in waters off the coasts of industrialized countries remain high, and new research indicates the contamination presents an existential threat to the survival of these populations.

Reading the article brought to mind concerns we have raised in recent comments to EPA on proposed rules it has issued for new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Read More »

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The TSCA new chemicals mess: A problem of the chemical industry’s own making

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

Nary a day goes by without a complaint being lodged by someone in the chemical industry, or in one of the myriad law firms that represent its interests in Washington, D.C., about the delays in EPA’s approval of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Here’s the irony:  Those delays and the general chaos in the TSCA new chemicals program are entirely of the industry’s own making.   Read More »

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EPA needs to get its SNURs in order under TSCA

Stephanie Schwarz, J.D., is a Legal Fellow.  Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

On Friday EDF submitted comments to EPA on a batch of Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published on August 1 pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The SNURs relate to 145 new chemicals for which EPA had earlier issued consent orders that imposed certain conditions on the substances.  Those consent orders date back to when EPA was still pursuing the development of such orders for many new chemicals it reviewed, and prior to the recent “pivots” it has been making in an effort to avoid issuing orders by circumventing the requirements of the TSCA provisions governing new chemicals.

TSCA anticipates that EPA will promulgate SNURs to follow up on consent orders.  In fact, TSCA section 5(f)(4) requires that when EPA issues an order, EPA must either promulgate a SNUR or provide a statement explaining why EPA is not doing so.  And when EPA does promulgate such a SNUR, the SNUR must “identif[y] as a significant new use any manufacturing, processing, use, distribution in commerce, or disposal of the chemical substance that does not conform to the restrictions imposed by the … order.”

EDF strongly supports EPA’s use of SNURs to follow up on consent orders it issues.  That is because the order only applies to the original company that submitted a premanufacture notice (PMN) to EPA for a new chemical.  A proper SNUR then requires that company or any other company that seeks to deviate from the conditions in the order to first notify EPA, triggering a review of that “significant new use.”

While EDF supports EPA’s issuance of SNURs for these 145 new chemicals, our review of the proposed SNURs raised concerns, prompting us to file “adverse” comments.  Our comments raise two major concerns:

First, EPA has adopted an ad hoc testing policy in the direct final rule that does not comply with the requirements of TSCA, without sufficient explanation, and without providing any notice and opportunity for public comment on the policy. EPA needs to avoid adopting such an ad hoc policy.

Second, as noted above, TSCA (as well as EPA’s longstanding policy) requires SNURs to “conform” to the restrictions in the corresponding orders.  Yet we identified numerous inconsistencies between the orders and SNURs.  EPA must ensure that the final SNURs identify as a significant new use any activity that is not consistent with the restrictions in the corresponding consent orders.

See our comments for details.

NOTE:  EPA had published the SNURs both as a direct final rule and as a proposed rule, noting that if it received any adverse comments, it would withdraw the direct final rule and consider the comments received in the process of finalizing the proposed rule.  We expect EPA will now pursue this course.

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What a new head of EPA’s TSCA office will face and need to do

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

News reports today indicate that the President is nominating Alexandra Dapolito Dunn for Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, which implements the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Here is our first take on what she will be facing and need to do, if confirmed:

The major reforms Congress made to TSCA in 2016 passed with strong bipartisan support because they struck a careful balance among competing interests.  Since that time, however, every aspect of the law’s implementation by the Trump Administration has gone badly off the rails, skewed heavily in the chemical industry’s favor at the expense of the public’s health.

In EDF’s view, any credible nominee for the OCSPP Assistant Administrator needs to understand and acknowledge this stark imbalance and take steps to address it.  The AA should be able and willing to facilitate a fundamental shift in TSCA implementation back to a course that comports with the law, reflects strong science, and is protective of public and worker health, including that of vulnerable subpopulations.

If she is confirmed, Ms. Dunn will have her work cut out for her, given the forces arrayed within and outside the agency that have led to the current imbalance.  That is a challenge that will need to be faced head-on.

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