Category Archives: TSCA Reform

Whither TSCA reform post-election?

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

[This post is adapted from comments I gave at a recent Friday Forum hosted by the American Bar Association’s Pesticides, Chemical Regulation and Right-to-Know Committee.]

Elections change some things and don’t change others.  That is certainly true about what happened on Nov 4.

The best election recap I’ve heard came from a hairdresser I overhead when getting my hair cut last week.  She said:  “Democrats win, I have to work; Republicans win, I have to work.”

I doubt anyone would try to argue that the election was in any way about or directly relevant to the TSCA reform debate, or even any sort of more general referendum on the environment.  My view is that it wasn’t really even much about political parties and which one controls the Senate – it was more of a “throw the bums out and let some new ones have a try” election.

On the other hand, it was about broad and deep dissatisfaction of voters with the inability of Washington to get anything meaningful done.  That is relevant to the opportunity the TSCA reform issue presents to the new Congress, which is one of a handful of issues that seems to have the potential to show voters that something can get done.

There is also no question that the dynamics that have determined for some time the pace and direction of the TSCA reform debate changed significantly with the switch to Republican control of the Senate. That brings with it new political opportunities and challenges.

But what I want to talk mostly about is what HASN’T changed.  Read More »

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What’s the path forward on TSCA reform?

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

Links to blog posts in this series:  Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

With two proposals to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) now, more or less, on the streets, and with some time to contemplate what course reform efforts might follow, it is important to consider what it will take to actually pass legislation into law.

Regardless of what happens in the elections this November, the only viable path forward I see is a strongly bipartisan one. The negotiations over the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) during the past year and a half have broken through some longstanding impasses.  As I’ve noted earlier, EDF believes the Udall-Vitter proposal (which does not resolve the difficult issue of preemption) fixes the key flaws in current TSCA – and does so in ways that both Democrats and Republicans can support.

Chairman Boxer has publicly released her own substantive reform proposal, in the form of a redline of the Udall-Vitter proposal.  In doing so, she raises important issues that, in addition to preemption, need to be addressed.  Some of her proposals seem relatively easy to reconcile with Udall-Vitter, and some do not.  For the record, the latter include a number of provisions EDF has supported.

With respect to federal policy and EPA authority, both the Udall-Vitter and Boxer proposals would dramatically improve upon current law and would have a strong, positive impact on the health of the nation’s people and environment.

With two strong proposals on the table, I believe the conversation we need to be having now is how we get to a bill that can pass into law in a sharply divided Congress.  That’s because, to say it again, no matter what happens in November, this is going to need to be a bipartisan effort.  I remain confident we can address the failings of TSCA through provisions that can earn broad support.

Let me say up front that I believe any attempt to return to original CSIA as a result of a breakdown in negotiations would certainly be a step in the wrong direction and away from a bipartisan path forward.  Equally problematic would be a return to the Safe Chemicals Act, which failed to gain bipartisan support.

In the remainder of this post, I'll take a look at the Boxer proposal.

Read More »

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Newly listed carcinogens are all chemicals deeply embedded in US commerce

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

[CORRECTION 10/4/14:  The company identified at the bottom of the table in this post as importing pentachlorophenol has been corrected to be KMG CHEMICALS; the original post had erroneously identified the company as ALBEMARLE.]

Yesterday the National Toxicology Program (NTP) released its 13th Report on Carcinogens.  This periodic, Congressionally mandated report lists substances classified after a rigorous scientific review as either “known” or “reasonably anticipated” to be human carcinogens.

The 13th report includes 4 new listings:

  • ortho-Toluidine, used to make rubber chemicals, pesticides, and dyes, was upgraded from its prior listing as “reasonably anticipated” to now be listed as a known human carcinogen, based on studies in humans showing it causes urinary bladder cancer.
  • Three chemicals are listed for the first time, each as reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens:
    • 1-bromopropane, used as a cleaning solvent and spray adhesive, inhalation of which has been shown in animal studies to produces tumors in the skin, lungs, and large intestine;
    • cumene, used to make phenol and acetone, inhalation of which has been shown in animal studies to produces tumors in the lungs and liver; and
    • pentachlorophenol, a wood preservative mixture, exposure to which increases risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in studies in humans and causes tumors in the liver and other organs in mice.

EDF used the latest available data on the production and import of industrial chemicals collected by EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ascertain the extent to which these four chemicals are manufactured and used in the U.S.  These data demonstrate that the four substances are all present in U.S. commerce in very large amounts, considered by EPA to be high production volume (HPV) chemicals because their manufacture exceeds one million pounds annually.  In fact, all four chemicals are present in amounts far higher than that level, as shown below.  Read More »

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Examining claims and concerns about the Udall-Vitter TSCA reform proposal

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

Links to blog posts in this series:  Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

In my first post of this series, I described in some detail how the Udall-Vitter major redraft of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) both dramatically improves that bill and would be much better than current law (preemption aside).  In this second post, I’ll examine some specific concerns being raised and claims being made about the Udall-Vitter proposal.

Some of the claims and concerns suggest a huge underlying policy difference between the Udall-Vitter and Boxer proposals, when in fact the differences in the actual language or positions on those points are far smaller.  Others relate to an issue Senators Udall and Vitter have acknowledged remains to be resolved.  And at least one suggests a departure from provisions that were included in earlier Democratic TSCA reform bills.

I already addressed in my first post the most prominent concern raised about the Udall-Vitter proposal: that it would restrict states’ authority to regulate chemicals.  I noted that this issue of preemption of state authority was excluded from the scope of the Udall-Vitter negotiations, and that it is a critical issue that remains to be resolved. 

Let’s look at the other claims being made about the Udall-Vitter proposal.  Read More »

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Real progress on chemical reform

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

Links to blog posts in this series:  Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

[UPDATE 9-25-14: I have updated this post to link directly to a copy of the Udall-Vitter TSCA reform proposal, which – though not released by the Senators – is now available online here. My analysis of that proposal in this post remains unchanged. With a copy of the Udall-Vitter proposal now available online, I have also updated the introduction to my post, including removing some description of the back and forth that occurred last week].

The last week has seen the release of two proposals to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA) have been negotiating for much of the last year on a bipartisan TSCA reform proposal that heavily reworks nearly the entirety of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA, S. 1009), a bill originally introduced in May 2013 by Vitter and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).  A notable exception is CSIA’s controversial preemption section, which was excluded from the scope of the Udall-Vitter negotiations.

On September 18, Senator Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, released her own proposal, which is in the form of a redline of the Udall-Vitter proposal.

Both proposals are now available online, Udall-Vitter here and Boxer here.

This is the first of a series of three posts I’ll do examining these two proposals.  In this one I’ll take a deep dive into the Udall-Vitter proposal to show how it addresses the key concerns raised about CSIA and demonstrate that, by any objective measure, it represents a dramatic improvement over current federal law.  In the second post, I’ll examine the specific claims made by critics of the Udall-Vitter proposal.  In the third post, I’ll examine some of the features of the proposal from Senator Boxer, and conclude with why these two proposals present an opportunity.  Read More »

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Only a 2-month wait, down from 28 years: New EPA risk assessments find paint stripper chemicals pose significant health risks

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

In June, I blogged about the first final risk assessment EPA had issued in 28 years using its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), for the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE).  Happily, we only had to wait two months for EPA’s TSCA office to issue final risk assessments for three more chemicals.

One of the three is dichloromethane (DCM), also known as methylene chloride.  DCM is a common ingredient of paint strippers, the use on which EPA’s risk assessment focused.  As with TCE, EPA found DCM-laden paint strippers pose significant health risks to workers, consumers and the general public.  Here’s what EPA said in its press release:

The risk assessment for Dichloromethane (DCM), which is widely used in paint stripping products, indicates health risks to both workers and consumers who use these products, and to bystanders in workplaces and residences where DCM is used.  EPA estimates that more than 230,000 workers nationwide are directly exposed to DCM from DCM-containing paint strippers.

Read More »

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