EDF Health

The Trump EPA is setting back chemicals policies by decades

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


Tacoma, WA 1972

As we approach the third anniversary of the historic passage of bipartisan legislation to overhaul our nation’s broken chemical safety system, we’re hearing that political appointees at the agency are gearing up to celebrate their “successes” in implementing the law.

Even more disturbing than its individual actions are the methodical steps the Trump EPA is taking to dismantle decades of progress in our country’s chemicals policies.

While the chemical industry may well have things to celebrate, it’s simply not the case for the rest of us:  Comments from former top EPA officialsmembers of Congressstate and local governments, labor groupsfirefighterswater utilitiespublic health groups, and a broad range of environmental groups make crystal clear that there’s nothing warranting celebration.  EPA’s actions are threatening the health of American families.

But as I reflect on how implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has gone off the rails under the Trump EPA, even more disturbing than its individual actions are the methodical steps it is taking to dismantle decades of progress in our country’s chemicals policies.  In this post, I’ll briefly highlight five such policies and how this EPA is undermining them:

  • Pollution prevention
  • Inherent safety and hazard reduction
  • Protection of vulnerable subpopulations and environmental justice
  • Holistic, real-world risk assessment
  • Public right to know

Read More »

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The Trump EPA is illegally denying requests for public files on new chemicals

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

For some time now, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has been requesting “public files” of new chemical notices the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) receives under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The process is kludge-y to say the least.  We have to email our request to EPA’s Docket Center, and, typically, several weeks later the staff there copy the files that staff in the TSCA office have given them in response to our request onto a CD-ROM and snail-mail it to us.

This, despite the fact that EPA’s own regulations (see here and here) state unequivocally that EPA is to promptly make new chemicals’ premanufacture notifications (PMNs) and associated documents broadly available to the general public by posting them to electronic dockets.  One regulation states: “All information submitted with a notice, including any health and safety study and other supporting documentation, will become part of the public file for that notice, unless such materials are claimed confidential.”  The other regulation states that public files are to be made available in the electronic docket posted at http://www.regulations.gov.

We have blogged extensively about how, even once we receive the public files, they are rife with wholesale omissions, illegal redactions and myriad other problems.

After two years of our repeated requests to EPA to comply with its own regulations, it appears EPA may be taking a first step to try do so:  EPA recently announced (via email, but not anywhere on its website that we can find) that it will start posting PMNs and associated documents it receives in the future to its ChemView database, within 45 days of their receipt.  While this could be a welcome development, it does nothing to remedy EPA’s failure to provide access to the thousands of PMNs it has received in the past.  And it remains to be seen what EPA actually will and won’t be posting.

We’ll be watching closely to see when and what EPA actually makes available.  Part of the need for vigilance comes from a disturbing response we’ve been receiving from EPA’s Docket Center to some recent requests for new chemical public files:   Read More »

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Company safety data sheets on new chemicals frequently lack the worker protections EPA claims they include

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

Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA’s approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere “expectation” that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer’s non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).

How much farther under the bus will the Trump EPA throw American workers?

The typical course has been for EPA to identify risks to workers from a new chemical it is reviewing under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but then – instead of issuing an order imposing binding conditions on the chemical’s entry onto the market, as TSCA requires – to find that the chemical is “not likely to present an unreasonable risk” and impose no conditions whatsoever on its manufacturer.  This sleight of hand is pulled off by EPA stating that it:

expects employers will require and workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) … consistent with the Safety Data Sheet prepared by the new chemical submitter, in a manner adequate to protect them.

We have detailed earlier the myriad ways in which this approach strays from the law, is bad policy and won’t protect workers.  But here’s yet another gaping problem:  When we are able to look at the actual SDSs – that is, when EPA has made them available and when they are not totally redacted – we are frequently finding that the specific PPE that EPA claims to be specified in the SDSs – and that EPA asserts is sufficient to protect all workers handling the chemical – is not in the SDSs.   Read More »

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Round 2 on PV29 reveals even deeper flaws in EPA’s TSCA risk evaluation of the chemical

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

On Friday, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) submitted a new set of extensive comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to its March release of additional information on Pigment Violet 29 (PV29), the first chemical to undergo a risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) following the law’s amendment in 2016.

After EDF and others criticized both the dearth of health and environmental data on PV29, and EPA’s illegal withholding of those data, EPA released some additional information and opened a new comment period in mid-April.  In releasing the new information, EPA was quick to judgment, asserting that “[t]he release of these studies does not change the Agency’s proposed ‘no unreasonable risk’ determination as concluded in the draft risk evaluation published in November.”

EDF’s 100 pages of comments in Round 1 enumerated the myriad ways EPA has failed to demonstrate that PV29 does not present unreasonable risk.  Unfortunately, if anything, Round 2 has only deepened our concerns over the inadequacy of EPA’s risk evaluation.   Read More »

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EPA says PV29 is perfectly safe. The EU, citing concerns and a dearth of data, begs to differ.

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

In contrast to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) asserted clean bill of health for Pigment Violet 29 (PV29) in its draft risk evaluation, authorities under the European Union’s REACH program have formally declared the chemical to be a suspected persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) substance and a suspected very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) substance.  Either designation, if confirmed, would classify PV29 as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) under the EU’s REACH Regulation.

In EDF’s earlier comments on EPA’s draft risk evaluation, we noted that PV29 had been proposed to be so listed under REACH and to undergo a full substance evaluation in 2021.  Since we filed those comments, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published an update to its Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP) that now formally designates PV29 as a “suspected PBT/vPvB” that will be subject to a full substance evaluation.  The listing is accompanied by a “justification document” for PV29’s designation.

The justification document, prepared by the Belgian Competent Authority (BE CA) under REACH and endorsed by REACH authorities, echoes many of the concerns about PV29 and EPA’s draft risk evaluation that EDF had raised in our earlier comments.   Read More »

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EDF tells EPA it must modify its proposed CBI Claim Review Rule to comply with recent D.C. Circuit decision

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

Yesterday Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) sent a letter to the Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention in follow-up to last month’s decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in EDF’s challenge to EPA’s Inventory Notification Rule (EDF v. EPA, 17-1201).

The letter identifies “immediate, time-sensitive implications [of the decision] for EPA’s ongoing rulemaking for” EPA’s proposed Confidential Business Information (CBI) Claim Review Rule, which is currently undergoing public comment.  EDF noted that, in addition to addressing problems the Court identified in EPA’s regulations promulgated pursuant to its Inventory Notification Rule, EPA will need to modify the current proposed rule to ensure it is consistent with the Court’s Opinion, and accept comments on the modified proposal.

This is because the proposed rule explicitly references and applies regulatory provisions that the Court found were unlawful.  Specifically, the Court found that EPA’s CBI claim substantiation questions were flawed because they failed to inquire into “a chemical identity’s susceptibility to reverse engineering” and “effectively excised a statutorily required criterion from the substantiation process.”  Hence, to align the proposed rule with the Court’s ruling and the representations that EPA made to the Court in its briefing and at argument, EPA will need to revise the substantiation questions and the substantive standard that EPA plans to use when reviewing claims under the CBI Claim Review Rule.

EDFs letter also notes that the proposed rule allows persons to rely on the voluntary substantiations they submitted as part of the Inventory notification process.  But the Court’s Opinion establishes that these substantiations are inadequate because they fail to address a chemical’s susceptibility to reverse engineering, and EPA will need to modify the proposed rule to require companies to provide substantiations that address this statutory factor for confidentiality claims.

See EDF’s letter for more details.

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