EDF Health

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 »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

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 »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , | Comments closed

Missing the forest for the trees? Are we addressing the biggest risks from exposure to phthalates?

Lindsay McCormick is a Research AnalystRichard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist

A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives is the first to demonstrate a link between childhood asthma and prenatal exposure to certain phthalates.  Phthalates are a group of chemical plasticizers used in hundreds of everyday products, including home construction materials, toys, food packaging, medical devices, and synthetic fragrances found in personal care products, cleaning products, cosmetics, and air fresheners.  For the most part, it is impossible for the average consumer to know what products are made with phthalates; however, if you see the word “fragrance” listed on your shampoo or sun screen, it may well contain a phthalate.  

Several studies have suggested that phthalate exposure may have an adverse impact on children’s respiratory health (for example, see here, here, and here).   However, none of these studies has considered the potential role of prenatal exposure – exposures to the fetus in the womb – to phthalates.

The prenatal period is a critical developmental window for lung and respiratory health.  Thus, researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) hypothesized that prenatal phthalate exposure would be associated with later development of asthma in childhood.  To investigate this hypothesis, the researchers measured phthalate metabolite levels in the urine of 300 women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, and then followed the children of these women to assess the extent to which they developed asthma between the ages of 5 and 11.  Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation| Tagged , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

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 »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments closed

Nothing is forever – and chemical industry trade secret claims shouldn’t be an exception

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

A coalition of health, labor, environmental and environmental justice groups (including EDF), represented by Earthjustice, filed a petition today with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that requests EPA establish a limit on how long information on chemicals submitted and claimed confidential by the chemical industry under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) can be protected from disclosure.

The petition asks EPA to close a loophole in its current regulations that by default grants indefinite protection for nearly all chemical information claimed confidential.  Because EPA’s only option under its current regulations is to challenge these claims on a case-by-case basis, industry bears no responsibility to ensure that its claims remain valid over time.  The lack of any expiration date for such claims has contributed to a large backlog of excessive and often unwarranted claims – the protection of which imposes large costs on EPA and the American taxpayer and denies public and market access to information that could lead to better-informed decisions about chemicals.

The petition filed today offers a simple solution, one called for in virtually every internal and external review of EPA trade secret policy conducted over the last several decades (see list at the end of this post):  EPA should alter its regulations to create a “sunset” for confidential business information (CBI) claims, which would expire after a set period of time (5 years is proposed) unless the claimant shows that continued protection is warranted.  This approach would allow true trade secrets to continue to be protected while providing public access to information that no longer warrants trade secret protection.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Twice in 2 weeks: National Academy of Sciences again strongly affirms federal government’s science, agrees formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen

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

Just last week I blogged that a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) had fully backed the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) listing of styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

Today a separate NAS panel strongly endorsed NTP’s listing of formaldehyde as a “known human carcinogen” in its 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC).  As with styrene, this second NAS panel both peer-reviewed the RoC listing and conducted its own independent review of the formaldehyde literature – and in both cases found strong evidence to support NTP’s listing.  See the NAS press release here, which links to the full report.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence| Tagged , , , | Comments closed
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