CBS News covers a chemical's tragic impact; points to urgent need to ban high-risk uses of methylene chloride

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager.  

This morning, CBS News focused on the tragic story of Kevin Hartley—a young man who died at the age of 21 while working with a product that contains methylene chloride. Kevin’s story, powerfully relayed by his mother Wendy, illustrates the need to ban high-risk uses of this chemical.

As we have previously noted, in January, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to ban methylene chloride in paint and coating removal products. The agency based its proposal on an extensive assessment of the scientific literature, which demonstrated not only lethal risks from acute exposures to methylene chloride but also a host of other acute and chronic health impacts, like harm to the central nervous system, liver toxicity, and cancer.

Products containing this chemical can be readily found in most hardware stores in America and more tragedies are all but certain, if EPA does not promptly finalize its proposed ban.

The ongoing debates in Washington over the implementation of a new chemical safety law passed just last year are often dense and dry. In sharing her son Kevin’s story, Wendy Hartley reminds us that how these policies are applied has a very real human impact. That is why EDF continues to demand EPA better protect American families from toxic chemicals like the one highlighted by CBS News today.

Please watch the story: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/dangers-of-common-paint-stripper-chemical-methylene-chloride/

Posted in EPA, Public Health, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , , | 1 Response

Federal government updates real estate disclosure booklet to address lead in drinking water

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

In June 2017, the federal government updated the “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” booklet to expand the information provided on lead in drinking water from a few lines to a full page. Since 1996, when someone rents or buys a home built before 1978, the property owner or landlord is required to provide them with a copy of this booklet. The last update to the booklet was made in 2012.

What is removed?

  • Statement that paint, dust and soil are the most common sources of lead. The new version does not make the comparison. See our September 2017 blog for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest estimates on sources of lead exposure.
  • Running water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking. The new version is silent on length of time to flush water and instead highlights taking a shower, doing laundry, or doing a load of dishes as options to flush the line at the tap. The change was necessary because homes with lead service lines, the lead pipe that connects the main under the street to the home, often experience higher levels of lead after 30 seconds of flushing.

What background is added?

  • Lead pipes, faucets and fixtures are the most common sources of lead in drinking water.
  • Reminder that older homes with private wells can have lead plumbing materials too.
  • Some states or utilities offer programs that pay for water testing for residents.

What are the new recommendations?

  • Regularly clean your faucet screen (also known as an aerator).
  • If using a filter to remove lead, follow directions to learn when to change the cartridge.
  • Use only cold water to make baby formula.
  • Contact your water company to determine if your home has a lead service line and to learn about lead levels in the system’s drinking water and water testing for residents.
  • Call EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 for information about lead in drinking water and 1-800 424-LEAD for other questions about lead poisoning prevention.

Read More »

Posted in Drinking Water, EPA, Health Policy, lead, Public Health, Regulation| Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EDF comments at EPA’s public meeting on new chemical reviews question the credibility and legality of recent changes

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

EPA held a public meeting today to present information on major changes it is making to its review of new chemicals under last year’s reforms made to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by the Lautenberg Act.

EPA provided brief opportunities for stakeholders to provide comments.  Two of us from EDF – I, and my colleague Robert Stockman, Senior Attorney – gave oral comments at the meeting.  We are providing those comments here in written form.

Through these actions, many clearly contrary to the law, EPA is returning the new chemicals program to its dark ages under the old TSCA, making it again into a black box within which EPA acts as if its only stakeholder is the chemical industry.

My comments are available here.

Robert Stockman’s comments are available here.

As the comments make clear, EDF believes the changes EPA is making and discussed today are both contrary to the requirements of the new TSCA and represent a retreat from the credible, transparent and accountable new chemicals program Congress sought to establish under the new law.

As I noted in my comments:  “Through these actions, many clearly contrary to the law, EPA is returning the new chemicals program to its dark ages under the old TSCA, making it again into a black box within which EPA acts as if its only stakeholder is the chemical industry.”

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin on the verge of taking an important step to replacing its lead pipes

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

In 2012, Madison, Wisconsin became the first city in the country to fully eliminate its lead service lines (LSLs), the lead pipes that connect the drinking water main under the street to interior plumbing. The project to replace its 8,000 known LSLs began in 2000. The City’s effort is a model of persistence and common sense as it overcame many barriers including challenges with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC).

The PSC blocked the use of rates paid by customers to fund replacement of lead pipes on private property. The PSC, whose mission is to ensure adequate and reasonably priced water service, was concerned that customers without LSLs would be subsidizing improvements to the property of those with LSLs. Unlike most state commissions which are responsible for utilities operated by private companies, PSC approves rates for municipal and private utilities. Eventually, Madison used a different source of funding for its $15.5 million LSL replacement program.

Currently, the Wisconsin State Legislature is on the cusp of passing legislation to remove this barrier faced by Madison and empower communities to better protect residents from lead in drinking water. SB-48, introduced by Senator Cowles (R-Green Bay) and co-sponsored by Representative Thiesfeld (R-Fond du Lac), has passed both chambers. When the legislature returns to session in January 2018, they will need to resolve a difference between the two versions regarding the maximum amount of financial assistance allowed to homeowners. To hear from both authors on the legislation, check out the webinar from the National Conference of State Legislatures regarding financing options for replacing LSLs.

With passage of the legislation, Wisconsin would be the fourth state to pass essential legislation empowering communities to replace LSLs, using rates paid by consumers, joining Indiana, and Pennsylvania. They are among 12 states that have adopted administrative or legislative policies to support community LSL replacement.  These states have an estimated 3.3 million of the nation’s 6.1 million LSLs.

Read More »

Posted in Drinking Water, Health Policy, lead, Public Health, Regulation, States| Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Too little, too late: Why SNURs alone are not a sufficient alternative to consent orders for new chemicals

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

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of making some major changes to its policies and practices governing new chemical reviews.  This post discusses one of the most troubling ones.  

The SNUR-only approach EPA is now deploying differs dramatically from and provides far less risk protection than would result from it simply doing what the law requires:  using orders, with SNURs as backup.

As I have previously described, last year’s Lautenberg Act made extensive changes to section 5 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governs the review of new chemicals prior to their manufacture and use.  Among these changes is a requirement that EPA must evaluate potential risks, and mitigate potential unreasonable risks, of a new chemical under its “conditions of use,” which the new law defines to include “reasonably foreseen” circumstances of production, processing, distribution, use or disposal, as well as those intended by the company submitting notice of the new chemical to EPA.  If EPA identifies potential risk or significant exposure or lacks sufficient information on a new chemical, it must issue an order prohibiting or limiting the conditions of use of the chemical in order to mitigate any unreasonable risk.

After passage of the Lautenberg Act until recently, and in keeping with the new law, if EPA’s review identified risk concerns relating to conditions of use beyond those strictly identified by a company submitting a new chemical notice to EPA, the agency made a “may present an unreasonable risk” finding and pursued development of a consent order with the company sufficient to ameliorate those concerns.  (While EPA has authority to issue unilateral orders, it typically negotiates with the company to arrive at a consent order that both parties sign.)

Now EPA is indicating it will instead make a “not likely to present an unreasonable risk” finding for the intended conditions of use, and says it can address any concerns over reasonably foreseen uses without issuing an order by developing only a significant new use rule (SNUR).  This “SNUR-only approach” is inconsistent with the law, a matter I won’t discuss further here.  However, it also raises a host of policy concerns, some of which I lay out in this post.

The SNUR-only approach EPA is now deploying differs dramatically from and provides far less risk protection than would result from it simply doing what the law requires:  using orders, with SNURs as backup.

There are ample reasons why Congress called on EPA to use orders to address concerns and then use SNURs as backup:  Orders (including consent orders) and SNURs are not created equal.  This post discusses 12 key differences, with respect to:

(Spoiler alert:  Deep dive ahead. Let me apologize to and warn readers in advance that this post gets rather into the weeds, as the issues are complicated and the details are important.)   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

More questions for EPA on identifying chemicals for prioritization under TSCA

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager.  

When EPA finalized its framework prioritization rule under TSCA last June, the agency deleted its proposed approach to identifying potential candidate chemicals for prioritization.  EDF had supported EPA’s initial proposed rule, and EPA’s decision to delay this process to allow for additional stakeholder engagement tracks closely with the comments chemical industry groups submitted on that proposed rule.

EPA is now holding a public meeting on December 11th to discuss its proposed approaches and get input from stakeholders.  As with the upcoming meeting on new chemical reviews, EPA is accepting questions ahead of the meeting.

In response, EDF submitted a number of questions to the agency on Monday, relating to our concerns in the following areas:

  • EPA’s stated intention to significantly exceed its statutory minimum of designating 20 low-priority chemicals within the law’s specified timeframe.
  • EPA’s passive approach to utilizing its new authorities to fill data gaps on chemicals before they enter the prioritization and risk evaluation processes.
  • The need to ensure transparency with respect to health and safety studies and underlying data used by EPA to identify candidate chemicals for prioritization.
  • Specific concerns regarding EPA’s proposed approaches, including to utilize Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan as a model and to use EPA’s Safer Chemicals Ingredient List (SCIL) as a basis for identifying low-priority chemicals.

Read our full list of questions here for more details.

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation, TSCA Reform| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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