Selected tags: carcinogen

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 »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, TSCA Reform| Also tagged , | Comments closed

House TSCA reform discussion draft: Major problem #1 – EPA regulatory hoops

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

Imagine the following scenario under a new TSCA based on the House discussion draft issued last week:  A major consumer products company decides to expand its line of air fresheners with a new peppermint flavor.  After introducing the new product, information surfaces indicating that one of the product’s ingredients that imparts that aroma causes mutations in a standard genetic toxicity test.

Based on the high hazard and exposure potential, EPA designates the chemical as high priority, requires additional data to be generated, and conducts its safety assessment, concluding the chemical is very likely to be a human carcinogen and poses significant risk when inhaled at levels associated with normal use of the air freshener.

EPA’s safety determination concludes the chemical “will result in an unreasonable risk of harm to human health,” and so EPA initiates the requisite rulemaking to restrict use of the chemical.  Under the House discussion draft (section 6(f)(4)), here’s what EPA would have to prove in order to take any regulatory action:

  • its restriction is “proportional” to the risk involved;
  • the restriction “will result in net benefits;”
  • the restriction is “cost-effective” compared to all alternative restrictions;

AND, here’s the real kicker:

  • there are “technically and economically feasible alternatives that materially reduce risk to human health or the environment compared to the use proposed to be prohibited.”

In other words, before it could act, EPA would have to find a safer, ready-off-the-shelf alternative peppermint flavor for the consumer products company to use instead of the human carcinogen.  And all of the burden of proof – of proportionality, net benefits, cost-effectiveness, technical feasibility, economic feasibility and comparative safety – would rest entirely on EPA and none of it on the company that markets the product or makes the chemical for that intended use.

Something just doesn’t smell right, wouldn’t you say?

These provisions of the House discussion draft would take what is arguably the most fatal flaw in current TSCA – EPA’s inability to regulate dangerous chemicals due to an onerous and paralyzing cost-benefit analysis requirement – and actually make it worse.  While the draft would strike TSCA’s requirement that EPA show any restriction it proposes is the “least burdensome,” it would replace it with evidentiary and analytic burdens that are even more onerous and paralyzing.

There’s a far better and fairer way to deal with the scenario I’ve outlined:  Give EPA the authority to grant exemptions for certain uses of an unsafe chemical – but only for uses that are critical or essential.  That would ensure EPA can effectively restrict non-critical or essential uses of dangerous chemicals.

The seeds of this exemption approach are planted in the Senate’s Chemical Safety Improvement Act (in section 6(c)(10)), although there are other major problems with those provisions of CSIA as introduced (happily, considerable progress toward resolving those problems has been made in the ongoing negotiations on CSIA).

Here’s how an exemption process should work:  EPA would have authority to grant exemptions for uses of an unsafe chemical it finds to be critical or essential.  And companies who believe their use of a chemical is critical or essential could seek such an exemption – but the burden would be on them to show there are no safer, viable alternatives.  The exemptions would be time-limited, and renewable if the need for the exemption is demonstrated to remain.  And EPA would have full authority to impose conditions on such uses needed to protect human health and the environment.

But to force EPA – as the House discussion draft would do – to have to find for a company viable, safer alternatives to a dangerous chemical for each and every use of that chemical it proposes to restrict is simply preposterous.

 

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

My mother is not Angelina Jolie

Rachel Shaffer is a research assistant.

Last week, Angelina Jolie announced that she recently had a double mastectomy: surgery to remove both of her breasts. She chose to undergo such a difficult procedure because she, like her mother who had breast cancer (and died of ovarian cancer), carries the BRCA1 gene, a genetic mutation that significantly raises her risk of breast and ovarian cancer. While Jolie does not have cancer, this surgery lowers her chances of developing the disease in the future.

That otherwise healthy women are choosing to take such drastic steps to reduce their risks of cancer demonstrates a willingness to make profound sacrifices for health.  But it also raises the question of what options for prevention are available to the millions of other women who develop breast cancer, even though they have no known genetic risk factor. Approximately 90-95% of breast cancer cases cannot be attributed to BRCA1 or other genetic mutations; these cases are triggered by various factors in a woman’s environment.  

My mother’s cancer, diagnosed ten years ago this month, falls into this category. So once again, I’m reminded of the obvious: the life of superstar Angelina Jolie does not reflect the life of my mother or the lives of the vast majority of women.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science| Also tagged , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

A mission corrupted: Your tax dollars pay for ACC to coach big industry on how to undercut EPA’s IRIS program

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

On February 22, the Advocacy Office of the Small Business Administration, an agency of the Federal Government, held a meeting without any public notice and from which the press was barred.  And while the office’s mission is supposed to be to provide “an independent voice for small business within the federal government,” many if not most of the attendees were from large companies and the trade associations and Washington lobbyists that represent their interests.

This meeting was the latest in a long and continuing series of so-called “environmental roundtables” that serve as a basis for the SBA’s Advocacy Office to weigh in against environmental or workplace regulations that big business opposes.   

There are no records from these meetings that are made publicly available.  Agendas and attendee lists are not disclosed, though I was able to obtain an agenda for this particular meeting at the last minute.  I noted with interest that the first half of the meeting focused on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, which provides health assessments of chemicals used by public health and environmental officials around the world. 

The key draw in this meeting:  a senior official from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), whose dominant members are huge global chemical companies like ExxonMobil, BASF, Dow and DuPont – in short, Big Chem.   The ACC official spent a full hour coaching representatives of Big Chem and other global mining companies and automobile corporations like GM in how to pick apart and challenge recent documents developed by the IRIS program.  IRIS has become a focal point of the chemical industry’s multi-front attack on independent government science.  Here is the deck of Powerpoint slides used by the ACC representative and the other industry speaker.  Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence| Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

Hands off the Report on Carcinogens

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., is Managing Director of EDF's Health Program.

Information, and importantly, access to reliable and objective information, is the cornerstone of a democratic society.  That is why recent efforts by the chemical industry and its allies to block Congressionally-mandated, scientific information on carcinogenic hazards by defunding the Report on Carcinogens (ROC) have many researchers and public health officials alarmed. 

Today, in a letter sent to House and Senate appropriations committee leaders, 75 occupational and environmental health scientists and professionals from around the country called on Congress to maintain funding for the ROC.  Their letter is in response to a legislative proposal that, if passed into law, would withhold funding for any work on the ROC until the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completes its review of the listings of formaldehyde and styrene in the 12th ROC—a process the NAS has only just begun.  If such a proposal were successful, it would effectively delay public access to critical information on chemical carcinogens for years.     Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence| Also tagged , , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Labor and public health advocates to the chemical industry: Stop bullying federal scientists!

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

After my long post this morning, I’ll keep this one brief:  The United Steelworkers, one of the nation’s top occupational physicians and EDF, represented by Earthjustice, have filed a motion to intervene in D.C. District Court, seeking to help defend the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ listing of styrene as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."  The motion is in response to a chemical industry lawsuit attempting to force the agency's National Toxicology Program to withdraw the styrene warning, which was published in the 12th edition of the Congressionally mandated Report on Carcinogens.

Posted in Health Policy, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform| Also tagged , , | Comments closed
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