Selected tag(s): Chicago Tribune

A pivotal moment for TSCA reform

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

We have reached a pivotal moment in the quest for meaningful reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA):  On Wednesday the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will mark up a new and improved version of the Safe Chemicals Act.  To my knowledge, this will be the first time a vote has been taken in the U.S. Congress to amend the basic provisions of TSCA since its passage in 1976.

The markup will come after today’s oversight hearing in the same committee spurred by a set of events that couldn’t provide a better poster child for why this law needs so badly to be overhauled:  An exposé published in the Chicago Tribune on the massive use in everyday household items of a set of flame retardant chemicals that were grandfathered in under TSCA 36 years ago along with more than 60,000 others.  Their safety was never required to be determined, let alone established – yet we now know these toxic chemicals not only do not serve their claimed purpose, but are so persistent in the environment and build up in people such that every American – including newborn babies – carries them in our bodies.

While we still have quite a ways to go to achieve real and lasting TSCA reform, the new language represents real progress toward the “sweet spot” – striking the right balance between the dual needs of ensuring vital public health protections, sustaining the economic health of the chemical industry and spurring it to innovate toward safer chemicals.  Any objective reader of the new language will see, for example, that it better tailors and paces information requirements, ensures speed to market for new chemicals, and enhances protection of companies’ proprietary interests in chemicals they develop.

The changes reflect the sustained efforts of a group of diverse stakeholders who dedicated themselves over the last many months to seek out common ground and to provide substantive input on the legislation, often in the face of considerable opposition.  Relative to the introduced version of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, major sections have been completely rewritten to address key concerns heard from all stakeholders, including those not willing to come to the table.

While further progress is needed, the changes being made to the legislation are direct and tangible evidence of the fact that when stakeholders positively engage in the legislative process, the result is an improved bill.

EDF and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition stand committed to continuing to work after Wednesday’s markup with all parties willing to engage with us in good faith toward finding more common ground.  This week in particular, it is vital that those who have sought out such common ground stand behind the progress made to date and make clear they are committed to taking this forward.

 

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

More evidence that protecting Americans from toxic chemicals is not a partisan issue

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

Another encouraging sign emerged today that efforts to ensure the chemicals we all encounter every day are safe need not fall into the partisan food fight that seems to consume so much of Washington, DC these days:  A bipartisan group of 26 Senators — more than a quarter of the U.S. Senate — has sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson in support of actions EPA is taking to limit Americans' exposure to a class of very toxic chemicals widely used for decades as flame retardants in furniture, electronics and even childrens' products.

The chemicals in question have gained even greater notoriety in recent months after an in-depth investigation published in the Chicago Tribune exposed a coordinated campaign of deception by the chemical and tobacco industries to hide the truth about these toxic chemicals.

The Senators' letter urges EPA to pursue a variety of actions on these chemicals, including to finalize proposed notification and testing rules — now undergoing public comment — as quickly as possible.  But the Senators also call attention to the severe limits on EPA's authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and they urge prompt action to reform TSCA:

"While we commend the EPA for taking steps to address PBDEs, it is concerning that the agency must undertake lengthy rulemaking processes merely to secure additional health and safety data on a chemical of concern and to receive notifications regarding expansions of its uses.  Further, EPA is not evaluating steps to actually restrict existing unsafe production and uses of these toxic flame retardants.  This reinforces why there is broad agreement that TSCA must be reformed to protect American families from dangerous chemicals in a cost-effective way and we urge you to continue to work with Congress to enact consensus reforms."

The letter's signatories are as follows:

Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Also tagged , , , , | Read 2 Responses

Joe Chemical — Ring a bell?

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

I've blogged earlier about the chemical industry's campaign of deception exposed by the Chicago Tribune last month in a jaw-dropping series titled "Playing with Fire."  That in-depth series ran into the tens of thousands of words and included many extras such as video interviews.

EDF and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition decided it should be boiled down to its essence.  That's why we produced this ad, which is running full page today in Politico:

[click to enlarge]

For more on this, check out www.saferchemicals.org/JoeChemical.

 

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

Exposure to toxic flame retardants is an environmental justice issue: New research finds differential exposure in children

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

A peer-reviewed paper released today documents that nonwhite toddlers in North Carolina carry nearly twice as much of certain toxic flame retardant chemicals in their blood compared with white toddlers.  The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that exposures to toxic chemicals are higher in communities of lower socioeconomic status.

Numerous other studies have found higher levels of the flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, in children and adolescents relative to adults.  The current study – authored by Stapleton et al., and appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives – may be the first, however, to demonstrate differential exposure based on socioeconomic status. Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Science| Also tagged , , , | Read 2 Responses

ACC missing in action this week, no doubt feeling burned

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

Every day in my email I get the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC’s) “SmartBrief,” a digest of the day’s news related to the chemical industry.  Here’s its self-description:

Designed specifically for American chemistry professionals, ACC SmartBrief is a FREE, daily e-mail news briefing. It provides the latest news and information on the American chemistry industry.

As I noted in my last blog post, all this week the Chicago Tribune has been running one of the biggest stories relating to the chemical industry published in a long, long time.  Titled “Playing with Fire,” it documents in meticulous detail the campaign of deception that producers of chemical flame retardants have foisted on the American public for decades.

One might expect, therefore, that ACC’s SmartBrief this week would be directing its readers – who sign up to keep up with what they need to know that affects the chemical industry – to the Tribune’s series.  One would be wrong.  Nary a mention of this blockbuster story managed to find its way into SmartBrief this week.

It appears that only certain news relevant to SmartBrief’s audience of American chemistry professionals is deemed essential enough to make the cut over at ACC.  SmartBrief readers might need to look elsewhere if they want to know what’s really affecting their industry.

In fact, the only response to be found anywhere on ACC’s website to this week’s major news is this highly oblique press release posted there yesterday.  It makes no mention of the Tribune series, but does affirm the industry’s commitment to safety as a general matter.  And it includes this tidbit:

ACC always strives to conduct its advocacy work in an open and transparent manner.

Oh really?

Posted in Health Science| Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

The truth will out: Chemical industry’s deceptive tactics are eventually exposed

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

It’s hard not to get cynical in Washington, DC these days.  Just this past week, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) hosted an ice cream social on Capitol Hill – I kid you not.  ACC’s beckoning slogan:  “Join and learn about the benefits of chlorine chemistry and enjoy a tasty treat.”  I’m told hundreds of House staffers partook of this propaganda fest, at least the tasty treat part.  My initial reaction?  How can health and environmental advocates hope to compete?  Especially if one can successfully curry favor merely by offering a scoop of a staffer’s favorite flavor.

But just as I began to despair, Part I of a major exposé on a far more serious campaign of deception by the chemical industry ran on the front page of the Sunday Chicago Tribune.  (Actually, the article occupies virtually the entire front page of today’s edition.)   Read More »

Posted in Health Science, Industry Influence| Also tagged , , , , | Read 1 Response
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