Selected tags: consumer products

Report: Staggering amounts of toxic chemicals produced across America

Alissa Sasso is a Chemicals Policy FellowRichard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Cross-posted from EDFVoices blog]

Recent spills in West Virginia and North Carolina cast a spotlight on toxic hazards in our midst. But as bad as they are, these acute incidents pale in scope compared to the chronic flow of hazardous chemicals coursing through our lives each day with little notice and minimal regulation. A new report by EDF, Toxics Across America, tallies billions of pounds of chemicals in the American marketplace that are known or strongly suspected to cause increasingly common disorders, including certain cancers, developmental disabilities, and infertility.

While it’s no secret that modern society consumes huge amounts of chemicals, many of them dangerous, it is surprisingly difficult to get a handle on the actual numbers. And under current law it’s harder still to find out where and how these substances are used, though we know enough to establish that a sizeable share of them end up in one form or another in the places where we live and work.

Our new report looks at 120 chemicals that have been identified by multiple federal, state and international officials as known or suspected health hazards. Using the latest, albeit limited, data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we identify which of these chemicals are in commerce in the U.S.; in what amounts they are being made; which companies are producing or importing them; where they are being produced or imported; and how they are being used. An interactive online map accompanying the report lets the user access the report’s data and search by chemical, by company, by state, and by site location.

Among our findings:  Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform | Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

No more just California Dreamin’: First three priority products proposed

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Today the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced its first three draft priority products—the next major milestone in the implementation of its Safer Consumer Product (SCP) regulations to address chemicals of concern in the marketplace.  While we’re still at the start of a long process, today’s announcement is the clearest indicator to date of the impact these regulations may have on consumer products.

The release of the draft priority products follows DTSC’s release last September of its candidate chemicals list and from within this list, the subset initial candidate chemicals list.  Together with the initial candidate chemical list, the identification of the draft priority products now defines the possible set of chemical-product combinations that may head toward alternatives assessment.  Read on for a description of the chemicals and products and of the next phase of regulatory actions.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, States | 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

This SNUR is not a SNORE!

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Yesterday EPA finalized a significant new use rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that requires manufacturers and importers of certain perfluorinated chemicals to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing any “significant new use” of these chemicals.  (See below for what EPA has designated to be a “significant new use.”)

These notifications afford EPA an opportunity to evaluate the designated new uses before they start and address any risks the new uses may pose.  Read on to learn more about some novel aspects of this final rule, including the scope of what EPA has designated as significant new uses of these chemicals.  Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation | 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

Two safer chemicals initiatives garner national headlines: Mind the Store campaign and The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013

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

This morning, two major daily newspapers carried stories on initiatives to ensure the safety of products containing chemicals to which people are increasingly exposed in their daily lives.

A story in USA Today covers the launch of Mind the Store, a campaign that asks the top 10 retailers in the country to develop and make public their plans to address toxic chemicals in the consumer products they sell. 

Also today, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story on the introduction of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 in the U.S. Senate, which would amend the core provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for the first time since its passage 37 years ago. 

See more information on each of these initiatives below.  Read More »

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

Prevention as cure: Confronting the environmental contributions to breast cancer

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

Breast cancer is a personal issue for too many of us.  For six years I have watched the disease overtake a very dear friend’s life.  First diagnosed at 32, she underwent radical treatments— surgeries, radiation and chemo— and three years later faced metastatic breast cancer that is now ravaging her body. 

She is one of the three million women in the U.S. currently facing, or who have been treated for, for breast cancer.  She is also one of a growing number of women under 50 getting the disease with no family history of breast cancer. 

Many women today live longer with or after the disease due to remarkable advancements in medicine, but treatment is not a path anyone would choose.  It takes a heavy emotional and physical toll, and often comes with serious impacts on a women’s life, such as the loss of fertility and the risk of reoccurrence.  Medical costs for treatment of breast cancer totaled $17.35 billion in 2012. And even with advances in treatment, in 2012, more than 40,000 women died from the disease.  

The question every woman must ask is: “What can I do to prevent the disease for myself or my daughter?” Read More »

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

6 years in the making: A new and improved snapshot of U.S. chemical manufacture

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.   Alissa Sasso is a Chemicals Policy Fellow.

Well, it’s finally hit the street:  Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released information on the manufacture and use of nearly 7,700 industrial chemicals in 2011.  The data were collected last year under a revamped Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) program, and is the first update of such information since way back in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina and Star Wars Episode III.

In releasing the data, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson noted:  “The CDR data also highlight the clear need for TSCA reform. Updating this critical law will ensure that EPA has access to the tools and resources it needs to quickly and effectively assess potentially harmful chemicals, and safeguard the health of families across the country.”

Getting even to this point has been a long and bumpy road.  Just getting from the proposed to a final CDR rule took over 16 months, with EPA having to endure not one but two nearly six-month regulatory reviews by the Office of Management and Budget and the chemical industry’s efforts to delay and dilute the rule.  It then took another year for EPA to collect the data, in no small part thanks to repeated efforts by the chemical industry and its allies in Congress to further delay the program.

Finally, it’s taken EPA six more months to compile and process the data in preparation for today’s release – though that’s a decided improvement over the 21 months it took EPA to release the data collected in the last cycle (the faster pace due in part to a requirement this time around for electronic reporting, a feature the chemical industry and its Congressional allies opposed).

So what do the new data reveal?  EPA has provided some nice summary materials, which we won’t duplicate here.  See especially the table on this page.  We’ll have more to say on this as we further analyze the data, but here are a few important things to note:

  • While 7,674 chemicals were publicly reported, these are limited to those being produced in or imported into the US in 2011 at volumes above the reporting threshold of 25,000 pounds per year per site.
    • The count excludes the likely much larger number of chemicals produced or imported at volumes below the reporting threshold, as well as the many chemicals exempt from reporting, such as most polymers.
  • Nearly 33,000 “records” have been made available by EPA.  Each record represents a single chemical reported by a single site of a company producing or importing that chemical.
    • In contrast to EPA’s reporting in the last cycle, a record for every single chemical-single site combination has been provided even if the information provided in the record is confidential business information (CBI).  In this way, the extent and nature of CBI claims is far clearer than was the case in the last cycle.
  • Extent of CBI claims:  Of all of the reported elements in these records that could potentially have been claimed CBI, about 16% were so claimed.  But that percentage varied a lot among the elements.
    • For 624 records (about 2%), the chemical identity was not provided and instead replaced with a unique identifier called an accession number.  These are new chemicals that are listed on the confidential portion of the TSCA Inventory, which are the only chemicals for which EPA allows chemical identity to be claimed CBI.
    • For 3,420 records (10.4%), the company claimed its identity to be CBI.
    • For 9,686 records (29.4%), the company claimed its domestically manufactured production volume to be CBI.
    • For 10,351 records (31.5%), the company claimed its exported volume to be CBI.

More to come, so stay tuned!

Posted in EPA, Regulation | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

States act while Congress fiddles

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

Lest anyone thought that efforts by state legislators to protect their citizens from toxic chemical exposures would slacken despite Congress’ inability to take such action, this week’s announcement that legislators in at least 26 states are introducing such bills should dispel that notion.

Safer States, a national coalition of state-based environmental health organizations, notes that “between 2003 and 2011, 19 states adopted 93 chemical safety policies. The majority of legislation passed with healthy bipartisan support – 99% of Democratic legislators and 75% of Republican legislators voted in favor of bills, and both Republican and Democratic governors signed them into law.”

That trend shows no signs of abating in 2013, based on a list of state legislative activities underway, compiled by Safer States (more detail here):  At least 26 states are each to consider multiple legislation and policy changes this year that will:

  • restrict or label the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in receipts, children's products and food packaging;
  • require removal of certain toxic flame retardants from children's products, home furniture or building materials;
  • change disclosure rules so that concerned consumers will have a way to identify toxic chemicals in products;
  • encourage manufacturers to remove identified toxic chemicals in favor of safer alternatives.
  • ban cadmium, a dangerous, persistent metal that is often found in inexpensive children's jewelry;
  • ban formaldehyde from cosmetics and children's products; and
  • promote green cleaning products in schools.

The chemical industry frequently argues it just can’t live with a “patchwork” of requirements that vary from state to state.  But that’s just what it’s creating by dragging its feet on reform of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has never been amended since its adoption nearly four decades ago. 

State legislators, like nature, abhor a vacuum.

 

 

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

Regrettable, if predictable: Bisphenol S mimics estrogen just like its better-studied cousin, bisphenol A

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

A rule of thumb in chemistry is that chemicals that look alike will more often than not act alike.  (If it looks like a duck … .)  Indeed, when chemical companies are faced with testing requirements for one of their chemicals, they routinely argue that they should be allowed to submit test data on a structurally related chemical instead. 

So when it was revealed that companies making products (such as thermal receipt paper) that contain the estrogen-mimicking compound bisphenol A (BPA) were switching to another chemical called bisphenol S (BPS), many scientists’ eyebrows quickly arched.  Read More »

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