EDF Health

Selected tag(s): Lautenberg Act

EDF files extensive comments challenging EPA’s changes to new chemical reviews under TSCA

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

This weekend EDF submitted detailed comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its implementation of changes to the New Chemicals Review Program, as well as comments responding to the agency’s draft New Chemicals Decision‐Making Framework.

After the passage of the Lautenberg Act in June 2016, EPA started out on a sound footing in implementing the major changes to Section 5 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), correctly subjecting more new chemicals to conditions or testing requirements through issuance of consent orders.  It also took successful steps to address a temporary backlog that was largely due to the fact that these changes to TSCA took immediate effect.

Beginning in August of last year, however, using the already eliminated backlog as an excuse, the new political leadership at EPA signaled its intent to reverse course and effectively return the program to its pre-Lautenberg state – under which few chemicals were subject to any conditions and even fewer to any testing requirements, despite the fact that the great majority of new chemicals reviewed by EPA lack any health or environmental safety data.

EPA convened a meeting in early December of last year to present its New Chemicals Decision‐Making Framework implementing these changes.  The agency noted it was already using the Framework, despite also accepting comments on it.

EDF’s comments raise a host of legal, policy, scientific, good government and transparency objections to EPA’s new approach.  I won’t attempt to summarize the 42 pages of our comments here, many aspects of which we have raised through this blog over the past many months.

We hope EPA reconsiders its rash change of course and opts to comply with the law.


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

Hiding its tracks: The black box of EPA’s new chemical reviews just got a whole lot blacker

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

[UPDATED 1-8-18:  See updates below]

We have been blogging about damaging changes being made to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new chemicals review program for some time.  Despite the reforms made in 2016 under the Lautenberg Act that were intended to significantly strengthen new chemical reviews, Scott Pruitt’s EPA has been moving since August of last year to seriously weaken the program.

Late yesterday, EPA made a change to its new chemicals website that not only reverses changes made to implement the Lautenberg Act, but actually makes the site less transparent than it has been for decades.

EPA's intent is now quite clear:  to prevent the public from knowing when EPA’s professional staff flagged any concern in their initial review of a new chemical.

The change makes clear that the agency is now planning to cover its tracks as it weakens new chemical reviews:  EPA will now hide from the public any information about whether its initial review of a new chemical raises any concerns or warrants a more extensive review.  Is this what Scott Pruitt meant when he said he intended to bring increased “transparency” to the review program – a term he used no fewer than five times in his August news release previewing changes he was making?   Read More »

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

Systematic slowdown: EPA indefinitely delays virtually all proposed actions to restrict chemicals under TSCA

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.  My colleague Ryan O’Connell assisted in the research described in this post.

By the time the long-awaited reforms of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) passed in June of 2016, nearly all stakeholders had come to agree that we needed a stronger federal chemical safety system, one that gave EPA more authority and more resources to act.  Only through this could public confidence in the system begin to be restored – to the benefit of both business and public health.

That was then.  A scant 18 months later, the law is being implemented by an Administration hell-bent on rolling back existing or indefinitely delaying new health protections, even those called for by large bipartisan majorities in Congress.  And the chemical industry?  So much for the influence of its better angels who supported reform.  It’s now going for broke, grabbing what it can while it can.

Virtually every proposed action that would impose restrictions or conditions on specific chemicals has been either moved to the “long-term action” attic or simply deleted altogether.

Yesterday, the New York Times and The Intercept ran stories spotlighting EPA’s decision to back-burner proposed restrictions on high-risk uses of three highly toxic chemicals – trichloroethylene (TCE), methylene chloride (MC), and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) – relegating them to the bureaucratic dustbin of “long-term actions.”  Not coincidentally, the chemical industry has strongly opposed all of the proposed restrictions.

But those aren’t the only proposed actions on chemicals for which this EPA has applied the brakes.  An examination of EPA’s two most recent semi-annual “unified agendas” – that trumpeted by the President last week, and the preceding one issued this past April – reveals a much broader and more disturbing pattern:  Virtually every proposed action that would impose restrictions or conditions on specific chemicals has been either moved to the “long-term action” attic or simply deleted altogether.   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Read 1 Response

Is there no limit to industry’s overreach and hubris when it comes to new chemicals under TSCA?

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

We’ve already blogged about how changes the agency is making to its reviews of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) are illegal as well as bad policy.  But an industry letter and attachment added last week to EPA’s new chemicals docket shows the chemical industry isn’t done yet in seeking to eviscerate the program.

The letter and position statement were submitted to Jeffery Morris, Director of EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) by something called the TSCA New Chemicals Coalition (NCC).

They raise a multitude of red flags.

The NCC is a creation of the industry law firm Bergeson & Campbell (B&C). The letter to Morris describes NCC as “a group of representatives from over 20 companies that have come together to identify new chemical notification issues under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and to work collaboratively with you and your team to address them.”

First red flag:  Nowhere are the 20+ companies identified, not in the letter or associated position statement, nor on B&C’s web pages for NCC.  Such secrecy always sets off an alarm when it comes to the chemical industry’s history of forming misleading front groups and coalitions.  Why don’t the companies want their identities known?

Second red flag:  The NCC letter and position statement claim that “OSHA has in place an extensive regulatory scheme, as well as enforcement mechanisms, governing chemical exposure in the workplace” and refers to the “robust nature of the existing OSHA regulatory program” and its “overarching and comprehensive requirements” that apply in the workplace.  Now, anyone outside of industry readily acknowledges that OSHA’s ability to adequately address workplace exposures has been decimated over time – through sustained industry efforts on many fronts, including mounting legal challenges to OSHA’s authority and successfully pressing for reduction after reduction in its budget and staffing.  Those attacks continue today, and if anything have accelerated under the Trump Administration.

Why then, you may wonder, is NCC writing to the director of EPA’s TSCA office to tout OSHA’s sweeping authority over workplace chemical exposures?  By now you may be getting a sense of where this is headed … .   Read More »

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

EDF comments at EPA’s public meeting on identifying chemicals for prioritization stress legal requirements and urge adoption of sound and fair policies

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

EPA held a public meeting today on “Approaches to Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization” 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.  Four of us from EDF gave oral comments at the meeting.  Below we provide links to those comments in written form and briefly describe them (in the order in which they were presented).

EDF Senior Attorney Robert Stockman’s comments argue that, under the law, EPA:

  • must use its broad information-gathering authorities under section 4, 8 and 11 of TSCA to collect all “reasonably available information” to inform the prioritization process;
  • should exercise those authorities in the processes leading up to and including prioritization; and
  • should start immediately to develop additional information on chemicals in its Work Plan.

EDF Project Manager Lindsay McCormick’s comments:

  • stress the need to use its information-gathering authorities to develop experimental data early in the prioritization process;
  • caution against over-reliance on voluntary information submissions;
  • urge EPA to avoid implanting a bias toward information-rich chemicals; and
  • remind EPA of its obligations to make full health and safety studies and underlying data publicly available.

My comments:

  • stress that the law sets a higher bar for low-priority than for high-priority designations;
  • urge EPA to identify only small numbers of low-priority candidates at a time;
  • caution EPA not to identify categories of chemicals as candidates for low-priority designations; and
  • argue EPA should consider ensuring a minimum set of hazard data is available for candidates.

EDF Senior Scientist Dr. Jennifer McPartland’s comments point to serious limitations and critical caveats relating to some of EPA’s proposed approaches for identifying candidates, including:

  • Canadian Categorization and Chemicals Management Plan;
  • Safer Choice Ingredient List; and
  • Functional category approaches.
Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, TSCA Reform / Also tagged | Comments are closed

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 / Also tagged , , | Read 1 Response