EDF Health

Selected tag(s): right-to-know

The Trump EPA is setting back chemicals policies by decades

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


Tacoma, WA 1972

As we approach the third anniversary of the historic passage of bipartisan legislation to overhaul our nation’s broken chemical safety system, we’re hearing that political appointees at the agency are gearing up to celebrate their “successes” in implementing the law.

Even more disturbing than its individual actions are the methodical steps the Trump EPA is taking to dismantle decades of progress in our country’s chemicals policies.

While the chemical industry may well have things to celebrate, it’s simply not the case for the rest of us:  Comments from former top EPA officialsmembers of Congressstate and local governments, labor groupsfirefighterswater utilitiespublic health groups, and a broad range of environmental groups make crystal clear that there’s nothing warranting celebration.  EPA’s actions are threatening the health of American families.

But as I reflect on how implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has gone off the rails under the Trump EPA, even more disturbing than its individual actions are the methodical steps it is taking to dismantle decades of progress in our country’s chemicals policies.  In this post, I’ll briefly highlight five such policies and how this EPA is undermining them:

  • Pollution prevention
  • Inherent safety and hazard reduction
  • Protection of vulnerable subpopulations and environmental justice
  • Holistic, real-world risk assessment
  • Public right to know

Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform, Worker Safety / Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

D.C. Circuit Affirms Public’s Right to Know about Chemicals in Use under Reformed Law

Court strongly rebukes Trump EPA’s unlawful attempts to scale back transparency requirements

(April 26, 2019 – Washington, D.C.) Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit delivered a strong rebuke to the Trump Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementation of the nation’s chemical safety law, protecting key aspects of the public’s right to know about the toxic chemicals in our homes, schools, and workplaces.

The Court agreed with EDF that EPA had failed to require companies to show that the identities of their chemicals cannot be reverse-engineered in order to claim them confidential under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The Court remanded the rule back to EPA to require that companies make this showing to claim confidentiality.  The Court also affirmed that other key TSCA requirements apply to confidentiality claims despite EPA’s failure to include them in its regulations.

“This decision is a significant win for public disclosure and a strong affirmation by the Court of the public’s right to know about the chemicals to which we all are or may be exposed. The Court ruled that EPA must require companies to provide real substantiation for their claims for confidentiality – and that EPA had failed to do so in the rule we challenged,” said Robert Stockman, Senior Attorney at Environmental Defense Fund.  “EPA will now have to require significantly more evidence from companies before they can conceal the identities of chemicals they make and sell.  As a result, fewer such claims will be allowed and workers, consumers and the public will gain access to more information about those chemicals.”

In the case, EDF v. EPA (D.C. Cir. 17-1201), EDF aimed to ensure that EPA upholds the requirements set forth in the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to maximize transparency and public knowledge about which chemicals are currently in use by narrowing the grounds for asserting confidentiality claims and requiring more scrutiny of them.  The Court affirmed that these requirements apply despite EPA’s failure to incorporate them into its regulation.

“A key goal of the reformed chemical safety law is to make more information public about the chemicals we’re exposed to at home, in our workplaces and schools, and through our environment.” said Dr. Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist at Environmental Defense Fund. “While the Trump EPA has taken every opportunity to skirt its responsibility and conceal information that the public has a right to know, the Court’s decision today affirms that the law trumps those efforts.”

On some issues, the Court gave deference to EPA in interpreting the law as it did:  EPA’s decision to delay assigning “unique identifiers” to certain chemicals with confidential chemical identities; and its decision to exempt chemicals made only for export from the law’s Inventory notification requirement.  Finally, the Court unfortunately ruled that EPA could in its discretion allow any manufacturer or processor to make a claim for the confidentiality of a chemical, regardless of whether that company had previously made such a claim.  While EDF does not agree with the Court’s characterization of our position, the Court cited the Chevron standard that provides agencies with considerable deference.

For more background on the decision, see the bullets below.  For more information on this and other lawsuits challenging EPA’s implementation of TSCA, see: https://www.edf.org/health/tsca-case-resources. Read More »

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

People deserve to know if lead pipes and paint are present where they live and work

Tom Neltner, J.D.is the Chemicals Policy Director

We live in an increasingly transparent world. When it comes to the real estate market, companies are mining local government databases to let us know the size of a home, how much it’s worth, and even when the roof was last replaced.

Yet, you can’t find out if the house you might buy could poison your children with toxic lead. Federal law only requires that the seller or landlord reveal the presence of lead paint when you sign a contract to buy or rent a home.

We think that has to change.

People should be able to readily know if lead is present in the paint and water pipes where they live and work when they begin making important decisions, not when they are finalizing the deal. When shopping for a place to live, the best time to learn if there is lead at a property is when it is listed for sale or rent. Some opponents claim that revealing this information invades the resident’s privacy, but the presence of lead is not about anyone’s behavior. Rather, it’s a fact about the house, a legacy of the construction of the building. It is no different from the type of furnace or number of bedrooms.

There are signs of progress. In Washington, DC, the water utility has launched an online map that reveals information that can help improve transparency on lead pipes. Anyone can check online and see what’s known (and not known) about the presence of lead service lines that connect the drinking water main under the street to their home or business.

It’s a model other communities should follow. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made this type of transparency a priority for states and utilities. And the private sector needs to play a role, too — real estate innovators like Zillow and Redfin, who have transformed how we find homes, should include this information in their online listings.

It’s time that people begin to know the possible health impacts of their housing options when evaluating homes to buy or rent.

Posted in Drinking Water, EPA, Flint, lead, Markets and Retail, Regulation, Uncategorized / Also tagged , , , , , , , | Comments are closed