EDF Health

Selected tag(s): trichloroethylene (TCE)

EPA’s draft risk evaluation of trichloroethylene contains major scientific flaws that understate the chemical’s risk and demand robust review

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

Yesterday Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft risk evaluation for the highly toxic chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE.

This draft, readers will recall, is the document that the Trump White House forced EPA to dramatically weaken just prior to public release, as reported in detail by Elizabeth Shogren of Reveal News.

It is also the document that EPA seems intent on subjecting to a rushed peer review next week in a 4-day virtual meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) – despite numerous reasons why, in the midst of the current COVID-19 public health crisis, such a meeting simply will not provide the robust scientific review that this draft warrants.  EDF has urged EPA to postpone the SACC review so that it can be done under circumstances that are conducive to a proper review and fair to SACC members and stakeholders who would like to participate.

EDF submitted comments yesterday in order to meet the very tight deadline EPA set for comments if they are to be considered by the SACC.  Our comments raise numerous scientific deficiencies in EPA’s draft.  These flaws arise from a host of unwarranted and unsupported assumptions and methodological approaches that systematically lead EPA to understate the risks posed by this chemical to pregnant women, infants and children; to workers; to consumers; to the public; and to the environment.

Exposure to TCE is ubiquitous, coming from ambient and indoor air, vapor intrusion from contaminated sites, groundwater and drinking water wells, and food – yet EPA’s draft ignores or downplays each of these exposure sources and pathways.

It is vital that the current public health crisis caused by COVID-19 not be allowed to compromise the quality and integrity of scientific assessments of other critical public health risks we face.

Below I summarize some of the major concerns in EPA’s draft that we address in detail in our commentsRead More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Also tagged , | 1 Response

EPA needs to postpone next week’s peer review of its draft risk evaluation of trichloroethylene

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

As we all deal with an emerging major health crisis, it is critical that the quality of ongoing work on other issues vital to protecting public health is not sacrificed or compromised as a result.  Given this, we strongly urge EPA to postpone next week’s peer review of its draft risk evaluation of trichloroethylene.

A few short weeks ago, EPA issued a draft risk evaluation for a highly toxic chemical, trichloroethylene or TCE.  The draft is many hundreds of pages long (thousands of pages counting supplemental files).  EPA also scheduled the peer review by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) for next week, March 24-27.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the time frame EPA provided for getting meaningful expert review of this important document was already questionable.  Now it is simply untenable.

As of now, EPA intends to proceed with the meeting as a virtual meeting.  While traveling to a meeting next week should of course be off the table, proceeding with a virtual meeting at this point is asking far too much of SACC members and their families and will clearly lead to a severely compromised peer review.  Consider, for example:

  • SACC members who are dealing with their own and their families’ health and well-being, are now being asked to spend dozens of hours over 4 days next week trying to participate in the virtual meeting. We all know how hard that is to do under normal circumstances.  It is unrealistic and unfair to expect it under our current circumstances.
  • Some SACC members are themselves members of the public health community that are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Many or most SACC members are faculty at colleges and universities, and hence are likely already grappling as part of their day jobs with a shift to online teaching.
  • SACC members are being expected to have found the time in these recent chaotic days to have read these massive documents, draft initial comments and be prepared to discuss all of this next week.
  • Stakeholders are preparing comments for the SACC’s consideration, which are due this Wednesday. SACC members are expected to review these materials on top of everything else.
  • Stakeholders from health and labor groups who have been participating in the risk evaluation process by providing comments to the SACC as well as EPA are presently consumed with addressing COVID-19 issues facing their members and constituents.

As we are learning in real time during this unfolding health crisis, ensuring there is sound expert input into public health decisions is absolutely essential.  We cannot let the current crisis result in a weakening of the quality and credibility of scientific input on other important public health issues.

EPA needs to promptly postpone the SACC peer review of TCE and reschedule it at a time and in a manner that respects the critical role the SACC plays.

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Reveal News exposes Trump Administration’s disregard for protecting the public from a highly dangerous chemical: 5 key takeaways

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

This weekend, Elizabeth Shogren at Reveal News published an in-depth investigative report and hour-long radio segment delving into the Trump EPA’s latest abandonment of science and its serious consequences for public health.  The story focuses on the ubiquitous solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), a known human carcinogen and neurotoxicant that is also linked to birth defects at very low levels of exposure.

In reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2016, Congress directed EPA to conduct comprehensive reviews of the risks posed by TCE and other widely used chemicals.  EPA was charged with identifying risks both to the general public and to “vulnerable subpopulations,” including pregnant women, infants, workers, and others.

EPA’s draft risk evaluation of TCE was released on February 21.  It suffers from many of the same gaping flaws as do EPA’s draft risk evaluations for other chemicals.  Once again, EPA has utterly failed to carry out the clear intent of the law, putting our health at greater risk.

  • EPA has ignored all exposures of the general population to TCE that arise from releases of the chemical to air, water and land – amounting to millions of pounds annually.
  • EPA has once again assumed, without any supporting data, that workers will wear personal protective equipment and that it will be effective in eliminating or reducing exposures.
  • EPA has inflated the acceptable level of risk of cancer that will allow workers to be exposed to as much as 100 times more of the chemical.

“This decision is grave. It not only underestimates the lifelong risks of the chemical, especially to the developing fetus, it also presents yet another example of this administration bowing to polluters’ interests over public health.”

Dr. Jennifer McPartland

But in this new draft EPA has gone even further in abandoning both science and the law.  Reveal’s exposé identifies key changes made at the 11th hour to the draft that were forced on career staff at the agency by the White House.

Here are five key takeaways from the Reveal story:  Read More »

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

Families speak out on trichloroethylene exposure: It’s time for EPA to act

Samantha Lovell is a Project Specialist. Lindsay McCormick, is a Project Manager.

Today, families from across the country came to Washington, DC to tell lawmakers how the toxic chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) has impacted their lives.

TCE is a known human carcinogen that is toxic to the immune system and kidneys, and can cause fetal heart damage – among other harmful health effects.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed bans on high-risk uses of TCE under the newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) back in December 2016 and January 2017, but under this Administration, the agency has abandoned these bans.

TCE is also one of the first 10 chemicals slated for a broad risk review by EPA under TSCA.  Unfortunately, EPA plans to ignore the major exposures Americans face from TCE and other toxic chemicals released to our air, water and land – yet another sign that EPA is giving in to the chemical industry to the detriment of the public’s health.

In a moving press conference today led by Sen. Tom Udall, several families shared their stories in an effort to pressure EPA to finalize the bans and take other necessary steps to protect communities across the country from TCE. Read More »

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EPA’s ban on high-risk uses of trichloroethylene needs to get over the finish line

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Trichloroethylene, or TCE for short, is a very toxic chemical. No doubt about it. Among other health effects, TCE is known to cause cancer and interfere with development.  It is also toxic to the immune system and kidneys. While the vast majority of TCE in the U.S. is used to make other chemicals (i.e., is used as a chemical intermediate), approximately 15% of TCE has other commercial and consumer purposes, including as a metal degreaser and spot cleaning agent.

Over the past several years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a hard look at exposures and potential health risks—including to workers, consumers, and bystanders—resulting from certain commercial and consumer uses of TCE. It found clearly excessive risks from these uses, which prompted the agency to take steps to reduce these exposures.

In December 2016, using its authority under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA proposed a rule to ban the use of TCE as an aerosol degreaser and as a spot cleaning agent in commercial dry cleaning facilities—marking the first time in nearly 3 decades it has tried to restrict a chemical under TSCA. A second proposed rule to ban the use of TCE as a vapor degreaser followed a month later in January 2017 and is undergoing public comment.

The public comment period on the first TCE proposed rule closed recently. EDF filed extensive comments urging the agency to finalize the rule as soon as possible.

Highlights of our comments are below:   Read More »

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

No, chemical industry, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (Part 1)

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

There is an extreme anti-regulatory and anti-science bandwagon moving fast through Washington, and much of the chemical industry seems to have jumped right on board.  We’re also seeing growing signs of industry pushback against even modest early actions EPA is taking to implement the Lautenberg Act, which reformed the obsolete Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and passed with strong bipartisan support only last June.

Companies have every right to provide their input to EPA and argue the case for their chemicals in accordance with designated processes the agency has established for this purpose.  But resorting to tactics of obstruction and delay won’t fool anyone.  That’s the very thing that brought about the public crisis in confidence surrounding this industry in the first place.

I’ll address these concerns in this and a second post to follow.  This post will address several attempts by some in the chemical industry to thwart EPA’s efforts to implement the new TSCA.  The second post will look at the industry’s main trade association’s unabashed – indeed, boisterous – support for a new Executive Order and multiple “regulatory reform” bills moving in Congress, which it embraces despite the fact that they would impose on EPA (and other agencies’) rulemakings – including those under the new TSCA – dozens of new knot-tying strictures, some of which the Lautenberg Act just got rid of.

This suggests that some in the industry have a very short memory:  What led the industry to finally support TSCA reform was its recognition that the public, other levels of government and the market itself have little confidence in the safety of its products or the ability of government to protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals.  Any relief it sought from its initial endorsement of a stronger federal chemical safety system will quickly dissipate if industry representatives – emboldened by the current political climate – take actions to stymie implementation of the new law and to buoy executive and legislative vehicles that would bring the regulatory system to a grinding halt.

So, let’s start with a few of the battles that some in the industry are waging to undercut recent EPA actions, authorized under the new TSCA, to restrict three highly toxic chemicals – trichloroethylene (TCE), methylene chloride (MC) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) – the first such actions taken under TSCA in nearly 30 years.  Read More »

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