Selected tag(s): trichloroethylene (TCE)

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 »

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

EPA proposes second rule to ban more uses of toxic TCE

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

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took another significant step yesterday to protect against exposures to the highly toxic chemical, trichloroethylene (TCE), proposing a rule to ban its use as a vapor degreaser.

The proposed rule is the second issued under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended by last year’s Lautenberg Act.  It follows on EPA’s proposed rule last month to ban the use of TCE as an aerosol degreaser and spot cleaning agent in dry cleaning facilities. Both proposed rules on TCE are critical to protecting consumer and worker health from the harmful effects of TCE and should move swiftly toward finalization.   Read More »

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

With TCE, EPA proposes first toxic chemical ban in 27 years under TSCA

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

Today, EPA issued a proposed rule to ban uses of trichloroethylene (TCE) as a spot cleaning agent in dry cleaning and as an aerosol spray degreaser in commercial and consumer settings. This marks the first time in 27 years EPA is proposing to restrict the use of a chemical and represents a significant milestone under the Lautenberg Act.

Read More »

Posted in EPA| Also tagged | Comments are closed

Early disconnect between industry rhetoric and actions under the new TSCA?

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

It was more than a bit heartening that, even post-election, chemical industry representatives have been publicly urging that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementation of the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) should continue apace.

So it pains me greatly to be reading that some in industry are aggressively pressing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to block at least one of EPA’s proposals to restrict certain very high-risk uses of trichloroethylene (TCE), which focuses on TCE’s use in commercial vapor degreasing operations.  As reported late last week by Inside EPA (subscription required), industry representatives have asked OMB not to even allow EPA to issue its proposal for public comment, despite the fact that the industry and the rest of the public have yet to see it.

These are the first risk reduction actions EPA is proposing to take under the Lautenberg Act, which passed earlier this year with strong bipartisan support.  Industry supported the new law, saying it accepted the need to give EPA stronger authority to identify and restrict dangerous uses of chemicals in order to help restore public confidence in the nation’s chemical safety system.  So why are some now seeking to block the very first actions taken under the new law?  This type of behavior— fighting even limited steps by EPA to address even the riskiest of chemicals—is what brought about this crisis in confidence in the first place.   Read More »

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

EPA moves one step closer to managing risks from TCE

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

It’s no secret that trichloroethylene (TCE) is a nasty chemical.  A 2013 review of thousands of scientific studies by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists concluded that TCE is carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure and poses additional hazards, including immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, and adverse effects on the developing heart.  TCE’s link to cancer has been confirmed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS),  the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the National Toxicology Program (NTP).

With such a track record, one would expect that the U.S. government has restricted its use, right?  Wrong.  The current annual U.S. production of TCE is 250 million pounds – so, not surprisingly, human and environmental exposure is widespread.  While most TCE is used in industrial and commercial settings as a chemical intermediate in the production of other chemicals, it’s also commonly used as a metal degreasing agent and spot cleaner in commercial dry cleaning, and can be found in certain consumer products. Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation| Also tagged | Comments are closed
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