EDF Health

Selected tag(s): worker safety

Another EPA risk evaluation grossly understates risks, this time of 1-bromopropane

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

On Friday EDF filed detailed comments with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) critical of its draft risk evaluation for the carcinogenic solvent, 1-bromopropane (or 1-BP).  As was the case with 1,4-dioxane, EPA has grossly understated the risks from exposure to this chemical, for both cancer and non-cancer health effects.  EPA has also inappropriately dismissed human studies that show neurological effects at 1-BP exposures lower than EPA assumed to be safe.

While the draft risk evaluation did find that some uses of 1-BP present unreasonable risks, even in those cases it understated the extent of the risk – which, if not ameliorated, means that any regulation it subsequently promulgates will be under-protective.

EPA has also abdicated its responsibility under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to identify and evaluate the risks the chemical presents to consumers and the general population by excluding from its risk evaluation conditions of use and exposures that are known or reasonably foreseen.  EPA has not met its mandatory duty under TSCA to thoroughly identify and evaluate the risks to vulnerable subpopulations.  EPA has utterly failed to utilize the enhanced authorities Congress granted it in 2016 to ensure that it has or obtains robust information on 1-BP’s uses, hazards and exposures, resulting in serious information and analytic gaps and deficiencies that severely undermine the scientific quality of its risk evaluation.

Below we list major concerns that EDF addressed in our comments (with references to the corresponding section of the comments).  Read More »

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An unwarranted assumption run amok: How the Trump EPA grossly understates the risks of 1-Bromopropane to workers

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

We have blogged repeatedly about the ways in which the Trump EPA is compromising workers’ health, either by failing to identify the significant risks they face, or wishing away the risks EPA does identify by erroneously assuming that existing industry practices and OSHA regulations are taking care of any possible problem.

If EPA uses PPE assumptions to erase unreasonable risks, then it won’t regulate the chemical and will forgo its only opportunity to ensure that PPE is actually used.  If EPA does find unreasonable risk even with its PPE assumptions, by understating the magnitude of that risk, any subsequent regulation EPA promulgates will be underprotective.

All of this is contrary to the mandate Congress gave EPA when it reformed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2016.  The new TSCA strengthens EPA’s authority and mandate to protect workers, explicitly identifying them as a “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation.”  But under this administration, EPA has instituted many policies and practices that undercut the protections afforded workers under TSCA.

A key policy driver is EPA’s assertion – absent any empirical evidence to support it – that workers throughout chemical supply chains will always wear effective personal protective equipment (PPE).  There are many legal, scientific and policy problems with this assumption, and it is only one of many questionable aspects of the Trump EPA’s handling of risks to workers.

But just how big a difference does this assumption make?  Let’s look at the agency’s draft risk evaluation for the carcinogenic solvent 1-Bromopropane (1-BP), which is currently undergoing public comment and peer review.  Read More »

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

EDF statement in advance of House hearing on failure by the Trump EPA to protect workers from toxic chemicals

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

Tomorrow, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change will hold an oversight hearing on “Mismanaging Chemical Risks: EPA’s Failure to Protect Workers.” In advance of the hearing, Environmental Defense Fund lead senior scientist, Dr. Richard Denison, made the following statement:

“Under the Trump Administration, every aspect of EPA’s implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — our recently reformed chemical safety law — has gone off the rails. The Trump EPA has abdicated its authority and responsibility under the law to address risks to workers. Among the ways EPA has shirked these duties are the following:

  • Clearing new chemicals despite risks to workers. EPA has approved new chemicals for unfettered market access even where the agency has identified significant risks to workers or has indicated it has insufficient information to determine risks to workers. EPA has done so for many dozens of chemicals.
  • Abandoning worker protections from methylene chloride. EPA is poised to finalize a ban of methylene chloride-based paint strippers far narrower than the one it proposed over two years ago. While consumer uses will be banned, EPA will not limit commercial uses, leaving workers, who are most at risk from these products, unprotected.
  • Ignoring worker safety in chemical risk evaluations under TSCA. In the only draft risk evaluation of a chemical issued to date, EPA relied exclusively on a single undocumented workplace air concentration value, provided through a private personal communication by a conflicted industry source, as the basis to conclude that workers across the supply chain for this chemical face no significant exposure to the chemical.

“Oversight of this EPA’s reckless approach to worker protection under existing law is long overdue.  We applaud the subcommittee for holding this hearing. This EPA is putting the public’s health – especially worker’s health — at risk by systematically weakening and undermining chemical safety: the agency must be held accountable.”

 

 

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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/

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Nothing is forever – and chemical industry trade secret claims shouldn’t be an exception

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

A coalition of health, labor, environmental and environmental justice groups (including EDF), represented by Earthjustice, filed a petition today with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that requests EPA establish a limit on how long information on chemicals submitted and claimed confidential by the chemical industry under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) can be protected from disclosure.

The petition asks EPA to close a loophole in its current regulations that by default grants indefinite protection for nearly all chemical information claimed confidential.  Because EPA’s only option under its current regulations is to challenge these claims on a case-by-case basis, industry bears no responsibility to ensure that its claims remain valid over time.  The lack of any expiration date for such claims has contributed to a large backlog of excessive and often unwarranted claims – the protection of which imposes large costs on EPA and the American taxpayer and denies public and market access to information that could lead to better-informed decisions about chemicals.

The petition filed today offers a simple solution, one called for in virtually every internal and external review of EPA trade secret policy conducted over the last several decades (see list at the end of this post):  EPA should alter its regulations to create a “sunset” for confidential business information (CBI) claims, which would expire after a set period of time (5 years is proposed) unless the claimant shows that continued protection is warranted.  This approach would allow true trade secrets to continue to be protected while providing public access to information that no longer warrants trade secret protection.  Read More »

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National Academy of Sciences strongly affirms science showing styrene is a human carcinogen

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

It’s been a ridiculously long road to get here, because of the delay tactics of the chemical industry.  But yesterday a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) fully backed the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) listing of styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

We have blogged earlier about this saga.  In June 2011, after years of delay, the NTP released its Congressionally mandated 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC), in which it upgraded formaldehyde to the status of “known to be a human carcinogen,” and for the first time listed styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”  The chemical industry launched an all-out war to defend two of its biggest cash cows, filing a lawsuit to try to reverse the styrene listing (which it lost), and seeking to cut off funding for the RoC.  

In late 2011, the industry managed to get its allies in Congress to slip into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, without any debate, a rider that mandated NAS to review the styrene and formaldehyde listings in the 12th RoC.  Yesterday’s NAS report on styrene is the first installment, with the second one on formaldehyde expected shortly.

The NAS report could not be more supportive of the NTP’s listing of styrene, finding “that ‘compelling evidence’ exists in human, animal, and mechanistic studies to support listing styrene, at a minimum, as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” (emphasis added)  Read More »

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