Selected tags: worker safety

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 »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Also tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

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 »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence| Also tagged , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

EDF comments at EPA's public stakeholder meeting on its IRIS Program

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

I provide in this post the comments I delivered as a panelist at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) November 13, 2012 Public Stakeholder Meeting on its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program.  EPA describes IRIS as "a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants."

 

The theme of my comments today is the critical need to restore balance to the IRIS program.  In my view, the program’s structure and practice have over time tilted badly toward allowing one set of interests and desirable attributes of chemical assessments to wholly dominate over another, equally critical set.  Let me explain.  Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science| Also tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Labor and public health advocates to the chemical industry: Stop bullying federal scientists!

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

After my long post this morning, I’ll keep this one brief:  The United Steelworkers, one of the nation’s top occupational physicians and EDF, represented by Earthjustice, have filed a motion to intervene in D.C. District Court, seeking to help defend the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ listing of styrene as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."  The motion is in response to a chemical industry lawsuit attempting to force the agency's National Toxicology Program to withdraw the styrene warning, which was published in the 12th edition of the Congressionally mandated Report on Carcinogens.

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

REACH starts to earn its "A": 20 chemicals headed to the Candidate List and 13 to Authorization

Allison Tracy is a Chemicals Policy Fellow. Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been busy this week implementing the EU's chemical regulation, REACH (short for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals).

On Monday, ECHA announced it has added 20 more Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) to REACH's Candidate List.  These SVHCs are now eligible for later addition to Annex XIV, the list of SVHCs subject to Authorization.

Separately, the agency today forwarded its final recommendation that 13 chemicals already on the Candidate List be formally added to Annex XIV.  (We had blogged earlier about ECHA's initial recommendation proposing these 13 SVHCs for Authorization.)  If the European Commission confirms this addition, after a specified sunset date, the use of these will be allowed only if specifically authorized by EU authorities.  Read More »

Posted in EU REACH, Health Policy| Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Twin dangers from TCE: Widespread exposure, and now a strong link to Parkinson disease

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

A study published online in the Annals of Neurology last week, “Solvent Exposures and Parkinson Disease Risk in Twins,” adds to scientific evidence linking exposure to the solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, and other common solvents with onset of Parkinson disease.  Parkinson disease is a debilitating condition well known for symptoms of trembling but can also include slowed motion, impaired posture and balance, and loss of automatic movements (e.g. blinking, arm swaying when walking).  Most unfortunately, it has no cure. 

According to the authors, this new twin study is the first confirmation in a population-based study of a significant association between exposure to TCE and incidence of Parkinson disease.    Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation| Also tagged , , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Avoiding paralysis by analysis: EPA proposes a sensible approach to identifying chemicals of concern

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.  Thanks to my colleagues Jennifer McPartland and Allison Tracy for their analysis of the EPA proposal discussed in this post.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held stakeholder meetings to get public input into the criteria it will use to identify additional chemicals of concern beyond the 11 chemicals or chemical classes it has already identified.  EPA used these meetings (as well as an online forum open until September 14) as an opportunity for the public to respond to a “discussion guide” it issued in August that sets forth draft criteria and identifies data sources it intends to use to look for chemicals that meet the criteria.

The day before the EPA meetings, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued its own “prioritization tool” which lays out its own criteria and ranking system for identifying chemicals of concern.  This post will make a few observations about EPA’s proposal.  My next post will provide a critique of ACC’s proposed tool.

EDF and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition strongly support EPA in this endeavor – both for what it is, and for what it is not.    Read More »

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

Gasping for breath: Asthma-inducing diisocyanates enter our homes and schools

Johanna Katz is a Cornell Iscoll intern at EDF.  Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Toxic chemicals called diisocyanates are long-established as occupational hazards known to cause severe respiratory problems to workers who use or are otherwise exposed to them (see here).  In fact, diisocyanates are the number one cause of workplace-induced asthma (see here and here).  Recently, potential exposure of the general public to diisocyanates has grown, as these chemicals are increasingly used in consumer products.  This is certainly a troubling trend considering that the primary health effect of these chemicals, asthma, is a massive and growing public health problem, especially among children.  And some of the newest uses of diisocyanates are in products to which children are quite likely to be exposed.

Asthma is at an all-time high, affecting more than 24 million Americans, and creating astronomical health and productivity costs upwards of $20 BILLION each year.  And while diisocyanates are but one of many contributors to the increasing rate of asthma in the general population, we surely don’t need to be bringing more products containing such chemicals into our homes, schools, and workplaces. That will only make matters worse.

So what exactly are diisocyanate chemicals, where are they found, and what’s the federal government trying to do about them?  Read on to find out.  Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Science| Also tagged , , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Hitting 'em where it hurts: BPA reduces sperm quantity and quality in male workers

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

As reported by Rob Stein in the Washington Post this morning, a NIOSH-funded study of male Chinese workers conducted by researchers at Kaiser-Permanente in Oakland, California has found that exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) significantly increases the incidence of low sperm counts and concentrations, as well as lowered sperm motility and higher mortality.

The 5-year study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Fertility and Sterility (that's a title only slightly more cheery than the CDC's publication Morbidity and Mortality!), shows that the same kinds of adverse effects of BPA on sperm already observed in animal studies also occur in humans with detectable levels of BPA in their urine.

And while the most pronounced effects were observed in highly exposed workers, the authors of the study note:

Similar dose-response associations were observed among participants with only environmental BPA exposure at levels comparable to men in the general United States population.

Despite a markedly reduced sample size in this group of men exposed only to low environmental BPA sources, the inverse correlation between increased urine BPA level and decreased sperm concentration and total sperm count remain statistically significant.

Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Science| Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Katrina chronicles meet the BP oil disaster: Formaldehyde-laced trailers are back in the Gulf

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

In another truly bizarre collision between recent Gulf coast disasters (on top of Hurricane Alex), Ian Urbina of the New York Times reports on the front page today that those toxic trailers – sold at auction by FEMA back in March – have been reincarnated once again, this time as housing for Gulf cleanup workers.

I had blogged about the sale at the time, questioning the viability of FEMA’s assurance that “wholesale buyers from the auction must sign contracts attesting that trailers will not be used, sold or advertised as housing, and that trailers will carry a sticker saying, ‘Not to be used for housing’.”  In that post, I had cynically asked:  “Think that’s likely to be enough?”

With good reason, it turns out.  Read More »

Posted in Health Science| Also tagged , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed
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