EDF Health

Selected tag(s): worker safety

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 »

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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 , , , , , , | Read 1 Response

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 »

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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 »

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Another BP leak – this time, it’s their 2009 Gulf of Mexico oil spill contingency plan

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

Just as BP seems to be making some progress in slowing the leakage of oil from Deepwater Horizon, another leak has appeared.  Karen Dalton Beninato, writing on NewOrleans.com, has obtained, and posted for all to see, a copy of BP’s June 2009 “Gulf of Mexico Regional Oil Spill Response Plan” (caution, it’s a 600-page, 29 MB PDF file!).  [Note added 6/8:  Not sure how long it’s been posted, but the BP Plan is up on the Minerals Management Service website, under “Documents” here (double caution:  this version is a 61 MB PDF!)]

There are some embarrassing parts, with no doubt more waiting to be discovered.  Here’s one example:  The Plan’s “worst-case scenario” for sites more than 10 miles offshore is a total leakage of 177,400 barrels of crude oil (Appendix H).  As reported by the Washington Post this morning, government estimates put the size of this spill at between 23 and 47 million gallons, or between 548,000 and 1.12 million barrels, and counting.

On the issue of dispersants, the Plan is also revealing.  Read More »

Posted in Environment, Health Science / Also tagged , , | Read 4 Responses

A minimum data set: Who needs it?

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

Sound chemicals management and control demands sound information.  The Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition believes information sufficient to determine a chemical’s safety needs to be provided for all chemicals, as a condition for them to enter (for new chemicals) or remain (for existing chemicals) on the market.

Needed chemical information is not limited to test data, and even for types of data that can be derived from testing, alternative sources and approaches may be appropriately used.  Given the large number of chemicals for which information is needed, the availability of various sources of information, and the desirability of minimizing cost and use of laboratory animals, all reasonable efforts should be made to use existing information and data derived from the use of validated alternative methods – as long as the information they provide is current and scientifically reliable.

But who needs such information? Read More »

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