Monthly Archives: May 2010

A thing of beauty: EPA restores a good chunk of the public’s right to know under TSCA

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

One rarely gets to use the words “elegant” and “Federal Register notice” in the same sentence.  But that’s the best way to describe the notice EPA published yesterday.  The notice states EPA will now review all confidentiality claims for chemical identity in health and safety studies, and announces to companies making such claims that they should expect soon thereafter to get a letter from EPA denying the claim.

In a concise and clearly reasoned notice, EPA sweeps away decades of poor policy and practice at the agency that was at odds with the clear intent of Congress under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
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Oil spill dispersants: What part of “contingency plan” did we not understand?

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

Now more than a month into the mammoth, out-of-control, no-end-in-sight oil spill at Deepwater Horizon, the unanswered questions, data gaps and withheld information surrounding BP’s use of dispersants are flowing in seemingly as fast as the oil is leaking.

With each passing day, it seems we know less and less about the composition and safety of these dispersants, other available dispersants, and even whether the use of dispersants– especially on this unprecedented scale – is to be advised at all.

It begs the question:  Isn’t having ready answers to such questions the reason why the federal government was required to develop a contingency plan in the first place?  Read More »

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Just what the doctor ordered: EPA tells BP to use less toxic oil dispersants in the Gulf

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

This just out:  The Washington Post is reporting that EPA has given BP 24 hours to identify and locate a supply of a less toxic dispersant to be applied to the Gulf oil spill, and to begin using it within an additional 72 hours.

As noted in my last post, EPA has identified numerous alternative dispersants that are both less toxic and more effective than those on which BP has been relying to date — more than 600,000 gallons of which have already been released into Gulf waters.  The Post also notes that some forms of the initial dispersants, sold by Nalco under the trade name Corexit®, were banned by the British government more than a decade ago.

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Compounding the problem: Why aren’t we using the safest and most effective dispersants in the Gulf?

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

Imagine learning you have a serious disease.  Your doctor decides to treat you with a drug, noting it could have some bad side effects.  He also plans to inject you with the drug, even though it’s only been used orally before now.  That makes you nervous enough to ask for the name of the drug. “Sorry, I can’t tell you,” he says.  “It’s proprietary.”  Even if you trust your doctor, you’re now left with no way to investigate the risks and tradeoffs you’re facing.

Imagine how mad you’d be if you learned your doctor hadn’t told you there were other drugs that not only had fewer side effects, but were more effective in treating your condition.  And then you learn he’s on the Board of Directors of the company that makes the drug he prescribed.

Now consider that the patient is the Gulf of Mexico, the doctor is BP, and the drug is the oil dispersants, sold by Nalco under the trade name Corexit®, more than 500,000 gallons of which have been applied to date, with no end in sight.  Read More »

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Raising the bar for chemical safety will spur, not stifle, innovation

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

An emerging chemical industry talking point in TSCA reform is the claim that imposing new requirements on new chemicals will somehow stifle innovation.  The milder manifestation of this perspective emanates from those who oppose requiring a safety determination for new chemicals unless they raise major red flags in an initial review.

But some in the industry go further, arguing that even requiring safety data for new chemicals would put the big chill on development of new chemicals.

I beg to differ with both arguments.  This post will make the opposite case, and will also argue that true innovation embraces rather than shuns safety, and demands the information needed to demonstrate it. Read More »

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Yes, Virginia (and all 49 other states), chemicals do cause cancer

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

Please help me welcome to the true mainstream of scientific and medical thought the seemingly radical yet commonsense notion that chemical exposures are a significant contributor to cancer, many types of which are rising in incidence even as overall rates decline.

This morning, the President’s Cancer Panel released its 2010 report [available here].  The report is remarkable not so much for its core finding that chemical exposures are a major factor in human cancer, but rather because of its source — an authoritative and bipartisan body — and because of the strong linkages it makes to our failed chemicals policies.

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