Monthly Archives: May 2016

TSCA reform on hold again – and over what this time?

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

Well, it looks like American families will have to wait a bit longer for better protection from toxic chemicals, with today’s decision by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to place a hold on the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.  Earlier this week, the House passed the legislation by a vote of 403-12, and it was due to come to Senate floor today – until Sen. Paul announced his hold.

Arguing that he needed more time to review the bill, Sen. Paul cited brand new concerns over two provisions that were already in the Senate bill when it came to the Senate floor last December by unanimous consent and passed on a voice vote with no objections.  Those provisions involve criminal penalties and state preemption.  Let’s look at each:   Read More »

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Initial analyses of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

Based on the text of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act posted today, I have prepared the following analyses of the bill:

I hope these analyses are useful to those interested in understanding this complex piece of legislation.


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Historic deal on TSCA reform reached, setting stage for a new law after 40 years of waiting

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on a final reconciled bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), our nation’s badly broken chemical safety law.  The final text of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was posted today, and is set to be voted on by the full House tomorrow, with Senate consideration expected to follow later this week.

Negotiations to reconcile the two chambers’ quite different reform bills, both passed last year, reached a feverish pace in the last few weeks, leading to today’s historic breakthrough.

The result is a final bill that, while a compromise, is a substantial improvement over current law.  The bill adopts the comprehensive approach taken by the Senate bill, while sticking closer to the structure of current TSCA, as did the House bill.  Negotiators adopted the House bill’s construct of risk evaluations over the Senate’s safety assessments and determinations, while largely adopting the Senate approach to reforming TSCA’s new chemicals program, establishing a prioritization process applicable to all chemicals, and updating the inventory of chemicals active in commerce.  The bill’s chemical testing provision is more of an amalgam of the two bills and negotiators agreed to leave several sections of TSCA (e.g., exports and imports) largely untouched, as the House bill had done.

Overall, the new bill makes significant improvements to all of TSCA’s core provisions.  Read More »

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FDA accepting public comments on the safety of ortho-phthalates

Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director.

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was accepting public comment on a food additive petition asking the agency to reconsider the safety of 30 toxic chemicals known as ortho-phthalates, which are used as additives in food packaging and handling materials.

The announcement, to be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register, comes shortly after a new study by Dr. Ami Zota published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that individuals who consume large amounts of fast food have higher levels of exposure to two of the most commonly-used phthalates—diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthtlate (DiNP). Because the study was about fast food, final food packaging is less likely to be a major source than food handling equipment, including gloves. Read More »

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Washington Post looks at the long and painful history of Lead in Drinking Water rule

Sarah Vogel, Vice-President for Health.

If you missed last week’s Washington Post piece, “The EPA’s lead-in-water rule has been faulted for decades. Will Flint hasten a change?”  we suggest you go back and take a look. Post reporter Brady Dennis takes us back to the beginning to figure out how a federal rule intended to help ensure safe drinking water nationwide faltered, and why it has taken so long to fix.

In 1991, EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule to reduce lead in drinking water that primarily relied on corrosion control. But initial progress stalled and the rules shortcomings became clear. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained at a recent hearing, the rule “needs to be strengthened.” Critics claim the outdated rule has become too easy to evade and too hard to enforce.

EPA now is developing an overhaul of the rule. Given the complexity and scope of the challenge, as my colleague Tom Neltner points out, the stakes are high and the agency needs to get it right.

Neltner should know. He served on the expert panel advising the EPA National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) which looked at the rule’s flaws. For example, EPA’s original “lead action level” was based on whether or not corrosion control was working and not on the health risk. The group Neltner served on recommended establishing a new health-based “household action level” that will empower people to make informed choices about how to manage their risk to lead hazards in water. In February 2015, EPA agreed to develop an estimated level for the panel to consider. Given the consumer’s need for the number as a result of Flint, EDF has urged that the agency move quickly to release the household action level.

EPA has indicated the lead rule update will be issued in 2017. But with bipartisan Hill support and a new Presidential Administration on the horizon, many are anxious to see it move faster.

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