EDF Health

Mapping Lead: Ohio issues map of properties with known lead hazards

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals Initiative, and Roya Alkafaji, Manager, Healthy Communities

What Happened: The Ohio Department of Health published an interactive map showing almost 1,200 properties whose owners have refused to comply with an order to correct known lead-based paint hazards. As a result, the Department has declared these properties are unsafe to live in until the hazards have been remediated.

Why It Matters: The availability of address-specific information is important to engage residents, potential home buyers, and renters so they can make better informed decisions about protecting their families from harmful lead exposure. Ohio is the second state after New Jersey that we’re aware of to move beyond neighborhood-level mapping of lead risks to provide specific information at the address level.

Currently, the map doesn’t include information on the locations of lead service lines in Ohio, which are the main source of lead in drinking water. We anticipate the State will make this information available when the drinking water utilities submit the data to Ohio EPA in October 2024.

In the meantime, we encourage Ohio state agencies to add more information on sources of lead exposure, such as lead service lines, lead-contaminated soil, and nearby commercial operations that release lead, as well as details on lead poisoning prevention requirements. By doing so, the map will become a critical tool in the effort to comprehensively consider lead risks and drive exposure closer to zero.

Our Take: The mapping project is another example of leadership on preventing lead poisoning. Other states should consider adopting similar mapping projects to benefit their residents.

Go Deeper: Our Mapping Lead blog series highlights ways in which interactive, address-level maps help families and communities take action to reduce lead exposure. If you are interested in learning more about what a lead exposure map like Ohio’s or New Jersey’s could look like in your community take a look at existing maps:


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Mapping Lead: New Jersey State map as a backbone for real progress on lead

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals Initiative and Roya Alkafaji, Manager, Healthy Communities

What Happened: The State of New Jersey published an interactive map showing potential sources of lead exposure for any given address in the state. Currently, the map specifically looks at lead-based paint in housing, though the State has plans to expand this to include other sources of lead, including drinking water from lead service lines (LSLs).

Why It Matters: The availability of address-specific information is important to engage residents, potential home buyers, and renters so they can make better informed decisions about protecting their families from harmful lead exposure. New Jersey is the first state to move beyond neighborhood-level mapping of lead risks to provide specific information about lead at the address level.

The map uses housing age as an indicator to assess risk to lead exposure, which is an excellent place to start because it is relevant to the prevalence of both lead-based paint and lead in drinking water.

As more information is added on lead pipes, lead-contaminated soil, and nearby commercial operations that release lead, as well as details on lead poisoning prevention requirements, the map will become a critical tool in the effort to comprehensively consider lead risks and drive exposure closer to zero.

Source: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Potential Lead Exposure Mapping (click on Lead-based paint tab at the top and zoom in until you see parcel-level detail with color overlays)

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Lead Pipe Replacement: EPA changes state shares of funding

Lindsay McCormick, Senior Manager, Safer Chemicals, Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals and Roya Alkafaji, Manager, Healthy Communities

What Happened?

Earlier this month, EPA announced an updated formula it will use to allocate federal funds for lead service line (LSL) replacements. This new formula will be based on each state’s expected needs, as determined by a 2021 survey of state and water utility estimates.

Why It Matters

EPA’s distribution of the first of five years of the historic $15 billion dedicated to LSL replacement from the Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act (IIJA) was not necessarily going to states and communities that needed it most.

Many water utilities rely on the State Revolving Fund (SRF) program to build and maintain their drinking water infrastructure. EPA funds SRF programs each year and their previous formula to determine allocations was based on a 2015 survey of estimated drinking water infrastructure funding needs including LSL replacement – putting populous states like California at the top of the list. However, a 2016 article by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) showed LSLs are most heavily concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast, in states like Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and New Jersey.

With EPA’s new formula, each state’s need, based on its estimated number of LSLs, will be used to distribute the next four years of IIJA funding for LSL replacement. This is a critical step to ensure that the system for distributing federal funds is functioning equitably and funds go to those communities with the greatest needs.

Projected Number of Lead Services Lines by State–2023

But wait…what’s going on in Florida and Texas?

When we dug into the details, there was one surprise in particular. Florida’s level of funding has increased a whopping 228%, based on a new estimate that the state has 1.2 million LSLs – more than any other state – and that about one in every six of its service lines is an LSL. Based on the age of infrastructure in the state, we think that this number is a gross overestimate. If we’re right, other states will get shorted on their share of LSL-replacement funding.

At first blush, data from Texas also caught our eye. The state reported almost 650,000 LSLs – up from 270,000 in the AWWA survey. But in contrast to Florida, this means Texas is claiming that only 5% of all its services lines are LSLs. Overall, Texas’ funding under the new formula will decrease by one-third.

What’s Next?

Starting this federal fiscal year (October 1, 2023), states will receive their new allocations of IIJA funding for LSL replacement. We’ll continue to monitor the funding flowing into each state for the critical task of getting the lead out, especially in communities that need it most. For states like Florida that may be in line for more than their fair share, we’ll be monitoring where those dollars are going.

Want to learn more?

Check out EPA’s detailed factsheet: 7th Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment

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PFAS: EPA’s proposed notification requirements are a positive step, but exemptions will cause harm

Maria Doa, PhD, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy

The Good News

Using its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA proposed a rule that would require companies to notify the agency before they produce or import a PFAS “forever chemical” that has not been used commercially since 2006.

These notifications are crucial because resuming production or import of these toxic chemicals would expose people to harm. The notification gives EPA an opportunity to evaluate these PFAS to determine if exposure during their lifecycle—production or import, distribution in commerce, industrial, commercial and/or consumer use, and disposal—is likely to pose an “unreasonable risk” to people or the environment.

The Not-So-Good News

EPA is proposing to exempt some parts of the PFAS lifecycle from the notification requirement if the PFAS are:

  • Part of certain types of products EPA designates as “articles”—such as carpets.
  • Impurities.
  • Byproducts used as fuels or disposed of as waste, including in a landfill or for enriching soil.

EPA also asked if it should go a step further by broadening the exemption and completely exempting the PFAS if they are byproducts with no commercial purpose on their own.

Why It Matters

Exempting any part of the PFAS lifecycle from EPA’s evaluation will result in PFAS exposure—no ifs, ands or buts. This is a big problem because small amounts of these chemicals can cause harm, and many PFAS remain in our bodies for months—or even years.

Our Take

In our comments on the proposed rule, Environmental Defense Fund said that because of the well-documented harms caused by PFAS, EPA should not allow exemptions.

The impurities and articles exemptions could have a significant impact. PFAS impurities can end up in both commercial and consumer goods (like cleaning products), leading to exposure when people use them, or unintentionally release them into the environment. PFAS can also leach out of articles through handling or weathering—exposing us and our environment.

The byproduct exemptions could have an even more significant impact. The broader exemption for PFAS produced “as a byproduct with no commercial purpose” is basically the same exemption that allowed the notorious Gen-X to be produced and released for years without any controls—contaminating the Cape Fear River and impacting the health and welfare of its residents. EPA should not allow this to happen with other PFAS.

In addition, EPA should not allow a narrower byproduct exemption either, as it would still exempt PFAS applied to soil for “enrichment” or burned as fuel. “Enriching” soil with PFAS-contaminated waste can pollute the land (including farmland), affecting the livelihood of farmers, the animals that graze on the land, and the food we eat. Burning it as a fuel is also likely to release PFAS into the air because the chemicals are so difficult to destroy.

These exemptions also are at odds with other EPA actions to address PFAS contamination, such as its recent strong and scientifically robust proposed drinking water standards.

What’s Next?

EPA should not allow any exemptions for these PFAS. EPA should ensure that it has the opportunity to review these PFAS and identify any unreasonable risks before they reenter the marketplace. Only by addressing PFAS early in the lifecycle can we limit the contamination and health harms they cause.

Posted in Frontline communities, Health hazards, Public Health, TSCA / Authors: / Read 2 Responses

European Food Safety Authority reaffirms that BPA uses for food are not safe. Where is FDA?

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals, and Maricel Maffini, consultant

Warning message written in bold red letters with words Bisphenol A Exposure. 3d illustration.

What Happened?

Today, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) finalized its Re-evaluation of the Risks to Public Health Related to the Presence of Bisphenol A (BPA) in Foodstuffs report. After considering public comments on its November 2021 draft, the agency reaffirmed its conclusion that Europeans of all ages are exposed to BPA at levels 100 to 1,000 times greater than EFSA considers to be safe.

Why It Matters

EFSA found that consumers’ dietary exposure should be less than 0.2 nanograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day (ng/kg-bw/day) to protect their immune systems from harm.1 Although EFSA didn’t analyze the reality for U.S. consumers, we used FDA’s 2014 estimated dietary exposure for BPA (the most recent available) to calculate that Americans’ exposure is 1,000 times greater than what EFSA deems safe.

Our Take

EFSA’s analysis is primarily based on scientific evidence that FDA had not considered in previous reviews. With the final report in place, EFSA has completed a rigorous, transparent, and comprehensive risk assessment. FDA now has no excuse for delaying action on a food additive petition submitted by EDF and our partners that the agency agreed to consider on May 2, 2022. That petition requested that FDA revoke its approvals for using BPA in adhesives and can coatings and set strict limits on using it in plastic that contacts food. FDA has not yet responded.

EFSA’s Conclusions

EFSA found that extremely low exposures to BPA can lead to an overactive immune system producing out-of-control inflammation. BPA was also associated with disrupting the endocrine system, harming reproduction, and reducing learning and memory. The immune system was most sensitive to BPA exposure.

After calculating a safe level of BPA—known as TDI (tolerable daily intake)—that would prevent anticipated harm, EFSA compared it against the estimated dietary exposure of the European population. The agency concluded that “both the mean and the 95th percentile dietary exposures in all age groups exceeded the TDI by two to three orders of magnitude.”

Putting BPA New Safe Level in Context

EFSA’s safe dose of 0.2 ng/kg-bw/day is extremely low. It may be useful to compare it to exposure from drinking water. For an adult weighing 120-pounds who drinks 2 liters of water a day, it would take only 1.2 parts per trillion of BPA to exceed the safe level.2

Next Steps

We will press FDA to act with greater urgency on our overdue petition. We are also looking at whether there is increased risk to communities near where BPA is made or processed.


1 The limit was 0.04 ng/kg-bw/day in the draft EFSA report.

2 0.2 ng/kg-bw/day * 60 kg / 2 liters = 1.2 ng/L = 1.2 ppt. This does not account for other sources of BPA in the diet.



Posted in BPA, EFSA, Emerging Science, Emerging Testing Methods, Environment, FDA, Health Science, Public Health / Tagged , , , | Authors: , / Read 1 Response

National Teflon Day—Seriously?!

What’s National Teflon Day?

According to National Day Calendar, yesterday (April 6th) was “National Teflon Day”—a day to “celebrate” the accidental discovery in 1938 of a chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE for short)—better known by the product it became associated with, Teflon™.

Two 3D emoji rolling their eyes.

Teflon™ is PFAS Wrapped in a Bow

PTFE, the main component of Teflon™, is a fluorinated polymer that belongs to the PFAS chemical class—aka “forever chemicals.” PTFE is extremely heat- and stick-resistant—properties that lend themselves to a variety of uses, ranging from nonstick pans to semiconductors.

While some argue that PTFE itself does not present a health risk when used properly, the harms of PTFE become clear when you look across the chemical’s lifecycle—particularly the ways it’s produced and how it’s disposed of.

The Harms of PTFE Production

Harmful PFAS are used to produce PTFE and are also byproducts of the production process—exposing workers and surrounding communities.

PFOA—a notoriously toxic PFAS linked to cancer and heart disease—was used to manufacture PTFE for decades. In response to public pressure to phase out PFOA due to its harms, companies created other PFAS to replace PFOA—such as GenX, which has similar health effects as its predecessor. In addition to these harmful inputs, toxic PFAS byproducts are also created and released during the manufacturing of PTFE.

Decades of manufacturing PTFE have led to widespread PFAS contamination of our environment and our bodies.

The Harms of PTFE Disposal

At the end of the chemical lifecycle, fluoropolymers like PTFE may end up in a landfill—say, when you throw away your old Teflon™ pan. Over time, particles begin to disintegrate, leading to contamination of landfill liquids with PFAS that can then make their way into soil and drinking water.

Waste containing PTFE may also be incinerated. Burning of any type of PFAS is known to generate many other harmful PFAS—including potent greenhouse gases, such as tetrafluoromethane (which has a warming potential 6,500 times that of carbon dioxide).

Next Steps

Given the public health and climate effects of PTFE throughout its lifecycle, the next steps are clear: 1) Stop producing PTFE and other fluoropolymers for uses where there are clear alternatives; and 2) Stop celebrating the discovery of Teflon™ and the explosion of PFAS products (and pollution) that followed.

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