EDF Health

The growing crisis over PFCs: A clear example of the need for EPA’s IRIS Program

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

As I blogged about earlier, the FY2018 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill posted in November by the Senate Appropriations committee majority would eliminate EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. Located within the research arm of EPA, this non-regulatory program produces top-tier chemical hazard assessments used not only by multiple regulatory offices within EPA, but also by other federal agencies, regions, and states. IRIS chemical assessments, and the scientists that develop them, are relied on to support a broad range of core environmental decisions from setting clean-up levels at contaminated sites to evaluating health risks of chemicals in commerce and setting standards to ensure clean air and drinking water.

The widespread contamination of drinking water with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)—chemicals that stick around in the environment for years and years—is a timely example of just how critical scientists within IRIS and related EPA research programs are. Across the country, governments are grappling with how to manage contamination from well-known toxic PFCs, like PFOA and PFOS, while simultaneously trying to understand potential health risks from a plethora of other less well-studied PFCs like GenX.

So what’s the job of EPA IRIS in a situation like this? Read More »

Posted in Drinking Water, EPA, Health Science / Tagged | Comments are closed

Senate funding proposal to eliminate EPA’s IRIS program is a public health debacle

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Among other things, IRIS chemical reviews are used to inform clean-up decisions at Superfund and other contaminated sites, set standards to ensure clean drinking water, assess health risks from toxic air emissions, and evaluate health risks of chemicals in commerce. These are all legally mandated activities stipulated under different laws to ensure the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the lands where we work, live, and play are safe.

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Appropriations majority posted their version of the FY2018 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill online (see bill here and accompanying explanatory statement here; see the minority’s summary response here). The legislation lays out spending measures for a number of agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In releasing the bill yesterday, the majority has bypassed the amendment and markup process.

Among other cuts, the bill eliminates the EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program. At best a small fraction of its responsibilities – and only one-third of its funding – would be re-allocated to the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP).

If realized, this short-sighted move would be a debacle in terms of protecting public health from harmful chemical exposures.

[A short fact sheet on IRIS and implications of eliminating it is available here.]

Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence / Comments are closed

EPA’s ban on high-risk uses of trichloroethylene needs to get over the finish line

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Trichloroethylene, or TCE for short, is a very toxic chemical. No doubt about it. Among other health effects, TCE is known to cause cancer and interfere with development.  It is also toxic to the immune system and kidneys. While the vast majority of TCE in the U.S. is used to make other chemicals (i.e., is used as a chemical intermediate), approximately 15% of TCE has other commercial and consumer purposes, including as a metal degreaser and spot cleaning agent.

Over the past several years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a hard look at exposures and potential health risks—including to workers, consumers, and bystanders—resulting from certain commercial and consumer uses of TCE. It found clearly excessive risks from these uses, which prompted the agency to take steps to reduce these exposures.

In December 2016, using its authority under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA proposed a rule to ban the use of TCE as an aerosol degreaser and as a spot cleaning agent in commercial dry cleaning facilities—marking the first time in nearly 3 decades it has tried to restrict a chemical under TSCA. A second proposed rule to ban the use of TCE as a vapor degreaser followed a month later in January 2017 and is undergoing public comment.

The public comment period on the first TCE proposed rule closed recently. EDF filed extensive comments urging the agency to finalize the rule as soon as possible.

Highlights of our comments are below:   Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Tagged , | Comments are closed

EPA proposes second rule to ban more uses of toxic TCE

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took another significant step yesterday to protect against exposures to the highly toxic chemical, trichloroethylene (TCE), proposing a rule to ban its use as a vapor degreaser.

The proposed rule is the second issued under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended by last year’s Lautenberg Act.  It follows on EPA’s proposed rule last month to ban the use of TCE as an aerosol degreaser and spot cleaning agent in dry cleaning facilities. Both proposed rules on TCE are critical to protecting consumer and worker health from the harmful effects of TCE and should move swiftly toward finalization.   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, TSCA Reform / Tagged , | Comments are closed

With TCE, EPA proposes first toxic chemical ban in 27 years under TSCA

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Today, EPA issued a proposed rule to ban uses of trichloroethylene (TCE) as a spot cleaning agent in dry cleaning and as an aerosol spray degreaser in commercial and consumer settings. This marks the first time in 27 years EPA is proposing to restrict the use of a chemical and represents a significant milestone under the Lautenberg Act.

Read More »

Posted in EPA / Tagged , | Comments are closed

Major Strides: Walmart Details Progress on Chemicals

Boma Brown-West is a Manager, Consumer Health Corporate Partnerships Program and Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program

In 2013, Walmart published its Sustainable Chemistry Policy, which focuses on ingredient transparency and advancing safer product formulations in household and personal care products. EDF worked with Walmart as it developed its policy and has advised the company during implementation and data analysis.

This past April, Walmart announced that the company achieved a 95% reduction by weight in the use of high priority chemicals of concern. Today, Walmart shared considerable additional information detailing the progress made, including the identities of the initial high priority chemicals. Let’s unpack this.

Read More »

Posted in Uncategorized / Comments are closed