EDF Health

EPA’s new chemical review process: A thought experiment

Two metal gears meshing. The one on the top says "process." The one on the bottom says "optimization."

Note: This is the last in our 6-part series of blogs on EPA’s proposed changes to its new chemical review process. See below under Go Deeper for links to the other blogs in the series.

In our previous blogs in this multipart series, we have focused on some of the major changes we believe EPA needs to make in its review process for new chemicals—and how EPA could propose regulations to make those reviews safer.

In this post, we want to walk you through why EPA must set rules that protect us from all the ways that a chemical is likely to be used. Read More »

Posted in Chemical regulation, Congress, Cumulative risk assessment, Risk assessment, Risk evaluation, Rules/Regulations, TSCA / Authors: / Comments are closed

EPA: Now’s your chance to get foxes out of the henhouse

Rooster facing fox on a black background

NOTE: This is the second in a series about EPA’s regulation of new chemicals.

What Happened?

EPA recently proposed new regulations for its safety reviews of new chemicals under our nation’s main chemicals law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). With this action, the agency has a big chance to solve major problems that have undermined scientific integrity, transparency, and public confidence in EPA’s ability to ensure the safety of new chemicals. Unfortunately, the proposed regulation that EPA put out for comment this year falls far short of this goal.

EDF has joined with other organizations, including AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Resources Defense Council, in a letter urging EPA to make fundamental changes (PDF, 178KB) to these proposed regulations. One of the most important is this: the agency should end its longstanding practice of sharing about the risks of new chemicals with only the companies that make them—and allowing those companies to dispute the results.

Read More »

Posted in Chemical regulation, Industry influence, TSCA / Tagged , , , , , | Authors: / Read 1 Response

Carts Before Horses: Vinyl Institute Calls For EPA To Evaluate Risk Without Data

Horse attached to the wrong end of the cart. Caption says "Whose bright idea was this again?"

What’s New?

Yesterday, (March 27), EDF—together with the National Wildlife Federation—filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case of Vinyl Institute v. EPA. We expressed our support for EPA’s authority to order companies to 1) Conduct health and safety studies for their chemicals and 2) Turn over those test data to EPA when the agency is evaluating risks the chemicals may pose to humans, wildlife, or the environment.

The Vinyl Institute, which lobbies for companies making vinyl chloride and other chemicals used to make PVC plastic, disagrees. It brought a case against EPA on behalf of its members, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, to overturn EPA’s order to test 1,1,2-trichloroethane—a chemical known to harm living beings.

Why It Matters

This case could affect EPA’s ability to order companies to conduct health and safety studies for their chemicals, and, by extension, the agency’s ability to regulate those chemicals. Our brief to the court examines the history that led Congress to grant EPA authority to issue test orders and explains why it is critical for EPA to retain this authority.

The Backstory

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the nation’s primary chemical law, was first enacted in 1976. For decades afterwards, EPA managed to collect test data for only a few chemicals; in some years, EPA collected no test data from companies at all.

The original TSCA law required EPA to go through lengthy procedures and make risk determinations about a chemical before it could seek any data from companies. Members of Congress recognized this was a no-win position for EPA and tried for many years to change the law. In 2016, Congress enacted major bipartisan reforms to TSCA, giving EPA power to order companies to test their chemicals when the agency needs data to complete risk evaluations of those substances. This change was lauded by members of Congress and many others as one of the most important improvements to TSCA.

The Current Case

EPA has designated 1,1,2-trichloroethane as a “high priority” for risk evaluation and possible regulation under TSCA. The agency issued the test order because it has some data indicating that the chemical is toxic to birds—but EPA needs more information on just how toxic it is to understand the risks. The Vinyl Institute essentially argued that EPA should have shown the risk to birds before it issued a test order—a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

On behalf of several multibillion-dollar companies, which produce vinyl chloride and are part of the case, the Vinyl Institute also complained about the cost of the test.

What’s Next?

The court will review the briefs and issue a decision. In the meantime, chemical companies are challenging other EPA testing orders in court, and we are keeping a close eye on those cases. We will continue supporting EPA’s ability to exercise the authority Congress gave it–along with the ability to gather the information it needs to understand how chemicals pose risks to us and the environment and it can take the actions necessary to protect us.

Go Deeper

Read the briefs for the case Vinyl Institute v. EPA:

Posted in Industry influence, Public health, TSCA / Authors: / Comments are closed

Companies are not withdrawing PFAS exemptions on their own; EPA should

Samantha Liskow, Lead Counsel, Healthy Communities; and Lauren Ellis, Research Analyst, Environmental Health

EPA has committed to address the urgent issues presented by PFAS, a harmful class of human-made chemicals that are used widely in everyday products. Last July, as part of this effort, EPA called on companies to voluntarily withdraw some 600 PFAS that were previously allowed onto the market through a fast-track exemption process known as a “low volume exemption” (LVE).

Nearly a year later, however, less than 3% of these low volume per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been pulled from the market. That means manufacturers in the U.S. could still be making PFAS that never went through a full safety review – possibly millions of pounds each year. Read More »

Posted in Public health / Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

Changes for the better: EPA looks out for workers in revised risk finding for HBCD

By Samantha Liskow, Lead Counsel, Health

EPA has started to fulfill its promise to take another look at many of the chemical risk findings made during the Trump Administration. First up was “HBCD,” a collection of flame retardants present in many goods, including building insulation, furniture, and electronics. In its revised risk determination for the chemical EPA proposed important changes that are needed to protect health and the environment and are required under TSCA, our main federal law on chemical safety.

We highlighted these positive steps in our comments to the agency and urged EPA to formalize these changes when it releases its final revised risk determination for HBCD and other chemicals undergoing reevaluation.

Here is a look at the changes EPA made: Read More »

Posted in TSCA reform, Worker safety / Tagged , , , , , | Read 2 Responses