EDF Health

EPA’s approach to 1,4-dioxane falls short of protecting fenceline communities

Clear water pouring from a pitcher into a glass.What’s New?

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) embarked on a critical Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) supplemental risk evaluation of 1,4-dioxane [PDF, 8.7MB]– a highly carcinogenic chemical that contaminates drinking water supplies across the country and is present in products, such as cleaning supplies and personal care products.

This draft supplemental risk evaluation represents a significant step forward because it addresses many of the omissions from the original 1,4-dioxane risk evaluation. Unfortunately, as we noted in our comments to EPA, a closer examination reveals several shortcomings in how EPA addresses risks to fenceline communities—people living, playing, and working near industrial facilities that release toxic chemicals into the air and water. Read More »

Also posted in Chemical regulation, Cumulative impact, Cumulative risk assessment, TSCA / Tagged , , | Authors: , / Read 1 Response

New guidelines to inform EPA’s approach to cumulative risk

What’s New?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released and solicited public comments on its draft Cumulative Risk Assessment (CRA) Guidelines for Planning and Problem Formulation. The purpose of a CRA is to determine the combined health and/or environmental risks from multiple stressors and chemicals that can cause the same harms. These guidelines, intended to be applied to all of EPA’s programs and regions, describe how the agency will determine when to use CRAs and the steps it will take to plan them.

Why It Matters

Currently, many EPA programs assess the health and environmental risks of single chemicals, without considering the multiple chemicals that cause the same harms and non-chemical stressors we are exposed to every day. Assessing risks cumulatively, and making regulatory decisions based on this, represents real-world exposures more accurately than single-chemical stressor risk assessments. Read More »

Also posted in Cumulative impact, Cumulative risk assessment, Health policy, Public health, TSCA, Vulnerable populations / Tagged , , | Authors: / Comments are closed

Fatally Flawed: EDF & partners call on EPA to revoke approval for new chemicals with shocking health risks

 

 

A sepia-toned image showing a factory with dark smoke billowing out of multiple smokestacks.

What Happened?

EDF and other environmental groups recently asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw the approval it issued for a group of new chemicals. This approval, also known as a consent order, allows Chevron to create fuels at its refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi, by using oils produced through a process of superheating plastic waste to break it down (a process known as pyrolysis). The consent order also allows for the use of these fuels derived from waste plastic at more than 100 locations. ProPublica published an article on the issue on August 4, 2023.

Why It Matters

EPA is required by law to provide protections against unreasonable risks posed by new chemicals. But in the consent order EPA approved the production and use of these new chemicals despite significant health risks. One of the chemicals posed a 1 in 4 risk of developing cancer for people exposed to it. Another chemical carried risks of a 7 in 100 cancer risk from eating fish contaminated by it and a greater than 1.3 in 1 cancer risk from inhaling it.

When asked about the shockingly high cancer risks it estimated, EPA claimed its cancer risk assumptions were overly conservative but failed to provide any information about what it believes are the actual risks and pointed to undefined controls under other laws as controlling the risks.

Until now, the acceptable risk standard for cancer in the general population has been 1 in 1,000,000. The risk levels EPA identified are up to 1,000,000 times greater than that. Read More »

Also posted in Adverse health effects, Chemical regulation, Frontline communities, Health hazards, Health policy, Industry influence, Risk assessment, Risk evaluation, TSCA, Vulnerable populations / Tagged , , , , | Authors: / Comments are closed

EPA Should Use U.S. Chemical Safety Law to Turn Off PFAS Tap

The word

PFAS is a group of synthetic chemicals used in industrial processes and consumer products, including water-repellent clothing, such as outdoor wear, and food packaging. Once these “forever chemicals” are produced and used, they often make their way into the environment and our bodies. Many pose serious threats due to their toxic effects (often at trace levels) and their ability to build up in people, animals and the environment. Studies show that they are in almost all of us.

To make matters worse, people are exposed to multiple PFAS, not individual PFAS in isolation. Yet under the nation’s primary chemical safety law, EPA evaluates the safety of PFAS chemicals one at a time and does not consider the combined risks from exposures to multiple PFAS. Combined exposures increase the risk of harmful effects, thus magnifying the risks and the need for action.

Current Situation: All Costs, No Benefits

PFAS move easily throughout the environment and are difficult to destroy. They have contaminated drinking water, food, farms, wildlife, and the environment more broadly. At the local, state and federal levels, the U.S. is spending millions of dollars to clean up PFAS contamination. Some states, such as Michigan and Maine, are trying to recoup the costs their residents have had to bear to clean-up PFAS contamination of their water and land. The federal government is also taking action to address the widespread PFAS contamination. The costs for cleaning up PFAS contamination are imposed on society by the domestic producers, importers and users of PFAS who profit from their production and use.

Yet, despite the well-documented risks and costs to society of these chemicals, companies still continue to produce, import, and use PFAS. It is time to ban all PFAS or—if there are truly essential uses for these chemicals—limit how they are produced, imported and used so that their impact on us and the environment is minimal.

Urgent Need: Revisit, Reassess, and Regulate All PFAS

While EPA has recently tightened up approvals for new PFAS entering the market, it has yet to take significant action on those that are already on the market, which includes the hundreds of PFAS the agency approved over the past few decades. It is clear these PFAS have not been produced responsibly as demonstrated by the environmental contamination associated with many of the PFAS manufacturing facilities. And yet, many of these PFAS are still on the market. They are being produced and released into the environment, are in products we use every day, and continue to contaminate us and our environment.

Many of EPA’s approvals were made 10 to 20 years ago, before we had a full picture of the pervasiveness and degree of PFAS contamination. The data on the extent of the environmental contamination of these persistent PFAS, their ability to move through the environment, and the significant difficulty in destroying them was not as robust as it is today. Furthermore, mounting evidence shows that even trace levels of PFAS can cause developmental issues in children, reduced fertility, hormonal disruptions, and certain types of cancer.

In addition, these approvals did not consider risks to vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and children as currently required by the law. Many communities are exposed to multiple PFAS, particularly those who live, work and play near where PFAS are made and used.

Addressing the production, import and use of PFAS would limit further pollution of our water supplies, safeguard the health of our communities, and be consistent with other strong EPA actions to address PFAS, including its recent robust proposed drinking water standards.

Effective regulation of these harmful chemicals at their source would also accelerate efforts to seek out and adopt safer alternatives. Leaving chemicals with such well-documented harms on the market makes it more difficult for innovative, safer substitutes to enter it. Failing to address these risks in effect puts a thumb on the scale in support of older harmful technologies.

Our Take

EPA should re-evaluate each of the PFAS it has approved. During that re-evaluation, EPA should use the best available science and consider the full picture of PFAS exposure. Considering each PFAS in isolation rather than the multiple PFAS people, particularly those in vulnerable groups, are exposed to will underestimate their risk.

EPA should use the Toxic Substances Control Act to take action to ban these legacy PFAS, or restrict them if the uses are truly essential, rather than continuing to allow the production, import and use of these demonstrably harmful “forever chemicals.”

Go Deeper

Learn more about EDF’s concerns about PFAS and read our follow-up blog  on how EPA can use TSCA to turn off the PFAS tap.

EPA’s information on PFAS

Also posted in Chemical regulation, Contamination, Cumulative impact, Cumulative risk assessment, Emerging testing methods, Food, Food packaging, Health hazards, Health science, PFAS, Public health, Risk assessment, Risk evaluation, TSCA, Vulnerable populations / Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Authors: / Comments are closed

Monitoring our chemical exposures: Five lessons learned and what’s on the horizon

Lindsay McCormick, is a Project Manager.

Last October, a groundbreaking report concluded that diseases caused by pollution were responsible for 1 in 6 premature deaths in 2015 worldwide.  That’s 9 million deaths caused by environmental pollution – three times more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.

That may seem startling at first, but health outcomes are largely defined by a person’s genes and their environment.  In fact, environmental factors – like ambient and household air pollution, industrial chemicals, and common consumer products – are implicated in health impacts ranging from cancer and asthma to infertility.

Unfortunately, our ability to track an individual’s chemical exposures – also called the “chemical exposome” – lags way behind what we can measure genetically.  And without this information, it is virtually impossible to develop sound policies and evidence-based interventions to reduce harmful exposures and protect health.

But what if everyone could monitor hazardous chemical exposures? What if school children, soldiers, pregnant women, flight attendants, nail salon workers, gas attendants, and those living within just a few miles of industrial sites – or just about anyone – could understand chemical exposures in their personal environment?

This is where EDF comes in. EDF is exploring ways to catalyze development and scaling of breakthrough technologies capable of detecting an individual’s exposure to a broad spectrum of chemicals—making the invisible, visible.

Our efforts began three years ago, with a series of pilot projects in which people wore a simple silicone wristband capable of detecting over 1,400 chemicals in the environment. Today, we’re collaborating with diverse stakeholders to identify needs and opportunities for accelerating broad uptake of chemical exposure monitoring technologies. Below are five important lessons to jump-start this opportunity. Read More »

Also posted in Emerging science, Emerging testing methods / Tagged | Authors: / Comments are closed