EDF Health

First things first: vinyl chloride data updates and our case for stronger evaluations

NOTE: This is the first of a series about EPA’s prioritization of existing chemicals. 

 What Happened? 

EPA recently announced it had initiated the prioritization process for five chemicals for upcoming risk evaluation.  One of the chemicals, vinyl chloride, is a highly toxic chemical known to cause liver toxicity and liver cancer in humans. The other four chemicals are also carcinogens and cause other toxic effects such as harms to pregnant women and infants.  

We have added these five chemicals to our Chemical Exposure Action Map. Our map shows releases of TSCA high priority chemicals, focusing on three major categories of health harms from cumulative exposure to these chemicals: cancer, developmental harm, and asthma.  U.S. map showing chemical facilities across the nationWhy It Matters 

Prioritizing a chemical as high priority is a key step in the process of evaluating and managing its unreasonable risks under TSCA.  The factors and data that EPA considers when prioritizing chemicals affects whether EPA designates a chemical as a high priority and how effectively the Agency will be able to assess its risks, especially to more highly exposed individuals and those more susceptible to the chemicals, like fenceline communities. 

We support the designation of these five chemicals, particularly vinyl chloride, as high-priority chemicals for evaluation.  However, as we explain in our recent comments, EPA can improve its prioritization process to consider the more real-world risks faced by people who are more highly impacted by these toxic chemicals.   

 Our Take 

EPA can improve its prioritization in two important ways.  

First, EPA should systematically prioritize chemicals released or used together that cause the same toxic harms.  Considering the cumulative risk posed by chemicals that cause the same harm provides a more complete and real-world picture of the risks fenceline communities face because exposure to multiple chemicals causing the same or similar health harms increases the risk of serious health problems.  

 Second, in prioritizing chemicals and evaluating the risks from these chemicals, EPA should consider exposures from accidental releases, including transportation accidents such as from the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment.  In the past, EPA has generally not considered these exposures despite the significant contributions they can have to the chemical’s risk. 

EPA has a major opportunity to improve its prioritization and evaluation processes so that it can develop a fuller picture of the risks posed by toxic chemicals. This would provide the Agency with the basis to develop regulations that will more fully protect human health and the environment, including for those people at greatest potential risk, like fenceline communities.  

What’s Next? 

EPA is now in the process of determining whether vinyl chloride and the other four chemicals the Agency is assessing should be designated as high priority chemicals.  If they are designated as high priority, EPA will begin risk evaluations for these chemicals.   

In our next post, we will recommend ways EPA can improve its prioritization process by incorporating cumulative risk analyses and considerations. 

Also posted in Chemical exposure, Risk evaluation / Authors: / Comments are closed

Unveiling EDF’s Chemical Exposure Action Map

U.S. map showing chemical facilities across the nationWhat’s New

Today, we are excited to introduce the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) latest initiative—the Chemical Exposure Action Map. This tool is designed to spur the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to transform the assessment of risks posed by toxic chemicals in our communities.

Our map focuses on multiple high-priority chemicals—making visible the urgent and long-overdue need to assess the risks of chemicals together as they exist in the real-world. Unlike many current methods that look at risks one chemical at a time, our map offers a comprehensive view, highlighting the potential for cumulative risks from multiple high-priority chemicals.

Why It Matters

In a world where industrial facilities expose communities to multiple harmful chemicals daily, many have long called for a cumulative approach to assessing the risks from these chemicals. It is crucial that we wait no longer to reassess how we evaluate the health risks they pose.

Pregnant Latine woman gazing lovingly at young daughter who is hugging her belly.

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Also posted in Adverse health effects, Carcinogenic, Chemical exposure, Chemical regulation, Cumulative impact, Developmental toxicity, Health hazards, Health policy, Public health, Regulation, Risk assessment, Risk evaluation, TSCA, Vulnerable populations / Tagged , , , , , , | Authors: , / Comments are closed

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 »

Also posted in Chemical regulation, Congress, Risk assessment, Risk evaluation, Rules/Regulations, TSCA / Authors: / Comments are closed

Now’s the Time—How EPA can use TSCA to turn off the PFAS tap

Faucet with the word PFAS flowing out of it

In the face of mounting evidence about the dangers posed by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), one thing is clear: EPA needs to take urgent action to turn off the tap of these “forever chemicals” that have long-term consequences for our health and the environment.

As we discussed in a previous blog, it is imperative that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) use the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to regulate PFAS chemicals comprehensively—both those newly entering the market and those that have been in circulation for decades.

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Also posted in Chemical exposure, Chemical regulation, Cumulative impact, Drinking water, Emerging science, Health policy, PFAS, Public health, Regulation, Risk assessment, Risk evaluation, TSCA, TSCA reform, Vulnerable populations, Worker safety / Tagged , , | Authors: / Read 2 Responses

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 exposure, Chemical regulation, Cumulative impact, 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 Chemical exposure, Cumulative impact, Health policy, Public health, TSCA, Vulnerable populations / Tagged , , | Authors: / Comments are closed