EDF Health

Why are four notorious carcinogens approved by FDA for food?

By Liora Fiksel, Project Manager, Healthy Communities, and Lisa Lefferts, Environmental Health Consultant

Pregnant woman rests a cup of coffee on her belly.

While exposure data are scant, people who are choosing decaf coffee during pregnancy or for other health reasons may not realize that some popular brands contain methylene chloride.

What’s Happening?

On December 21, 2023, FDA filed a food-additive petition and a color-additive petition submitted by EDF and partners that asks FDA to revoke its approval for four carcinogenic chemicals approved for use in food.

There is broad agreement that benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), methylene chloride, and ethylene dichloride are carcinogenic,1 and federal law2 is clear: additives that cause cancer in humans or animals are not considered “safe.” All the chemicals have been identified as causing cancer in humans or animals since the 1970s and 1980s.3 Read More »

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EPA’s TCE ban: A vital step for public health

We only have until December 15, 2023, to show EPA we support
a full and rapid ban of all uses of TCE.

Take Action: Tell EPA–Ban TCE Now

What Happened?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently taken a significant step in safeguarding public health by proposing new regulations under our nation’s primary chemicals law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that would protect people from exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE), a highly toxic chemical that causes serious health risks. The proposed rule would ban the production, import, processing, and distribution in commerce for all uses of TCE.

Yet, despite the known dangers of TCE and the undeniable scientific evidence supporting the need for this action, the chemical industry is trying to undermine this critical regulation by incorrectly claiming the proposed rule is “inconsistent with the science.” Read More »

Also posted in Adverse health effects, Chemical exposure, Chemical regulation, Developmental toxicity, Industry influence, Neurotoxicity, Public health, Reproductive toxicity, Rules/Regulations, TSCA / Tagged , , | Authors: / Read 1 Response

Unleaded Food: FDA acts quickly on contaminated applesauce

What’s Happening?

The North Carolina Departments of Health & Human Services and Agriculture & Consumer Services identified WanaBana cinnamon applesauce pouches as a source for elevated blood lead levels in multiple children. They found extraordinarily high concentrations of lead (1,900- 5,100 ppb) in the products, leading to the identification of at least 34 cases of elevated blood lead levels across 22 states to date.

On October 28, 2023, FDA issued a safety alert advising that “parents and caregivers of toddlers and young children who may have consumed WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches should contact their child’s healthcare provider about getting a blood test.” Three days later, the company issued a voluntary recall.

As the recall expanded, FDA transferred the investigation to its Coordinated Outbreak Response & Evaluation (CORE) Network to determine the source of lead contamination and whether additional products are linked to illnesses.

Brands under a voluntary recall. Photo credit: FDA

Brands under a voluntary recall. Photo credit: FDA

Read More »

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EPA’s new chemical regulations: Backtracking on PBTs

NOTE: This is the fifth in a series about EPA’s regulation of new chemicals. See below under Go Deeper for links to the other blogs in the series.

What Happened?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed new regulations for its safety reviews of new chemicals under our nation’s primary chemicals law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). One of the proposed provisions would govern which persistent, bioaccumulative,1 toxic chemicals (PBTs) should undergo a full safety review.

Why It Matters

This proposed approach would exclude certain PBTs from a full new chemical safety review. This is a concerning step backward in addressing the risks from these chemicals.

PBT chemicals do not break down readily from natural processes and raise special concern because of their ability to build up in both the environment and in people and other organisms. Even small releases of these long-lived and bioaccumulative toxic chemicals can pose long-term risks to human health and the environment. Notable PBTs—such as DDT, which affects reproduction, and methyl mercury, which is a powerful neurotoxin—impacted whole ecosystems across the United States, including the Great Lakes.

View of Lake Michigan

View of Lake Michigan Photo credit: Maria Doa

Read More »

Also posted in Adverse health effects, Chemical exposure, Chemical regulation, Health policy, Neurotoxicity, PBTs, Regulation, Risk assessment, Rules/Regulations, TSCA / Tagged , , , , , | Authors: / Comments are closed

FDA says “Cookware that exhibits any level of leachable lead upon testing is prohibited.”

What’s New?

For the first time, FDA has provided guidance on how to evaluate whether metal cookware is prohibited due to lead leaching into food.

As part of an investigation to find the source of elevated blood lead levels in some refugee children, the Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County, Washington [1] encountered high lead levels in certain imported [2] aluminum cookware, including pressure cookers and pots & pans. The program attempted to bring this to FDA’s attention in late 2019, and submitted a formal product report to FDA in October 2021, after several attempts to contact an FDA representative directly.

In May 2022, the Program published a journal article about its findings; a year later, staff emailed FDA again seeking guidance. On June 1, 2023, FDA responded with a letter [PDF, 166KB] providing a method (see below) to evaluate lead in metal cookware. The agency also said:

  • “The marketing in interstate commerce, including importation, of cookware that exhibits any level of leachable lead upon testing is prohibited.”
  • “Neither lead nor lead-containing materials (e.g., metals, solder) are permitted under FDA regulations for use in contact with food.”
  • The Program should “feel free to share this letter or any of its contents with Amazon.com, Inc.,[3] and any other firms involved in the marketing or sale of cookware.”[4]

Read More »

Also posted in FDA, Lead, Risk evaluation, 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 exposure, Chemical regulation, Frontline communities, Health policy, Industry influence, Risk assessment, Risk evaluation, TSCA, Vulnerable populations / Tagged , , , , | Authors: / Comments are closed