EDF Health

EDF statement: Trump EPA’s withdrawal of proposed bans on dangerous uses of three chemicals is shameful

Decision epitomizes administration’s disdain for public health protection

(Washington, DC – January 14, 2021) Tomorrow, the Trump EPA will announce the formal withdrawal of proposed bans on high-risk uses of the dangerous chemicals methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, and N-methylpyrrolidone. By taking this action, the Trump EPA seeks to prevent the new administration from finalizing any of these bans without starting the process over.

“It appears that blocking these bans and denying crucial protections to workers and consumers for four years was not enough for the Trump EPA. This shameful move that epitomizes the Trump EPA’s concerted attacks on public health is a transparent attempt to further constrain the incoming administration. It is yet another stain on Mr. Wheeler’s dismal record,” said Dr. Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist, EDF Health. “We are counting down the days until the EPA’s decisions, once again, reflect its mission to protect health and the environment.”

Background:

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Getting lead out of brass and bronze food equipment

Tom Neltner, J.D. is the Chemicals Policy Director.

Many people may not be aware that lead is still added to brass and bronze used to make drinking water faucets and food equipment like coffee brewers and more. This is problematic because lead can leach into the water and beverages from the equipment – putting consumers at risk. As part of EDF’s efforts to reduce exposure to lead from all sources, we have advocated to stop this use of the heavy metal.

Last June, our three-year effort yielded results when the committee responsible for the national consensus standard for plumbing devices, known as NSF/ANSI/CAN 61, made its lead leaching standard five times more protective for endpoint devices – from 5 to 1 parts per billion. Endpoint devices are faucets, drinking water fountains and other devices installed within the last one liter of water distribution systems in a building. For all other plumbing devices, lead is limited to the amount added to the device’s material, 2500 parts per million (ppm) [1], and leaching limit does not apply.

This fall, we turned our attention to lead leaching into drinking water from food equipment such as ice machines, coffee brewers, teapots, and water heaters. We have submitted petitions to NSF International and to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to prohibit use of lead in brass and bronze commonly used in these devices.

For food equipment, we leveraged the more protective safety standards for food contact substances in the Food Additives Amendment of 1958. These standards require that additives not be used unless there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from their intended use after taking into account related substances in the diet. It also prohibits use of carcinogens. Lead is unsafe under both these restrictions because it is a carcinogen and no safe threshold has been found for lead in the blood to prevent neurologic development harm in children and heart disease in adults.

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Haste makes waste: The Trump EPA’s 1,4-dioxane supplement may be its shoddiest TSCA work yet

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Yesterday EDF submitted comments on a supplement to EPA’s 1,4-dioxane risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which the agency issued a scant three weeks ago.

This solvent is a likely human carcinogen that contaminates drinking water nationwide and is present in millions of consumer products.

What EPA left out of its analysis swallows what it included.

The supplement expands the scope of EPA’s ongoing risk evaluation of 1,4-dioxane.  It now includes certain water exposures and certain exposures of consumers to products in which the chemical is present as a contaminant (more technically, a “byproduct”).

EPA rushed the public comment period, providing only 20 days and refusing requests from at least 14 organizations for an extension.  The agency also cut out another vital step in the process – peer review –in violation of its own rules for how risk evaluations are to be conducted.

But that wasn’t the only thing EPA rushed.  The Supplement itself was an 11th-hour affair, done mainly to appease a hypocritical demand from the formulated chemical products industry.

The haste with which it was assembled badly shows.  The additional exposures EPA examined are so narrowly constructed as to omit major, and potentially the largest, sources of exposure and risk people face from the presence of 1,4-dioxane in water and products.

And what EPA left out of its analysis swallows what it included.  Read More »

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A tale of two public comment extension requests: How they fared under the Trump EPA

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

In recent weeks EPA has issued for public comment significant modifications to its draft risk evaluations under the Toxic Substances Control Act for two chemicals:  Pigment Violet 29 (PV29) and 1,4-dioxane.  Because EPA initially provided relatively brief comment periods on the modifications, both were subject to requests for extensions of the comment period.

The table below tells the story of how these two requests fared under the Trump EPA.  Read More »

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EPA’s final risk evaluation of trichloroethylene is scientifically flawed and understates risks to workers, the general public and those most susceptible

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.  Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Today the Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final risk evaluation for trichloroethylene (TCE).  It largely tracks the agency’s draft document, retaining numerous flaws that severely understate the highly toxic chemical’s risks to workers, the general public and those most susceptible to its health impacts.

Among the evaluation’s most serious deficiencies is the abandonment of a bedrock principle of chemical risk assessment: that risk estimates be based on the most sensitive health effect.  Sadly, the final document retains the unprotective approach the Trump White House forced EPA to adopt, as reported in detail by Elizabeth Shogren of Reveal News.

Exposure to TCE is ubiquitous, coming from ambient and indoor air, vapor intrusion from contaminated sites, groundwater and drinking water wells, and food – yet EPA’s evaluation ignores or downplays each of these exposure sources and pathways.

Below we summarize some of the major concerns in EPA’s evaluation that we addressed in detail in our comments.

One silver lining:  Despite its glaring deficiencies, the risk evaluation did find that the great majority of TCE’s conditions of use present unreasonable risks—even as it grossly understated the extent of those risks.  As a result, EPA must now proceed to regulate those activities, providing the new Administration an opportunity to rectify the serious problems created by the Trump EPA.  Read More »

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Righting the ship: A new chance for stronger protections against toxic chemicals

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

In June 2016, Congress passed historic, bipartisan legislation overhauling the Toxic Substances Control Act, the country’s main chemical safety law, to better protect the public from harmful exposure to toxic chemicals. The Trump administration has spent the last four years working to undermine TCSA by driving its implementation dangerously off the rails.

Now, with President-elect Biden set to take the helm in January, there’s a tremendous opportunity not only to repair the damage done by the Trump administration, but also to use the law proactively to ensure that everyone in the country is better protected from hazardous chemicals — with attention to those whose health is most at risk and to communities where exposures are greatest.

Here are five ways to restore sound and legal implementation of the law and strengthen health protections for families across the country.

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