EDF Health

Industry’s influence over EPA could get even worse: Chemical advisory board nominees rife with conflicts of interest

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

Today Environmental Defense Fund, Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Union of Concerned Scientists filed comments on EPA’s list of nominees for appointment to its Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC).  The SACC conducts peer reviews of chemical risk evaluations EPA conducts under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

EPA can rectify this sad state of affairs by excluding these and any other conflicted individuals under consideration from membership on the SACC when EPA adds new members.

Our comments identified 19 nominees that have serious actual or potential conflicts of interest that should disqualify them from being appointed to the SACC.  Unfortunately, their inclusion in EPA’s list of nominees suggests either that EPA has not conducted even the most cursory of conflict-of-interest screenings of these nominees, or that the agency intends to flout conflict-of-interest concerns and skew the balance of its science advisors even further in its drive to prioritize the interests of industry over public health and environmental protection.  The most recent example of this is EPA’s appointments or elevation of members on the agency’s Science Advisory Board earlier this month.

Over the past several months, EPA received a slew of nominations for SACC membership of individuals that are employed either by companies with direct financial interest in specific chemicals or related science policy issues that fall within the remit of the SACC, or by consulting firms hired by those companies or their trade associations to represent their interests before EPA.

As extensively documented in the comments we submitted today, these individuals should not be appointed to the SACC because they trigger one or both of the federal requirements for excluding individuals from membership on federal advisory groups:  having potential or actual conflicts of interest, or creating an appearance of a lack of impartiality.  Read More »

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ASDWA provides new recommendations to states and utilities for lead service line inventories

Tom Neltner, J.D., Chemicals Policy Director

The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) released a new white paper to help states and utilities develop more useful inventories of lead service lines (LSLs). The paper builds on guidance the organization issued in August 2019. ASDWA partnered with BlueConduit to leverage that firm’s experience developing a statistical model for Flint, Michigan that accurately predicted which service lines were made of lead, galvanized steel, plastic or copper.

The guidance is timely as EPA prepares to finalize its Lead and Copper Rule revisions. We anticipate those revisions will require utilities to develop – and make public – inventories that identify the location of each service line made of lead or when the material is unknown and may be lead. Utilities would also be required to notify customers annually if they have a lead or unknown service line. Customers who buy a home and open a new water account would also be notified in the first bill.

The ASDWA/BlueConduit white paper encourages utilities to use five principles to best characterize the uncertainty in their inventories:

  1. Ensuring clean data management and organization;
  2. Not accepting all historical records as truth;
  3. Conducting a representative randomized sample of unverified service lines;
  4. Being transparent in public outreach and reproducibility; and
  5. Demonstrating accuracy on “hold-out sample.”

Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, lead, States / Tagged | Comments are closed

Passing the buck: The Trump EPA’s mind-boggling efforts to ignore the risks of 1,4-dioxane in drinking water

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

Readers of this blog will recall the major concerns EDF, EPA’s science advisors, and many others have raised about the Trump EPA’s systematic exclusion from its risk evaluations of all human exposures to chemicals released to air, water and land.  EPA has taken this illegal, unscientific and un-health protective approach across the board in the risk evaluations it has issued to date in draft or final form under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

EDF first flagged the emergence of this fatally flawed approach over two years ago, and again when it was applied to the likely human carcinogen 1,4-dioxane, one of the first 10 chemicals undergoing TSCA risk evaluations.  Since then the Trump EPA has doubled down, repeatedly defying its own science advisors who have called out this deficiency in virtually all of their peer reviews of EPA’s draft risk evaluations.  EPA is clearly refusing to budge, issuing two final risk evaluations for methylene chloride and 1-bromopropane that seek to codify the approach.

EPA’s Office of Water is deferring any decision on whether to regulate 1,4-dioxane in drinking water, pending completion of a risk evaluation that expressly excludes that exposure.  That exclusion is in turn based on the TSCA office’s claim that the Office of Water already has it covered.

The asserted basis for ignoring tens of millions of pounds of these chemicals released annually is EPA’s claim that the releases are adequately managed under other laws the agency administers.  To bolster that claim, EPA also asserts that it has closely consulted with the EPA offices that administer those other laws to ensure this is the case.  Let’s take a closer look at the nature – and apparent effects – of that consultation in one setting:  1,4-dioxane in drinking water, which falls under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) administered by EPA’s Office of Water.  Read More »

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What the heck is going on with EPA’s risk evaluation fees under TSCA?

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

What a mess.  That’s the best that can be said from the outside about the process EPA has followed to decide which companies are to pay fees to help defray the agency’s costs of conducting risk evaluations for the next 20 chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

EPA’s steps to endanger its ability to collect the fees under TSCA that Congress mandated border on self-sabotage.

These fees were set forth in EPA’s final TSCA fees rule issued in October 2018.  The total fee assigned to each of the next 20 chemicals for which risk evaluations are now underway was set at $1.35 million.  That fee is to be paid by manufacturers (including importers) of a chemical.  TSCA provided EPA with authority to charge processors of these chemicals a fee as well, but the agency opted to exclude processors from such fees in its final rule (see p. 52,696).  EPA also opted not to charge fees to cover any of the costs it incurred for the first 10 risk evaluations (see p. 52,708 of the fees rule), although it had authority to do so.

Last week EPA issued what it calls its “interim final list” of companies obligated to pay fees to cover the costs of the next 20 risk evaluations.  The list is dramatically scaled-back from the agency’s earlier list, and it is impossible for the public to understand the basis for the changes.  That is in no small part due to the convoluted, opaque, and legally suspect process EPA has followed.  Read More »

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Under the Trump EPA, no risk to workers is too high to impede a new chemical’s unfettered entry into the market

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

The Trump EPA’s understating of the risks to workers posed by both existing and new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has been a frequent topic for this blog.  This disturbing, illegal policy continues unabated and, if anything, has accelerated and expanded to outright dismissal of worker health concerns.

The Trump EPA’s blatant shirking of its clear responsibilities under TSCA to identify and mitigate the serious risks that chemicals present to workers – who are on the front lines of chemical exposures – surely constitutes one of its most egregious failings.

In its reviews of new chemicals, EPA now frequently identifies serious risks to workers that exceed its own risk benchmarks, often many times over.  How great are the exceedances EPA finds and ignores?  Our examination of recent cases, described below, reveals exceedances as high as 25,000-fold.  In other words, EPA has found and then dismissed worker exposures to new chemicals at levels as much as 25,000 times higher than it deems acceptable. That is not a typo:  In a very recent case EPA found a dermal risk of reproductive effects to workers that exceeded its own benchmark by a factor of 25,000.

Any reasonable new chemical review that identified excess risk would then impose conditions blocking or conditioning the market entry of these chemicals in a manner sufficient to mitigate the identified risks.  Indeed, that is exactly what TSCA requires EPA to do.

Instead, the Trump EPA over and over again clears these chemicals entirely, ignoring its own risk findings to assert that the chemicals are “not likely to present unreasonable risk.”  This has now been done for hundreds of new chemicals EPA has reviewed in the past two years.

To illustrate what EPA is doing, we examined the 29 new chemicals EPA found “not likely to present unreasonable risk” (“not likely” determinations) since the beginning of June of this year.  Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Industry Influence, Regulation, TSCA Reform, Worker Safety / Tagged | Read 2 Responses

EPA flouts the law, science, and its obligation to protect public health yet again: The 1-bromopropane final risk evaluation

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

Today, the Trump EPA released its second final risk evaluation and determination under the reformed TSCA, for the carcinogenic solvent, 1-bromopropane (1-BP).

EPA has once again ignored expert scientific input it received from its own advisors.

As was the case with the final document for methylene chloride – which has already been challenged in court (see here and here) – EPA has doubled down on the illegal, unscientific, and un-health protective approach it has taken in all of its draft risk evaluations for the first 10 chemicals reviewed under TSCA.

EDF will be closely examining this final document, but it is already apparent that EPA continues to grossly and systematically underestimate the exposures to and risks of 1-BP to the general public, workers and the environment.

Below are four examples of the flaws; each was raised by EPA’s own Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) in its peer review as serious deficiencies – expert scientific input that EPA has simply chosen to ignore in finalizing the document:  Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Health Science, Industry Influence, Public Health, Regulation, TSCA Reform, Worker Safety / Tagged , | Read 1 Response