EDF Health

Report: Staggering amounts of toxic chemicals produced across America

Alissa Sasso is a Chemicals Policy FellowRichard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Cross-posted from EDFVoices blog]

Recent spills in West Virginia and North Carolina cast a spotlight on toxic hazards in our midst. But as bad as they are, these acute incidents pale in scope compared to the chronic flow of hazardous chemicals coursing through our lives each day with little notice and minimal regulation. A new report by EDF, Toxics Across America, tallies billions of pounds of chemicals in the American marketplace that are known or strongly suspected to cause increasingly common disorders, including certain cancers, developmental disabilities, and infertility.

While it’s no secret that modern society consumes huge amounts of chemicals, many of them dangerous, it is surprisingly difficult to get a handle on the actual numbers. And under current law it’s harder still to find out where and how these substances are used, though we know enough to establish that a sizeable share of them end up in one form or another in the places where we live and work.

Our new report looks at 120 chemicals that have been identified by multiple federal, state and international officials as known or suspected health hazards. Using the latest, albeit limited, data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we identify which of these chemicals are in commerce in the U.S.; in what amounts they are being made; which companies are producing or importing them; where they are being produced or imported; and how they are being used. An interactive online map accompanying the report lets the user access the report’s data and search by chemical, by company, by state, and by site location.

Among our findings:  Read More »

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A mission corrupted: Your tax dollars pay for ACC to coach big industry on how to undercut EPA’s IRIS program

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

On February 22, the Advocacy Office of the Small Business Administration, an agency of the Federal Government, held a meeting without any public notice and from which the press was barred.  And while the office’s mission is supposed to be to provide “an independent voice for small business within the federal government,” many if not most of the attendees were from large companies and the trade associations and Washington lobbyists that represent their interests.

This meeting was the latest in a long and continuing series of so-called “environmental roundtables” that serve as a basis for the SBA’s Advocacy Office to weigh in against environmental or workplace regulations that big business opposes.   

There are no records from these meetings that are made publicly available.  Agendas and attendee lists are not disclosed, though I was able to obtain an agenda for this particular meeting at the last minute.  I noted with interest that the first half of the meeting focused on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, which provides health assessments of chemicals used by public health and environmental officials around the world. 

The key draw in this meeting:  a senior official from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), whose dominant members are huge global chemical companies like ExxonMobil, BASF, Dow and DuPont – in short, Big Chem.   The ACC official spent a full hour coaching representatives of Big Chem and other global mining companies and automobile corporations like GM in how to pick apart and challenge recent documents developed by the IRIS program.  IRIS has become a focal point of the chemical industry’s multi-front attack on independent government science.  Here is the deck of Powerpoint slides used by the ACC representative and the other industry speaker.  Read More »

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EDF comments at EPA’s public stakeholder meeting on its IRIS Program

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

I provide in this post the comments I delivered as a panelist at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) November 13, 2012 Public Stakeholder Meeting on its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program.  EPA describes IRIS as “a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants.”

 

The theme of my comments today is the critical need to restore balance to the IRIS program.  In my view, the program’s structure and practice have over time tilted badly toward allowing one set of interests and desirable attributes of chemical assessments to wholly dominate over another, equally critical set.  Let me explain.  Read More »

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Hands off the Report on Carcinogens

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., is Managing Director of EDF’s Health Program.

Information, and importantly, access to reliable and objective information, is the cornerstone of a democratic society.  That is why recent efforts by the chemical industry and its allies to block Congressionally-mandated, scientific information on carcinogenic hazards by defunding the Report on Carcinogens (ROC) have many researchers and public health officials alarmed. 

Today, in a letter sent to House and Senate appropriations committee leaders, 75 occupational and environmental health scientists and professionals from around the country called on Congress to maintain funding for the ROC.  Their letter is in response to a legislative proposal that, if passed into law, would withhold funding for any work on the ROC until the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completes its review of the listings of formaldehyde and styrene in the 12th ROC—a process the NAS has only just begun.  If such a proposal were successful, it would effectively delay public access to critical information on chemical carcinogens for years.     Read More »

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Labor and public health advocates to the chemical industry: Stop bullying federal scientists!

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

After my long post this morning, I’ll keep this one brief:  The United Steelworkers, one of the nation’s top occupational physicians and EDF, represented by Earthjustice, have filed a motion to intervene in D.C. District Court, seeking to help defend the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ listing of styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”  The motion is in response to a chemical industry lawsuit attempting to force the agency’s National Toxicology Program to withdraw the styrene warning, which was published in the 12th edition of the Congressionally mandated Report on Carcinogens.

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REACH starts to earn its “A”: 20 chemicals headed to the Candidate List and 13 to Authorization

Allison Tracy is a Chemicals Policy Fellow. Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been busy this week implementing the EU’s chemical regulation, REACH (short for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals).

On Monday, ECHA announced it has added 20 more Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) to REACH’s Candidate List.  These SVHCs are now eligible for later addition to Annex XIV, the list of SVHCs subject to Authorization.

Separately, the agency today forwarded its final recommendation that 13 chemicals already on the Candidate List be formally added to Annex XIV.  (We had blogged earlier about ECHA’s initial recommendation proposing these 13 SVHCs for Authorization.)  If the European Commission confirms this addition, after a specified sunset date, the use of these will be allowed only if specifically authorized by EU authorities.  Read More »

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