EDF Health

Selected tag(s): Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Lost opportunity for safer food additives

[pullquote]In DC, “Take Out the Trash Day” refers to federal agencies releasing unpopular decisions on Friday when the media and public are not watching.  It is especially common around the holidays or in August when many people, especially those in Congress are on vacation.  On Friday, August 12, FDA took out the trash by issuing a final rule regarding chemicals added to food more than two weeks before a court ordered deadline[/pullquote]

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

On August 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule defining how companies should voluntarily notify the agency when they conclude that a chemical added to or used to make food is “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS).

The decision is a lost opportunity to close a widely-abused loophole that allows chemicals to be approved for use in food with no notification to or review by FDA. The rule allows the industry to continue making secret decisions about what we eat without the agency’s – or the public’s – knowledge.  The agency has the legal authority to significantly narrow the GRAS loophole to prevent companies from deliberately avoiding FDA’s safety review process.

Just two years ago, the senior FDA official overseeing food safety acknowledged that the agency “cannot vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals” as a result of the GRAS loophole. Read More »

Posted in FDA, Food, Health policy, Regulation / Also tagged , , | Authors: / Comments are closed

Twin dangers from TCE: Widespread exposure, and now a strong link to Parkinson disease

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

A study published online in the Annals of Neurology last week, “Solvent Exposures and Parkinson Disease Risk in Twins,” adds to scientific evidence linking exposure to the solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, and other common solvents with onset of Parkinson disease.  Parkinson disease is a debilitating condition well known for symptoms of trembling but can also include slowed motion, impaired posture and balance, and loss of automatic movements (e.g. blinking, arm swaying when walking).  Most unfortunately, it has no cure. 

According to the authors, this new twin study is the first confirmation in a population-based study of a significant association between exposure to TCE and incidence of Parkinson disease.    Read More »

Posted in Emerging science, Health policy, Health science, Regulation / Also tagged , , , , , , | Read 1 Response

Compounding the problem: Why aren’t we using the safest and most effective dispersants in the Gulf?

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

Imagine learning you have a serious disease.  Your doctor decides to treat you with a drug, noting it could have some bad side effects.  He also plans to inject you with the drug, even though it’s only been used orally before now.  That makes you nervous enough to ask for the name of the drug. “Sorry, I can’t tell you,” he says.  “It’s proprietary.”  Even if you trust your doctor, you’re now left with no way to investigate the risks and tradeoffs you’re facing.

Imagine how mad you’d be if you learned your doctor hadn’t told you there were other drugs that not only had fewer side effects, but were more effective in treating your condition.  And then you learn he’s on the Board of Directors of the company that makes the drug he prescribed.

Now consider that the patient is the Gulf of Mexico, the doctor is BP, and the drug is the oil dispersants, sold by Nalco under the trade name Corexit®, more than 500,000 gallons of which have been applied to date, with no end in sight.  Read More »

Posted in Environment, Health policy, Regulation, TSCA reform / Also tagged , , , , | Read 8 Responses

Worse than we thought: Decades of out-of-control CBI claims under TSCA

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

I recently obtained – not without some effort on both EPA’s and my part – a scanned copy of a 1992 report commissioned by EPA innocuously titled “Influence of CBI Requirements on TSCA Implementation,” authored by the now-defunct Hampshire Research Associates.  I subsequently found a copy in an old EPA docket, located here (6 MB PDF file).

This understated yet remarkable report is a veritable treasure trove of information that painstakingly documents the rampant rise in illegitimate confidential business information (CBI) claims made by the chemical industry in the first decade after passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – and the very limited options available to EPA to stop such activity (despite recent admirable efforts on its part). Read More »

Posted in Health policy, Regulation / Also tagged , , | Read 2 Responses

Chemical industry reacts to EPA on CBI: Burglars claim to like new alarm system

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

After EPA announced yesterday that it will deny certain confidential business information (CBI) claims that have masked the identity of risky chemicals, two chemical industry trade associations responded favorably, saying they “welcome” the move as “the right thing to do.”

Entirely missing from their responses, however, was any acknowledgment of the fact that the EPA policy shift would not have been necessary but for the huge number of illegitimate CBI claims made by none other than the member companies of those same trade associations.  In a classic case of industry-speak, the companies who have been effectively stealing information from the public about their chemicals try to obscure their nefarious role by now saying they welcome the new alarm system they have forced EPA to install.

Read More »

Posted in Health policy, Regulation / Also tagged , | Comments are closed

Hiding a toxic nanomaterial’s identity: TSCA’s disappearing act

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

In earlier posts (here and here), I discussed a notice EPA had received in July of 2008 from BASF reporting toxic effects at very low doses of a carbon nanotube (CNT) observed in a 90-day rat inhalation study.  In that notice, BASF had declared the specific identity of its CNT to be confidential business information, hence denying that information to the public.  Now, in a setting more to its liking, it appears the company has decided to reveal the identity after all. Read More »

Posted in Health policy, Nanotechnology, Regulation / Also tagged , , , , | Read 1 Response