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Selected tag(s): risk assessment

Toxic Chemicals: Regulatory exemptions prioritize industry wants over safety needs

A rubber stamp lies on its side to the right of the photo. To the left, you see the stamped image of a skull and crossbones and the words Toxic Substances

By Maria Doa, PhD, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy

What’s the Issue?

EPA grants exemptions from full safety reviews for approximately half the new chemicals submitted by the chemical industry. Once those exemptions are granted, EPA very rarely revises or revokes them—even in the face of new information.

The Toxic Substances Control Act allows EPA to grant an exemption from a full safety review only if it determines that the chemical will not present an unreasonable risk. That’s a high standard—and one that many exemptions do not meet.

Why it Matters:

  • The chemical industry takes maximum advantage of exemptions given the abbreviated safety review and the industry’s ability to keep their use of new chemicals under the radar. For example, the chemicals that get exemptions don’t go on the national inventory of chemicals that are in use.
  • For years, EPA has granted exemptions for chemicals that can have long-term negative impacts on human health and the environment. They include hundreds of exemptions for PFAS, “forever chemicals” known to contaminate our water supplies and farmland. And it’s not just PFAS. EPA has granted exemptions for other types of persistent, bio-accumulative, toxic (PBT) chemicals that can have lasting impacts on people and the environment.
  • These exemptions often contradict TSCA’s requirement that EPA consider the risks from a chemical throughout its lifecycle. That includes the risks for vulnerable groups who may be more susceptible to the chemical or who are more highly exposed, such as frontline communities.
  • EPA does not typically consider the cumulative impacts of multiple exempted chemicals on frontline communities, consumers, or the environment.

Our Take: EPA has an important opportunity to address overuse of TSCA exemptions.

Next Steps:

  • EPA should revisit the exemptions it has already granted. The agency should determine that chemicals truly do not present an unreasonable risk—particularly to vulnerable populations—throughout their lifecycles. EPA should focus first on chemicals that can have long-lasting impacts on health and the environment, like PFAS and other PBTs.
  • Before granting any new exemptions, EPA should consider the combined impacts throughout the lifecycle of these chemicals on all stakeholders, especially frontline communities. EPA Administrator Regan recently said EPA would be embedding environmental justice into the DNA of EPA. This is another opportunity for EPA to do just that.
Posted in EPA, Industry Influence, PFAS, Public Health, TSCA, Uncategorized / Also tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sperm Concerns: Sons Affected by Mom’s Exposure to Forever Chemicals

Illustration of gray sperm swimming toward a dark purple egg on a light purple background

By Lauren Ellis, MPH, Research Analyst, Safer Chemicals

What’s New: A peer-reviewed study by Danish researchers found that a male fetus who is exposed to PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—also known as “forever chemicals”) during early pregnancy is more likely to have lower sperm quality in early adulthood.

It’s the first study to explore the impact of exposure to more than two PFAS compounds (as measured in maternal blood samples during early pregnancy) on adult male reproductive hormones and sperm quality.

Why It Matters: Poor sperm quality is directly related to male infertility. In addition, it has been linked to other health problems such as testicular cancer, heart disease, and all-cause mortality.

This study adds to decades of literature linking environmental chemical exposures to negative impacts on reproductive health.

Key Lessons from the Study:

  • Women who were pregnant 20+ years ago had multiple types of PFAS in their blood. The study used data on a group of Danish women who were pregnant between 1998-2003. The women gave blood samples, which were then frozen and stored; 95% of those samples were taken in the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • In 2020-2021, researchers tested those maternal samples for 15 different PFAS compounds. They found 7 of the 15 in the bloodstream of nearly 90% of mothers in the study. The seven were: PFHxS, PFHpA, PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFDA, and PFUnDA.
  • Exposure to PFAS during pregnancy decreases the sperm quality of adult male offspring. Researchers found that both combined and single exposure to maternal PFAS concentrations during early pregnancy had a negative effect on the sperm quality—particularly sperm count, concentration, and movement—of adult male offspring.

Our Takeaway: The new study presents a startling finding—developmental exposures to chemicals are associated with long lasting harm, including impacts that can affect future generations. It also adds to the growing evidence of PFAS health risks and demonstrates the urgent need for more health-protective PFAS policies and regulations.

Next Steps: EDF and our partners are pushing EPA to revoke existing PFAS exemptions and require those PFAS (and new PFAS coming to market) to undergo a full safety review under the Toxic Substances Control Act, our nation’s primary chemical safety law.

It is critical that these evaluations also consider the cumulative risk of exposure to PFAS mixtures in the environment.

Note: In June 2021, EDF, with a group of health, environmental, and consumer organizations, sent a formal petition to FDA asking the agency to ban all PFAS  that accumulate in the body. That petition is still under review.

Posted in Emerging Science, EPA, PFAS, Regulation / Also tagged , | Comments are closed

Changes for the better: EPA looks out for workers in revised risk finding for HBCD

By Samantha Liskow, Lead Counsel, Health

EPA has started to fulfill its promise to take another look at many of the chemical risk findings made during the Trump Administration. First up was “HBCD,” a collection of flame retardants present in many goods, including building insulation, furniture, and electronics. In its revised risk determination for the chemical EPA proposed important changes that are needed to protect health and the environment and are required under TSCA, our main federal law on chemical safety.

We highlighted these positive steps in our comments to the agency and urged EPA to formalize these changes when it releases its final revised risk determination for HBCD and other chemicals undergoing reevaluation.

Here is a look at the changes EPA made: Read More »

Posted in EPA, TSCA Reform, Worker Safety / Also tagged , , , | Read 2 Responses

EPA can incorporate cumulative impacts in its chemical assessments right now

By Maria Doa, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy, and Lariah Edwards, Ph.D., EDF-George Washington University Postdoctoral Fellow

EPA recently asked its Science Advisory Board to provide advice on how it can incorporate cumulative impact assessments into its decisions making and on research to support cumulative impact assessments. At a public meeting of the SAB on March 2, we highlighted several areas where EPA can incorporate cumulative impact assessments right now.

Cumulative impacts refer to the total burden from chemical and non-chemical stressors and their effect on health, well-being, and quality of life. EPA asked the SAB for advice in two areas: First, what research should the agency conduct to strengthen the methods used in cumulative impact assessments. Second, and somewhat more important, how can EPA start now to incorporate cumulative impact assessments into its decision-making using data that is currently available.

People living in communities are often exposed to multiple chemical and non-chemical stressors. When individuals are exposed to multiple chemicals that cause a particular type of harm, they do not experience the risks for each chemical separately from the other. Nor are these chemical burdens experienced in isolation from other non-chemical stressors a person may face, like nutritional deficiencies or psychosocial stress. Cumulative impact assessments consider the combination and impact of both types of stressors, and therefore are more reflective of real-life conditions.

EPA assessments and decision making should take into consideration this reality and move away as much as possible from the status quo of evaluating one source, one chemical, and one environmental medium. Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Science / Also tagged , | Comments are closed

Shifting the burden for toxics with a sneaky website: one more reason Dourson shouldn’t lead EPA toxics office

Jack Pratt is Chemicals Campaign Director

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

With Congress back from recess, it is slated to take up the nomination of Michael Dourson to run the toxics office at EPA. Here are links to our recent blog posts documenting why we are deeply concerned about his nomination:

Starting with work he did for the tobacco industry, Dourson has made a career downplaying concerns about chemicals, from harmful pesticides to cancer-causing solvents, paid for that work by the same companies that make or use those chemicals.

In addition to his work as a toxicologist-for-hire, Dourson and his firm, TERA, have provided more public-facing services.  One of these, done with funding from the American Chemistry Council, was the “Kids+Chemicalsafety” website, now defunct, but still available online at the Internet Archive.

Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

Making federally-assisted housing lead-safe for children

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

Housing supported by the Federal Government should not be poisoning children.

That was the simple message Congress delivered to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. Despite some real progress since then, recent cases of lead poisoning in federally-assisted housing in Chicago and Indiana suggest there is still much work to be done.

Thanks to a strong public push to highlight these failings, HUD recently proposed changes to its “Lead Safe Housing Rule.” At the heart of these changes is lowering the level of lead in children’s blood considered “elevated,” the trigger for local housing authorities to conduct detailed inspections of a child’s home for lead. HUD has continued to use a level of 20 µg/dL set in 1999, despite a consensus that lead is harmful to children at much lower levels. HUD is on track to finalize the rule in January 2017 after sending it to the Office of Management and Budget on November 21 for final reviewJan. 13, 2017 update: HUD issued a final rule that was similar to what was proposed.

Read More »

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