EDF Health

Selected tag(s): worker safety

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 3 Responses

EPA’s Significant New Use Rules under TSCA must reflect its policy goals

Lauren Ellis, Research Analyst, Environmental Health 

We recently submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a subset of proposed Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) published by the New Chemicals program under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). We commend EPA for issuing these proposed SNURs. Our review of some of the SNURs, however, raised concerns about chemical releases to the environment, risks to consumers, and the absence of worker protections. We believe EPA can address many of these concerns by following through on its stated policy goals. 

For all the chemicals in this batch, EPA had previously issued “consent orders” – which impose restrictions on a new chemical – because the agency found at the time of their initial review for market entry that the chemical substances may present an unreasonable risk to health or the environment. We strongly support EPA’s use of SNURs to follow up on consent orders it issues, as a consent order only applies to the original company that submitted a premanufacture notice (PMN) to EPA to domestically manufacture or import a new chemical. 

A SNUR is a separate action that requires any company seeking to engage in a “significant new use” identified in the SNUR to notify EPA at least 90 days before beginning that use, triggering EPA’s review of the potential new use. For new chemicals that received orders, a SNUR can conform to the order – meaning it mirrors the conditions in the consent order for the chemical – or it can apply more broadly to activities or uses that are beyond the scope of the consent order. Either way, SNURs enable the agency to review potentially risky uses prior to their commencement. 

In our comments, we call for four major changes to a subset of the proposed SNURs: 

Read More »

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

EDF welcomes EPA’s announcement of much-needed changes to its TSCA New Chemicals Program

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

Today the Environmental Protection Agency announced it is conducting a thorough review of its policies and procedures for assessing the safety of new chemicals prior to allowing their entry into commerce.

EPA’s announcement flags two immediate changes it is making to restore and realign the program’s practices with the major reforms Congress made in 2016 to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  These changes are critical to better ensure that new chemicals presenting potential risks to workers, the public, or the environment are not allowed onto the market absent restrictions sufficient to mitigate any risk.

First, EPA says it “will stop issuing determinations of ‘not likely to present an unreasonable risk’ based on the existence of proposed SNURs [Significant New Use Rules].”  TSCA requires EPA to review reasonably foreseen uses of a new chemical at the same time it considers a company’s intended uses.  If either type of use presents potential risk, TSCA requires EPA to issue an order restricting the new chemical to mitigate that risk.

We fully agree with EPA that it cannot exclude reasonably foreseen uses of a new chemical from its review by proposing a SNUR.  EPA’s clear statement that when it finds “one or more uses may present an unreasonable risk, or when EPA lacks the information needed to make a safety finding, the agency will issue an order to address those potential risks” is precisely what TSCA requires.   By taking this step, EPA will reverse the illegal and unprotective approach the prior administration applied to hundreds of new chemicals over the last several years.

Second, EPA will take regulatory action by issuing an order whenever it identifies potential risks to workers from a new chemical, instead of simply assuming that workers are protected absent any binding requirement on employers.  TSCA identifies workers as warranting special protection under the law, yet the prior administration illegally allowed hundreds of new chemicals onto the market without any assured protections even where it found risks exceeding its own benchmarks by many-fold.

EDF looks forward to working with EPA to restore legal and scientific integrity to its TSCA program and realign it with the agency’s mission to protect health and the environment.

 

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

“Illegal, unscientific, and un-health protective”: Summing up EPA’s final methylene chloride risk evaluation

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

Today, the Trump EPA released its first final risk evaluation and determination under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), for the carcinogenic and acutely lethal chemical methylene chloride.

Sadly, despite EPA’s rush to issue this document as the 4th anniversary of TSCA reform on June 22 approaches, EPA 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 has grossly and systematically underestimated the exposures to and risks of methylene chloride.  Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence, Public Health, Regulation, TSCA Reform, Worker Safety / Also tagged , | Comments are closed

The Trump EPA’s “Working Approach” to new chemical reviews is only working for the chemical industry

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

On Tuesday EDF filed detailed comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Working Approach to Making New Chemical Determinations under TSCA.”

The document is a major disappointment, to say the least.  The Trump EPA has worked very hard to render this long-awaited update of its approach to reviewing new chemicals under TSCA an empty exercise.  Despite Administrator Wheeler’s promises in January 2019 to the contrary:

  • EPA has still failed to provide any legal or scientific justification for its Working Approach.
  • EPA provided no actual response to the many detailed comments it received on its 2017 framework, instead issuing a 1.5-page document that dismisses many of the comments merely as having “stemmed from a misunderstanding of the Agency’s intent.”
  • EPA held a public meeting – but did so without first providing the Working Approach to stakeholders; EPA then limited their comments at the meeting to 2-3 minutes each and ended the meeting well ahead of schedule.
  • EPA’s new framework ignores the earlier comments it received, retaining all of the core flaws of the 2017 Framework and in fact doubling down on several of them.

Most remarkably, EPA seems to want to make clear that the Working Approach is hardly worth the paper on which it is written.  Read More »

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

The Trump EPA reaches a shocking new low in failing to protect workers under TSCA

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

Just when I thought EPA putting workers’ health at risk by shirking its responsibilities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) couldn’t get any worse, it has.

The notion that worker protection can or should be relegated to the equivalent of a shock avoidance experiment is deeply offensive if not outright immoral.

In its risk evaluations of existing chemicals (see our comments here and here) and its reviews of  new chemicals (see our comments here) entering the market, EPA has found ways bordering on the diabolical to avoid identifying or to understate the extent and nature of risks to workers making or using those chemicals.  The agency:

  • Simply assumes without evidence that workers will wear fully effective personal protective equipment (respirators and gloves).
  • Distorts OSHA regulations and claims they apply where they don’t.
  • Treats voluntary instruments that impose no binding requirements as if they were mandatory.
  • Assumes that if the average worker’s exposure does not exceed its acceptable risk level, then it doesn’t matter if there are exceedances for those workers most highly exposed.
  • Has unquestioningly accepted and used manufacturers’ undocumented data on workplace exposure levels even when data from more authoritative sources show far higher exposures.
  • And has adopted a cancer risk benchmark that is as much as two orders of magnitude more permissive of risk than warranted under TSCA.

All this despite TSCA’s express identification of workers as a “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation” that warrants special protection.

As appalling as all of this is, it just got worse. Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Comments are closed