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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) published a September 16, 2019, blog item entitled “EPA’s latest move to deflect criticism of its TSCA risk evaluations: Muzzle its science advisors.”  EDF notes that it has opposed a number of recent decisions made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “that aim to limit the risks it finds when evaluating the safety of chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA),” including:

  • Excluding from its analysis known human and environmental exposures to a chemical, based on the assumption that those exposures are adequately managed by other statutes;
     
  • Claiming without support that workers are protected by assuming universal and universally effective use of personal protective equipment throughout chemical supply chains and the adequacy of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations that either do not apply or are out of date;
     
  • Arbitrarily loosening EPA’s longstanding risk standards governing when cancer incidences are deemed unacceptably high; and
     
  • Choosing not to exercise its enhanced authorities under TSCA to require submission of robust information on chemicals’ hazard and exposures, instead making “questionable assumptions and relying on voluntarily submitted industry data that are unrepresentative or of poor or indeterminate quality.”

EDF states that through these decisions, EPA increases the likelihood that it will either not find unreasonable risk and thereby avoid regulating the chemical, or find risks that are low enough that it can impose few restrictions.  According to EDF, in response to each of these decisions, EPA received critical comments on its draft risk evaluations from state and local governments, labor and health groups, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO), and members of the scientific community.  EDF reports that during the first several peer reviews conducted by EPA’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), many of the SACC members raised similar concerns.  According to EDF, EPA has directed SACC “that these issues are off-limits to the peer reviewers because they represent policy decisions that are beyond the charge given to the SACC.”  EDF states that “[t]his is beyond the pale” for the following reasons:

  1. Such issues fall squarely within SACC’s charge.  EPA’s charge questions to SACC for its most recent peer review of 1-bromopropane (1-BP) “specifically (and appropriately) call on the SACC to comment on the ‘assumptions, uncertainties and data limitations in the methodology used to assess risks from 1-BP’”;
     
  2. It is “absolutely” SACC’s role and responsibility to comment on the scientific consequences of EPA’s decisions that directly affect its characterization of exposure, hazard, and risk; and
     
  3. With respect to the adequacy of the information on which EPA relies, EPA “has recently made an additional claim to the SACC:  that EPA has no choice but to use the data it has readily at hand, however limited they are.”

EDF concludes that EPA’s direction to SACC “is but the latest in a series of moves to limit the scientific information and scientific advice that EPA can obtain and use to make decisions.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced on June 17, 2019, a report entitled Toxic Consequences:  Trump’s attacks on chemical safety put our health at risk.  EDF notes that “[c]oncern over toxic exposures and a lack of confidence in the badly outdated chemical safety system” led to Congress passing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act) to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The bipartisan bill “finally” gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “the power to strengthen health protections for American families and the environment.”  EDF claims that the Trump Administration “is seeking to dismantle the new authorities and mandates under the law with the goal of shifting policies to serve the chemical industry’s agenda,” however.  According to EDF, EPA has taken the following actions that undermine the Lautenberg Act:

  • Approving new chemicals without regard for the law or public health;
     
  • Ignoring real-life exposures when evaluating risks of existing chemicals; and
     
  • Blocking or weakening bans of toxic chemicals.

EDF concludes that “without a drastic change to EPA’s current direction on chemical safety, we will be forced to endure the toxic consequences of its mistakes for decades to come.”

Tags: EDF, Report