TSCAblog™

EDF Reports That EPA Has “Muzzled” SACC
Posted on September 20, 2019 by Lynn L. Bergeson

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the adequacy of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations that either do not apply or are out of date;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.”

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