Part 1 of a 2-part series: Minimizing or Ignoring Chemical Hazards
Maria Doa, Ph.D., Senior Director, Chemicals Policy
In its recently released “State of TSCA” report, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) attempts to backtrack on how the EPA assesses and mitigates the risks of toxic chemicals. The chemical industry group is seeking to return to the policies of the Trump years – an era plagued by issues of scientific integrity and wholesale risk disregard – especially the risks to frontline communities, workers and other vulnerable groups: the very groups that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) calls for special attention.
This two-part blog series examines the six ways ACC hopes to turn back the clock on chemical safety and examines the harm that would result if the trade group’s self-serving ideas were adopted. Part 1 examines the types of risks that the ACC wants the EPA to exclude from its chemical risk assessments, the workers and other groups whose health would be affected, and the business group’s goal of being appointed arbitrator of EPA science. Part 2 examines the CCA’s efforts to dictate the process for evaluating new chemicals and the clear goal of industry to avoid paying its fair share of the cost to assess the risks posed by some of the chemicals. the most dangerous already on the market.
How does the ACC propose to roll back the TSCA?
They would like the EPA to exclude many of the risks we face from toxic chemicals from consideration.
TSCA explicitlily requires this APE consider whether the “manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use or disposal” – basically the life cycle chemical – presents an unreasonable risk and so take steps to mitigate this risk. VACyet, would have EPA ignore the risks of certain activities, such as certain airborne releases, and do not address the TSCA’s requirement to take steps to reduce risk if another law such as the Clean Air Act or Occupational Safety and Health Act could theoretically handle any of these activities. The ACC of course omits the fact that other laws can often only partially address the chemical risks associated with these chemical uses or that other laws do not take into account cases where a chemical poses an unreasonable risk to health. or the environment. Congress was aware of these other laws when it amended TSCA in 2016 and saw the need for updated chemical safety law to address the risks of toxic chemicals more comprehensively.
If the ACC were successful, the EPA would ignore TSCA’s clear direction to address the unreasonable risks presented by toxic chemicals throughout their life cycle and leave people at risk of exposure to many chemicals which can cause damage such as asthma or cancer.
Minimize other risks we face from toxic chemicals
In addition to preventing the EPA from considering many of exposures of chemical productsACC would have EPA avoid looking everything the known and likely uses of chemical and rather consider the risks of each individual use of a chemical in isolation.
While exposure to a chemical from a particular use or application may not pose an unreasonable risk, exposure to multiple uses of the chemical may indeed pose an unreasonable risk.
The ACC’s approach would allow the EPA to determine that individual uses of some of the most toxic chemicals like lead, asbestos, TCE and methylene chloride are safe.
Rather than pursuing innovation and leading the way in the transition to safer alternatives, the ACC would rather see the EPA allow industry to continue certain uses of chemicals that have long been causing significant harm.
Minimize the risks incurred by workers
VAC also wants to go back in time and going back to the days of Trump where the real risks to workers were not taken into account. under the president AssetEPA risk assessments almost always concluded that there was no unreasonable risk to the workers because they assumed individual protection equipment (EAR) has always been used in the most protective way and that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards have always been met.
Of course, there are several things wrong with this. PPE is not the panacea as ACC would characterize it. Equipment such as respirators don’t always fit well and are hard on the worker if worn for long periods of time. Indeed, the preferred approach is to not use PPE first – or assume its use – when managing worker risks. Rather, the EPA should start by trying to completely eliminate the hazard to the worker by reducing exposure through process, engineering, or administrative changes. Because it is less effective, examining PPE should be the least preferable approach, taken only after reducing chemical exposures in the first place.
Even when OSHA standards are met, in many cases there would still be an unreasonable risk. This is because OSHA standards are set using both risk and non-worker risk factors, such as economic feasibility, which often prevent the agency from ensuring that the chemical does not pose a significant risk. for workers. OSHA itself has also recognized that many of its standards are outdated and unprotective. Indeed, the agency recommends using other standards.
But that’s not all. The ACC would like the EPA to underestimate the risk to workers in its risk assessments by assuming that the PPE or other protective measures practiced by some companies are used by everyone. This is not only a broad generalization and often based on limited data, but it also puts the cart before the horse. ACC should be aware that EPA must first estimate exposure and risk and then determine how best to mitigate them, as would be clear from a review of basic risk assessment principles.
VAC’s preferred approach would reverse this process and assume every worker is fully wrapped in the most protective PPE and call it a day. Rather than placing the responsibility for a safe workplace on the company, the ACC would only place the responsibility on the worker to determine how to ensure their own safety.
Let industry dictate the science used in EPA assessments
Despite its obvious financial interest in the outcome of EPA assessments and decisions, the ACC continues its unsuccessful attempt to appoint themselves as an EPA Science Arbitrator. The trade group turns to its tired and self-serving assertion that the EPA is using flawed science, while introducing obstacles to the EPA’s use of the best available science in its TSCA assessments, including the use of Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessments. , the benchmark for the identification and characterization of hazards resulting from exposure to chemicals.
The ACC also says the EPA overestimates the risks and should therefore rely on industry for information. Of course, the ACC would say that the EPA is overestimating the risks. The industry group’s approach to a risk assessment of a toxic chemical would be for the EPA to exclude as many exposures as possible, minimize other exposures, and conclude that certain uses of the most toxic substances are fine.
When the EPA needs additional chemical safety information, it should rely not only on data that industry is willing to provide, but also on TSCA’s information gathering provisions that give the agency the power to demand the information necessary to establish an informed and health-protective risk analysis. Evaluation.
In my next blog I look at the ACC’s plan to dictate how the EPA should assess the safety of new chemicals that industry hopes to bring to market, as well as the trade group’s efforts to let industry avoid paying its fair share of the cost of the EPA’s chemical hazard assessment.