Company Safety Data Sheets on New Chemicals Frequently Lack the Worker Protections EPA Claims They Include
By Richard Denison
Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA's approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere "expectation" that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer's non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).
The typical course has been for EPA to identify risks to workers from a new chemical it is reviewing under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but then — instead of issuing an order imposing binding conditions on the chemical's entry onto the market, as TSCA requires — to find that the chemical is "not likely to present an unreasonable risk" and impose no conditions whatsoever on its manufacturer. This sleight of hand is pulled off by EPA stating that it:
expects employers will require and workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) … consistent with the Safety Data Sheet prepared by the new chemical submitter, in a manner adequate to protect them.
We have detailed earlier the myriad ways in which this approach strays from the law, is bad policy and won't protect workers. But here's yet another gaping problem: When we are able to look at the actual SDSs — that is, when EPA has made them available and when they are not totally redacted — we are frequently finding that the specific PPE that EPA claims to be specified in the SDSs — and that EPA asserts is sufficient to protect all workers handling the chemical — is not in the SDSs.
EDF recently examined the SDSs for each of five new chemicals where EPA has declared them "not likely to present an unreasonable risk" and included the language I cited above. EPA has also included the five in a proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) that would require companies to notify EPA if they intend to use a chemical in a particular manner that EPA has defined as a "significant new use." On Monday, EDF filed extensive critical comments on those proposed SNURs.
The reason we are focusing here on these chemicals is because, by law, EPA had to establish a rulemaking docket for the SNUR and place in that docket certain supporting documents pertaining to each new chemical. Among those documents is (supposed to be) the chemical's corresponding SDS.
Unfortunately, for two of the five chemicals (identified as P-18-0073 and P-19-0010, because the companies claimed their actual identities to be confidential), EPA failed to provide a copy of the SDS in its docket even though it is part of the documentation the company was required to submit to EPA. For another of the five (P-17-0239), the copy of the SDS EPA included in the docket is totally redacted — even though much if not all of its content comprises health and safety information not eligible for confidential business information (CBI) protection under TSCA and, for the remainder, there is no evidence EPA has reviewed and approved any CBI claims the company asserted for the SDS.
That leaves us with the SDSs for the remaining two cases (P-18-0048and P-18-0122), which are unredacted. Now we can compare what they specify by way of PPE to the specific PPE that EPA relied on in determining these chemicals are "not likely to present an unreasonable risk."
P-18-0048: Here is what the "not likely" determination document for P-18-0048 states:
Risks to workers: Reproductive toxicity via dermal exposure; corrosion to all tissues via dermal and inhalation exposures.
PPE EPA relies on: EPA identifies as "appropriate PPE" the use of "impervious gloves and a respirator." EPA goes on to state:
EPA expects that employers will require and workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment, including dermal and respiratory protection with an Assigned Protection Factor [APF] of 50, consistent with the Safety Data Sheet submitted with the PMN [premanufacture notice], in a manner adequate to protect them. (p. 6, emphasis added)
The associated SDS does recommend wearing "protective gloves," "suitable protective equipment," and "appropriate chemical resistant gloves." Its only reference to respiratory protection, however, is this:
[I]n the case of insufficient ventilation, wear suitable respiratory equipment.
Nowhere does the SDS specify use of a respirator with an APF of 50. The SDS is clearly not consistent with EPA's own description of it.
P-18-0122: Here is what the "not likely" determination document for P-18-0122 states:
Risks to workers: Lung toxicity via inhalation; irritation to skin, eyes, lung and GI tract.
PPE EPA relies on:
Risks will be mitigated if exposures are controlled by the use of appropriate PPE, including respiratory protection with an APF of 10. Risks could not be quantified for irritation hazards, but appropriate PPE, including impervious gloves and protective eye wear, would mitigate concerns. EPA expects that employers will require and workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment (i.e., impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a respirator), consistent with the Safety Data Sheet prepared by the PMN submitter, in a manner adequate to protect them. (pp. 5-6, emphases added)
While the corresponding SDS does recommend certain types of gloves and safety glasses, it specifically states:
Other protective equipment is not generally required under normal working conditions.
The only mention of use of a respirator anywhere in the SDS is where an OSHA regulatory workplace standard is exceeded – which is clearly not the case here, as no such standards exist for the new chemical. Nowhere does the SDS specify use of a respirator with an APF of 10. Here again, the SDS is clearly not consistent with EPA's own description of it.
Other Recent Cases Found
This finding spurred us to look further at other "not likely" determinations and the corresponding SDSs. This is slower-going, because there is no electronically accessible docket. That's not only because EPA has not proposed a SNUR for other new chemicals to which it recently gave the green light; it's also because EPA has failed to comply with its own regulations requiring it to provide electronic access to all new chemical submissions it receives.
As we have described elsewhere, EDF has had no choice but to request the "public files" for these chemicals through EPA's Docket Center, which can take several weeks (they come by snail mail on a CD-ROM).
I looked at a number of recent new chemicals EPA has green-lighted for which we have received public files. In one case no SDS was provided in the public file, while in two others the SDS was there but again totally redacted. In some of the remaining cases the SDS recommended PPE that matched that EPA described in its "not likely" document, or at least came close.
But in other cases, there was not a match. Here are two examples:
P-19-0021/22: Here is what the "not likely" determination document for P-19-0021 and P-19-0022 states:
Risks to workers: Lung overload via inhalation.
PPE EPA relies on:
Risks will be mitigated if exposures are controlled by the use of appropriate PPE, including a respirator with APF of 50. EPA expects that workers will use appropriate PPE consistent with the SDS prepared by the PMN submitter, in a manner adequate to protect them. (p. 5, emphases added)
The associated SDS makes only this reference to respiratory protection:
Respiratory protection: Mist respirator, include single use respirator
Nowhere does the SDS specify use of a respirator with an APF of 50. The SDS is clearly not consistent with EPA's own description of it.
P-18-0212: Here is what the "not likely" determination document for P-18-0212 states:
Risks to workers: Systemic effects via inhalation exposure; portal of entry/contact effects to the eyes, lungs and skin following ocular, inhalation, and dermal exposures
PPE EPA relies on:
The risks and hazards identified will be mitigated if exposures are controlled by the use of appropriate PPE, including impervious gloves, respirators with an APF of at least 10, and eye protection. EPA expects that workers will use appropriate personal protective equipment (i.e., impervious gloves, respirator with an APF of at least 10, and eye protection), consistent with the Safety Data Sheet submitted with the PMN, in a manner adequate to protect them. (p. 5, emphases added)
The associated SDS makes this reference to respiratory protection:
Respiratory Protection: For operations where inhalation exposure can occur use an approved respirator. Recommendations are listed below. Other protective respiratory equipment may be used based on user's own risk assessment. Recommended respirators include those certified by NIOSH.
Recommended: Full Face Mask with a combination particulate/organic vapor cartridge.
Nowhere does the SDS specify use of a respirator with an APF of 10. The SDS is clearly not consistent with EPA's own description of it.
In each of these cases, EPA identified a particular type of respirator as necessary for its finding that the chemical is not likely to present an unreasonable risk, and in each case, EPA asserted that the corresponding SDS specified that type of equipment. But in fact, in each case, the SDS does not specify that type of respirator. EPA's decisions run counter to the actual evidence before the agency, and EPA has actually mischaracterized that evidence. That amounts to arbitrary decision-making. Practically speaking, this mismatch means that workers could follow the SDS to a T and be using a respirator that is not sufficient to protect them against the chemical's identified risks.
As we have noted before, EPA's reliance on SDS-recommended PPE flouts the law and falls vastly short of what TSCA requires EPA to do to protect workers. Amended TSCA requires EPA to issue binding orders to mitigate identified risks posed to workers by new chemicals, which it has identified in each of the cases we cite above. EPA's mere "expectation" that PPE will universally be available, used and effective is wholly insufficient to address the identified risks. The recommendations in an SDS are not binding on employers, neither on manufacturers nor on other companies downstream in supply chains. Failure to always use PPE or for it always to be effective is clearly reasonably foreseeable, and EPA is required to mitigate risks from "reasonably foreseen conditions of use" of a new chemical. PPE is the option of last resort under the longstanding Industrial Hygiene Hierarchy of Controls adopted by OSHA and embraced by the industrial hygiene community. Reliance on expected use of PPE shifts the burden of protection off of EPA and employers and onto the backs of workers.
Now, we find that even the PPE EPA identifies as necessary to be in an SDS in order to determine that a new chemical is not likely to present an unreasonable risk is frequently absent from the SDS. Even under its own flawed theories, EPA is utterly failing to protect workers from the risks of these chemicals.
How much farther under the bus will the Trump EPA throw American workers?
Richard Denison is a lead senior scientist with Environmental Defense Fund.
- EPA Announces 20 Toxic Chemicals It Won't Protect Us From ... ›
- Trump EPA Refuses to Limit Toxic Chemicals Contaminating ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- 29 Wildfires Blaze Across the West, Fueled by Drought and Wind ... ›
- Large Wildfires Scorch Forests in Drought-Stricken Southwest ... ›
Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. mixetto / E+ / Getty Images
Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. New research has found that 5.4 million Americans were dropped from their insurance between February and May of this year. In that three-month stretch more Americans lost their coverage than have lost coverage in any entire year, according to The New York Times.
- Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites ... ›
- 'Unfathomable Cruelty': Trump Admin Asks Supreme Court to ... ›
On hot days in New York City, residents swelter when they're outside and in their homes. The heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be fatal.
- Extreme Heat-Stressed Locations Could Increase by 80% - EcoWatch ›
- African Americans Are Disproportionately Exposed to Extreme Heat ... ›
- Extreme Heat Is Killing Americans While Government Neglect ... ›
Fracking companies are going bankrupt at a rapid pace, often with taxpayer-funded bonuses for executives, leaving harm for communities, taxpayers, and workers, the New York Time reports.
- Plunging Oil Prices Trigger Economic Downturn in Fracking Boom ... ›
- Fracking Boom Bursts in Face of Low Oil Prices - EcoWatch ›
- As Fracking Companies Face Bankruptcy, U.S. Regulators Enable ... ›
A report scheduled for release later Tuesday by Congress' non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Trump administration undervalues the costs of the climate crisis in order to push deregulation and rollbacks of environmental protections, according to The New York Times.
- Under Trump, EPA Workers Seek Bill of Rights to Allow Them to ... ›
- Trump Adds 'Tasteless Insult to Injury' by Pushing Fossil Fuel ... ›
By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
- Trump Admin Rejects CDC Reopening Guidelines - EcoWatch ›
- How Do You Stay Safe Now That States Are Reopening? - EcoWatch ›
- Florida Breaks U.S. Daily Record With Over 15,000 New ... ›
By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
- DNC Ignores Progressive Climate Activists - EcoWatch ›
- Who's a Climate Champion and Who's a Climate Disaster? - EcoWatch ›