Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Groups Sue EPA for Weakening Toxic Chemical Rules

Health + Wellness

By Gail Koffman

"The fox guarding the hen house" aptly describes the inner workings of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump administration.

A major case in point: The EPA official tasked to head up the Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention office, Nancy Beck, came to the job after working as a former high-level official for a chemical industry association. She was charged with updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which addresses the production, use and disposal of such chemicals as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, radon and lead-based paint.


Not surprisingly, Beck's updated TSCA regulations significantly weaken government regulations over these chemicals in consumer products and building materials by removing the provision for regulating all uses of chemicals.

In response, Earthjustice filed two lawsuits against the EPA late last week for weakening these regulations. The suits were filed on behalf of organizations representing populations that are most at risk from weakened chemical regulations—low-income communities, parents and teachers of children with learning disabilities, workers and indigenous populations.

The lawsuits challenge two EPA regulations that set ground rules for how the EPA will prioritize chemicals for safety review and then evaluate the risks of those chemicals under TSCA.

"The EPA's newly adopted rules will leave children, communities and workers vulnerable to dangerous chemicals," said Earthjustice attorney Eve Gartner. "This lawsuit is about one thing: holding the Trump EPA to the letter of the law and ensuring it fulfills its mandate to protect the public."

Under the Obama administration, Congress strengthened the TSCA, requiring the EPA to conduct comprehensive risk evaluations of chemicals. These evaluations devoted special attention to all of the risks posed to vulnerable populations and to consider all the ways a chemical may be used to account for all possible sources of exposure, otherwise known as the "conditions of use" provision.

The Trump administration's revision of TSCA is an entirely different matter. "The most significant change is whether the EPA must consider all 'conditions of use' as part of the risk evaluation process," explained attorney Eve Gartner. "If the EPA can pick and choose which uses of a chemical it will consider, it could ignore some sources of exposure. And that could lead the agency to underestimate the risk the chemical poses to public health."

For more than six years, Earthjustice has fought for TSCA reform to ensure the EPA adequately protects the public and environment from harmful chemicals.

Earthjustice filed Friday's complaints in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Learning Disabilities Association of America, United Steelworkers, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Health Strategy Center, the Environmental Working Group and the Sierra Club.

"What Mr. Trump may not realize is that many residents, especially tenants living in poor or substandard housing, disproportionately suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma," said Dr. Adrienne Hollis, director of federal policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

"We need to know the risks of chemicals used in our communities because exposure often exacerbates health disparities and outcomes. Enforcement of chemical laws to keep our communities healthy should be a top priority for the EPA."

Regarding the harm of toxic chemicals to children, Patricia Lillie, president of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, said, "These rules ... give the EPA authority to choose to ignore chemical uses that could result in prenatal and children's exposures to chemicals that are linked to learning and developmental disabilities."

Earthjustice also joined the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families in sending a strong letter to EPA director Scott Pruitt, expressing concern about Nancy Beck's conflict of interest in overseeing chemical regulations. Beck's weakening of TSCA is a toxic case in point.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Jörg Carstensen / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

Bayer AG is reneging on negotiated settlements with several U.S. law firms representing thousands of plaintiffs who claim exposure to Monsanto's Roundup herbicides caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, sources involved in the litigation said on Friday.

Read More Show Less
Tom Werner / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

With many schools now closed due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, you may be looking for activities to keep your children active, engaged, and entertained.

Although numerous activities can keep kids busy, cooking is one of the best choices, as it's both fun and educational.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
In Germany's Hunsrück village of Schorbach, numerous photovoltaic systems are installed on house roofs, on Sept. 19, 2019. Thomas Frey / Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Germany's target for renewable energy sources to deliver 65% of its consumed electricity by 2030 seemed on track Wednesday, with 52% of electricity coming from renewables in 2020's first quarter. Renewable energy advocates, however, warned the trend is imperiled by slowdowns in building new wind and solar plants.

Read More Show Less

In many parts of the U.S., family farms are disappearing and being replaced by suburban sprawl.

Read More Show Less
General view of the empty Alma bridge, in front of the Eiffel tower, while the city imposes emergency measures to combat the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, on March 17, 2020 in Paris, France. Edward Berthelot / Getty Images

Half the world is on lockdown. So, the constant hum of cars, trucks, trains and heavy machinery has stopped, drastically reducing the intensity of the vibrations rippling through the Earth's crust. Seismologists, who use highly sensitive equipment, have noticed a difference in the hum caused by human activity, according to Fast Company.

Read More Show Less