By Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney
From the beginning, the Trump administration has aggressively slashed environmental regulations. A New York Times analysis identified 100 environmental protections that have been reversed or are in the process of getting rolled back. The administration's record on chemical safety has been especially hazardous for the health of Americans, especially children.
1. Failed to Aggressively Regulate Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’<p>The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS contaminate <a href="https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/pfas_contamination/" target="_blank">more than 2,200 sites</a> across the nation. Because they never break down in the environment, PFAS are often called "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/these-toxic-chemicals-are-everywhere-and-they-wont-ever-go-away/2018/01/02/82e7e48a-e4ee-11e7-a65d-1ac0fd7f097e_story.html" target="_blank">forever chemicals</a>." They build up in our bodies and are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental harms and reduced effectiveness of vaccines. Even though the EPA has known about the risks from PFAS chemicals <a href="https://www.ewg.org/epa-pfas-timeline/" target="_blank">since at least 1998</a>, they remain virtually unregulated.</p><p>In February 2019, the EPA released a toothless PFAS "action plan" that lacked deadlines for action and failed to address the use of PFAS in everyday products, contamination from PFAS air emissions or disposal of PFAS waste, among other concerns. A year and a half later, key goals from the plan, including regulating PFAS under the Superfund law and setting drinking water standards, remain unfulfilled.</p><p>When Congress stepped in and sought to designate PFOA and PFOS – the two most notorious and well-studied PFAS – as "hazardous substances" and to set deadlines for agency action, Trump <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/SAP_HR-535.pdf" target="_blank">threatened a veto</a>. Trump's EPA also <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/07/27/2020-13738/long-chain-perfluoroalkyl-carboxylate-and-perfluoroalkyl-sulfonate-chemical-substances-significant" target="_blank">weakened a rule</a> designed to regulate <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2020/06/final-decision-epa-fails-protect-public-toxic-forever-chemicals-consumer" target="_blank">PFAS in consumer products</a>.</p>
2. Allowed a Rocket Fuel Chemical to Stay in Drinking Water<p>Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel that also frequently contaminates drinking water sources. Perchlorate can interfere with thyroid function, which can also harm <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2017/11/kids-still-risk-rocket-fuel-chemical-food-and-water" target="_blank">childhood brain development</a>.</p><p><a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-02-11/html/2011-2603.htm" target="_blank">Almost a decade ago,</a> the EPA determined that these harms warranted regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The agency then dragged its feet for years. In 2016, the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/media/2016/160218" target="_blank">Natural Resources Defense Council sued</a> to force the EPA to finally set a legal limit for perchlorate in drinking water. In a <a href="https://www.freshlawblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2016/12/Doc-38-Consent-Decree.pdf" target="_blank">court-approved consent decree</a>, the EPA agreed to propose a standard by October 2018 and finalize it by 2019. However, the EPA sought extensions and failed to meet these deadlines.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/06/26/2019-12773/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations-perchlorate" target="_blank">EPA finally proposed a drinking water standard</a> in June 2019 but also suggested that it might not regulate perchlorate after all. <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/07/21/2020-13462/drinking-water-final-action-on-perchlorate" target="_blank">A year later, </a>the EPA withdrew its decision to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.</p>
3. Allowed Scores of New Chemicals, Including New Toxic PFAS, Onto the Market Without Adequate Oversight<p>In 2016, Congress substantially changed the way new chemicals are approved under the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/05/new-tsca-bill-falls-short-protecting-americans-toxic-chemicals#.WwLUddMvwWo" target="_blank">Toxic Substances Control Act</a>, or TSCA.</p><p>Under the old law, chemicals were frequently approved by default, often <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/off-the-books-ii-more-secret-chemicals/new-chemicals" target="_blank">without any health and safety information</a>. As a result, unsafe chemicals were allowed to be used for years or decades before the health and environmental hazards came to light. Inadequate oversight of new chemicals can also lead to <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/harmful-chemicals-removed-from-products-often-replaced-with-something-as-bad-or-worse/" target="_blank">regrettable substitution</a> – when chemicals are finally found to be unsafe, they are often replaced by unstudied chemicals that may be just as or even more toxic.</p><p>The 2016 update was supposed to fix the new chemicals program by requiring the EPA to make an affirmative safety finding on new chemicals and restrict use if industry failed to provide sufficient safety data. Nonetheless, the Trump EPA has approved scores of new chemicals in a process that <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/12/09/when-will-epa-fully-explain-and-legally-justify-its-reviews-of-new-chemicals-under-tsca/" target="_blank">lacks transparency</a> and <a href="https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/20200317_comms_pc_tsca_english_final.pdf" target="_blank">contravenes the 2016 law</a>. The EPA has also <a href="https://www.edf.org/blog/2018/09/05/trumps-epa-flouting-law-when-approving-new-chemicals-here-are-3-examples" target="_blank">ignored known health concerns</a>, <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/02/21/the-trump-epa-is-throwing-workers-facing-risks-from-new-tsca-chemicals-under-the-bus/" target="_blank">limited its consideration of worker risks</a> and <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/06/03/the-trump-epa-is-illegally-denying-requests-for-public-files-on-new-chemicals/" target="_blank">denied requests for public files</a> in the new chemicals program.</p><p>The EPA has also exploited loopholes in the new law to quickly approve new chemicals, including toxic PFAS. <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2020/07/28/greasing-the-skids-the-trump-epa-is-green-lighting-dozens-of-new-pfas-under-tsca/" target="_blank">A recent investigation</a> found that the EPA has been quietly approving new PFAS chemicals, through a provision known as the low volume exemption in the new chemicals program. As a result, the EPA is greenlighting new PFAS chemicals on an expedited basis, without public scrutiny. One PFAS, <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2020/01/27/what-connects-cross-country-skiing-and-chemical-safety/" target="_blank">used in ski wax</a>, was approved despite a finding that the chemical could "waterproof the lungs," resulting in severe health impacts.</p><p>Since the law was updated in 2016, the EPA has reviewed more than <a href="https://www.epa.gov/reviewing-new-chemicals-under-toxic-substances-control-act-tsca/statistics-new-chemicals-review" target="_blank">3,000 new chemicals</a> submissions. More than 1,000 of these chemicals have been approved through the low volume exemption, and since 2016, manufacturers have begun producing at least 900 new chemicals, many without adequate safety data. Environmental groups have <a href="https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/final_filed_complaint.pdf" target="_blank">sued the EPA</a> over its failures to protect the public and the environment from risks from new chemicals. </p>
4. Failed to Protect Workers From a Deadly Paint-Stripping Chemical<p>Methylene chloride is a highly toxic chemical used in paint strippers that is responsible for <a href="https://saferchemicals.org/us-deaths-from-methylene-chloride/" target="_blank">more than 60 deaths</a> since 1980. In the final days of the Obama administration, the <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0231-0001" target="_blank">EPA proposed a ban</a> on "methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal."</p><p>After significant pressure from <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/epa-reconsiders-ban-on-potentially-lethal-paint-stripper-chemical-methylene-chloride/" target="_blank">families who lost loved ones</a> due to methylene chloride exposure, the Trump EPA eventually issued a final rule in 2019. However, the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-bans-consumer-sales-methylene-chloride-paint-removers-protecting-public" target="_blank">EPA narrowed the rule</a> so that it would apply only to consumer<em> uses</em> of methylene chloride, not commercial uses. That means workers are not protected, even though a <a href="https://publicintegrity.org/inequality-poverty-opportunity/workers-rights/epa-restricts-sales-of-deadly-paint-strippers-after-years-of-delays/" target="_blank">Center for Public Integrity investigation</a> found that most deaths from methylene chloride take place at work.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/final-risk-evaluation-methylene-chloride" target="_blank">separate EPA evaluation</a> of methylene chloride found that manufacturing, disposal and several other uses of methylene chloride pose no "unreasonable risk." Environmental groups have filed lawsuits challenging <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2019/trump-s-epa-sued-for-leaving-workers-exposed-to-deadly-chemical-in-paint-strippers" target="_blank">the rule</a> and the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/trumps-epa-sued-over-understating-risks-of-deadly-chemical" target="_blank">recent evaluation</a>.</p>
5. Cooked the Books on the “Civil Action” Chemical<p>Trichloroethylene is a chemical solvent made infamous by the book and movie "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3PHjIly2N0" target="_blank">A Civil Action</a>." The EPA considers it to be a known carcinogen, and it is one of the primary contaminants that sickened scores of veterans who served at <a href="https://psmag.com/environment/what-happened-at-camp-lejeune" target="_blank">Camp Lejeune</a>, in North Carolina.</p><p>As with methylene chloride, in the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA proposed banning three uses of TCE: <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0163-0001" target="_blank">spot cleaning, aerosol degreasing</a> and <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0387-0001" target="_blank">vapor degreasing</a>. In December 2017, the Trump EPA <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-epa-indefinitely-delays-bans-deadly-chemicals" target="_blank">shelved these proposed bans</a>, claiming that it would study those uses in a separate ongoing risk evaluation of TCE.</p><p>However, the EPA dramatically rewrote the accepted science on TCE in the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-risk-evaluation-trichloroethylene" target="_blank">draft risk evaluation</a> released in February. As <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2018/06/industry-s-behest-epa-caves-banning-civil-action-carcinogen-lays-ground" target="_blank">EWG warned</a> in 2018, the solvents industry aggressively lobbied the EPA to ignore a key <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241384/" target="_blank">2003 study</a> finding that TCE causes heart deformities in developing fetuses. TCE's connection with fetal heart defects was an important basis for the Obama EPA's decision to ban three uses of TCE. An <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623816303240#bib0190" target="_blank">independent review</a> of the EPA's science found that "prenatal exposure to TCE can cause human cardiac defects" and that the study "remains a valid choice" for assessing risk.</p><p>The lobbyists succeeded. The EPA's draft risk evaluation questioned the study's design and minimized its significance. An <a href="https://www.revealnews.org/article/epa-scientists-found-a-toxic-chemical-damages-fetal-hearts-the-trump-white-house-rewrote-their-assessment/" target="_blank">investigation by Reveal News</a> compared the draft risk evaluation with a leaked earlier draft. It found that the earlier draft had relied extensively on the 2003 study and used it as a benchmark for the risk calculations. Reveal also reported that then-EPA chemicals safety chief Nancy Beck – "<a href="https://www.ewg.org/planet-trump/2017/05/scariest-trump-appointee-you-ve-never-heard" target="_blank">the scariest Trump appointee you've never heard of</a>" – ordered that the risk evaluation be rewritten to downplay the risks of TCE. With the EPA giving significantly less weight to risks from fetal heart deformities, it's unlikely the agency will finalize the proposed bans.</p>
6. Pressured EPA Scientists to Drop Evaluations of Toxic Chemicals – Including Formaldehyde<p>The Trump EPA is undermining the work of independent scientists within the Integrated Risk Information System program, known as IRIS. The program's work is supposed to be impartial and non-political. Its scientific assessments are intended to support the work of other EPA program offices and regional offices. IRIS is a <a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/02/03/epa-iris-toxic-chemicals/" target="_blank">frequent target of chemical industry attacks</a> because its independent safety assessments often don't align with industry objectives.</p><p>In 2018, the Trump EPA tried to <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3534381/Combined.pdf" target="_blank">defund</a> the IRIS program. EPA leadership also pressured IRIS to drop critical health assessments. In March 2019, <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697212.pdf" target="_blank">a Government Accountability Office report</a> disclosed that EPA leadership directed agency offices to limit the number of chemicals they wanted IRIS to review, and cut in half the number of IRIS's ongoing or upcoming assessments.</p><p>One of the halted assessments was IRIS's decades-long review of formaldehyde, a widely used chemical and <a href="https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/formaldehyde.pdf" target="_blank">known human carcinogen</a>. This is surprising because former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January 2018 that the report was complete and <a href="https://www.markey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Pruitt%20Letter%20formaldehyde%20assessment.pdf" target="_blank">ready for release</a>. However, answering <a href="https://www.eenews.net/assets/2019/01/29/document_pm_02.pdf" target="_blank">questions for the record</a> following a 2019 Senate hearing, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said formaldehyde was "not a top priority."</p><p>Instead of releasing the IRIS study on formaldehyde to the public, the EPA has instead decided that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention – under the leadership of Nancy Beck – should <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-finalizes-list-next-20-chemicals-undergo-risk-evaluation-under-tsca" target="_blank">conduct its own assessment</a> of formaldehyde. As with TCE, this action will give the agency an opportunity to distort the science and minimize risks. Because these reviews take years, it will also significantly delay any EPA regulatory action on formaldehyde.</p>
7. Rolled Back Clean Water Protections<p>Industrial chemical pollutants are often discharged into drinking water supplies. But the Trump administration has made it a priority to roll back the<a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/06/29/2015-13435/clean-water-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states" target="_blank"> Clean Water Rule,</a> which more clearly defined which kinds of bodies of water are subject to the Clean Water Act. EWG's analysis found that the Clean Water Rule, if implemented as proposed by the Obama administration, would have protected drinking water sources for more than <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/trump-plan-gut-stream-protections-imperils-tap-water-117-million-americans" target="_blank">117 million Americans</a>.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/31/politics/epa-science-board/index.html" target="_blank">EPA's own science advisors</a> have opposed the rollback of the Clean Water Rule, but the Trump administration <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-completes-repeal-clean-water-rule-imperiling-drinking-water-sources-117m-people" target="_blank">repealed</a> it in 2019, <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-administration-finalizes-repeal-pollution-rule-threatening-drinking-water-sources-117" target="_blank">proposed its own rule</a> in January and <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/21/2020-02500/the-navigable-waters-protection-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states" target="_blank">finalized it</a> in April. The new rule covers far fewer bodies of water and would leave 234,000 miles of small streams unprotected. EWG estimates that at least 72 million Americans draw at least half their drinking water from small streams.</p><p>Because of the repeal, those bodies of water will no longer be subject to pollution limits. Protection for small and seasonal streams and wetlands is important because they often flow into larger bodies of water, including sources of drinking water. Polluted drinking water sources <a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2017/03/17/judge-dismisses-water-works-nitrates-lawsuit/99327928/" target="_blank">strain municipal water utilities</a> tasked with filtering out contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and risk exposing the public to more <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/state-of-american-drinking-water.php" target="_blank">contaminants that aren't regulated</a> under the act.</p>
8. Cooked the Books on Asbestos<p>Asbestos is a highly toxic, naturally occurring chemical linked to a particularly deadly form of cancer called <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/symptoms-causes/syc-20375022" target="_blank">mesothelioma</a>. An estimated <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/search?authors=Jukka%20Takala&orcid=0000-0001-5722-7052" target="_blank">40,000 Americans</a> die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Although the toxicity of asbestos is well understood, the EPA has never actually banned most uses. The EPA attempted a ban in 1989, but most of the rule was overturned by <a href="https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=6165892895625819539&q=corrosion+proof+fittings+v+epa&hl=en&as_sdt=20006" target="_blank">the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991.</a></p><p>After Congress reformed TSCA in 2016, the EPA announced that asbestos would be one of the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/under-new-safety-law-epa-picks-first-10-chemicals-review" target="_blank">first 10 chemicals</a> reviewed under the new law. Many hoped that this time, the EPA would finally ban asbestos.</p><p>Instead, when the EPA released its <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-risk-evaluation-asbestos" target="_blank">draft risk evaluation</a> in May, it found that several uses of asbestos, including import of asbestos and asbestos-containing products and distribution of asbestos-containing products, did not pose an unreasonable risk. The EPA made its risk determinations by ignoring exposure from "legacy" uses of asbestos, such as old insulation and building tiles. Although in November the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/court-trump-epa-acted-unlawfully-refusing-consider-legacy-use-asbestos-lead" target="_blank">Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals</a> ordered the EPA to fix this error, it has yet to do so.</p><p>Instead of banning asbestos, in April 2019 the EPA <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/04/25/2019-08154/restrictions-on-discontinued-uses-of-asbestos-significant-new-use-rule" target="_blank">published a rule</a> requiring notice and approval before manufacturers could resume using it in some applications the agency considered abandoned. However, <a href="https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/815-e-p-a-memos-on-asbestos/12c87a96be998db10048/optimized/full.pdf#page=1" target="_blank">leaked documents</a> show that more than a dozen EPA staffers urged an outright ban on asbestos instead.</p>
9. Proposed a Loophole for Toxic Air Pollution<p>In July 2019, the <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/07/26/2019-14252/reclassification-of-major-sources-as-area-sources-under-section-112-of-the-clean-air-act" target="_blank">Trump EPA proposed to reverse</a> a longstanding policy requiring large power plants, refineries and other industrial polluters to always meet certain strict controls, even after reducing emissions. The new rule creates a loophole in the Clean Air Act regulations that would allow large industrial facilities to <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-02/documents/reclassification_of_major_sources_as_area_sources_under_section_112_of_the_clean_air_act.pdf" target="_blank">reclassify themselves</a>, from "major sources" of air pollution to "area sources."</p><p>That change would allow them to opt out of strict pollution control standards, called "maximum achievable control technology," and substantially increase their emissions of dangerous air pollutants. EPA's own data shows that more than <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-07-26/pdf/2019-14252.pdf" target="_blank">3,900 large facilities</a> that <a href="https://www.epa.gov/haps/initial-list-hazardous-air-pollutants-modifications" target="_blank">emit pollutants like mercury and benzene</a> could take advantage of this loophole. <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2020/02/19/epa-data-emphasizes-danger-of-trump-administrations-air-toxics-loophole/?conversion_pg=www.momscleanairforce.org%2Fthe-racism-of-the-epa-agenda%2F" target="_blank">The Environmental Defense Fund</a> estimates the loophole could increase toxic air emissions by as much as 480 percent, or almost 50 million pounds per year. </p><p>This rollback is especially alarming in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. Studies have found that people who live in areas with <a href="https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2020/07/17/why-air-pollution-is-linked-to-severe-cases-of-covid-19/" target="_blank">high levels of air pollution</a> are at greater risk for severe cases of COVID-19.</p>
10. Continuing Its Quest to Censor Science<p>In 2018, the EPA <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/04/30/2018-09078/strengthening-transparency-in-regulatory-science" target="_blank">proposed a disastrous rule</a> significantly limiting the kinds of science the agency can rely on to justify environmental regulations. The rule would have prohibited the agency from using studies that don't make their underlying data publicly available or whose results can't be replicated. That change would prevent the EPA from including in its future risk assessments most <a href="https://www.aaas.org/news/scientific-medical-academic-groups-urge-epa-drop-transparency-rule" target="_blank">human health studies</a>, because personal medical data must remain confidential. The rule would undermine studies that are foundational to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/11/climate/epa-science-trump.html" target="_blank">clean air regulations</a>.</p><p>The proposal sparked enormous opposition from scientists, academics and environmental health advocates. More than 600,000 public comments were submitted to the agency, the vast majority in opposition. In September 2019, the EPA dropped the proposal from its regulatory agenda. </p><p>But the Trump EPA is at it again. In March, the agency issued a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/supplemental_notice_of_strengthening_transparency_in_regulatory_science.pdf" target="_blank">supplemental proposal</a> that is actually <a href="https://www.ewg.org/testimony-official-correspondence/ewg-comments-epa-strengthening-transparency-regulatory-science" target="_blank">worse than</a> the original proposal. The 2018 proposal applied to all "dose response" studies, but the new proposal applies to all studies. The new proposal also applies retroactively, which means the EPA could use it to gut existing regulations.</p><p>As these actions – and dozens of others – show, the Trump EPA has aggressively worked to erode and eliminate vital environmental and public health protections. The public needs an EPA that will prioritize people and planet over polluters and profit.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Derrick Z. Jackson
In the U.S., gun violence kills nearly 40,000 people a year and has killed nearly 40,000 or so children and teenagers since 1999, and yet the nation is still without serious gun control. Another 40,000 people die each year in traffic accidents, including 1,200 children 14 and under. Yet we eschew policies used abroad that could cut the toll by half.
First Responders, Maintenance Workers, Women<p>The first mesothelioma deaths have now occurred among 9/11 first responders who worked in toxic clouds at Ground Zero after the collapse and fires of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 2001. Also, a <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6608a3.htm" target="_blank">2017 report</a> by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that exposure continues today to workers involved in the maintenance, demolition, and remediation of buildings with asbestos. "Contrary to past projections, the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths has been increasing," the report said.</p><p>In 2018, the New York Times <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/business/baby-powder-asbestos-johnson-johnson.html?module=inline" target="_blank">obtained memos</a> under the Freedom of Information Act that exposed that officials at Johnson & Johnson were aware in the 1970s that the company's iconic baby powder talc could be contaminated with asbestos and yet worked to discredit or silence research that suggested contamination. Two years ago, a St. Louis jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed their ovarian cancer was caused by the baby powder, often used as a feminine hygiene product. Five months ago, Johnson & Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the Food and Drug Administration <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/18/business/johnson-johnson-baby-powder-recall.html" target="_blank">found trace</a> amounts of asbestos in samples.</p><p>Will we soon be adding children and teachers to the toll? Nowhere in America is the wholesale disintegration of asbestos installed decades ago as evident as in the nation's schools.</p>
The Threat to Schoolchildren<p>The UCS report notes that school buildings built from 1946 to 1972 likely contain asbestos, with the highest proportion of unacceptable structures being found in low-income communities and districts where most students are of color. All of that is on unconscionable display in Philadelphia where the teachers' union is suing the city's school board for hazardous levels of asbestos dust in decrepit buildings.</p><p>In 2018, the Philadelphia Inquirer conducted an <a href="https://www.inquirer.com/news/inq/asbestos-testing-mesothelioma-cancer-philadelphia-schools-toxic-city-20180510.html#loaded" target="_blank">investigation</a> of many schools, finding levels of asbestos dust on school surfaces 11 to 1,700 times higher than the levels mandated by federal cleanup requirements for apartments near Ground Zero. The newspaper also found unacceptably elevated levels of lead.</p><p>By spring of 2019, when the Inquirer was <a href="https://www.inquirer.com/news/toxic-city-inquirer-pulitzer-finalist-20190415.html" target="_blank">named a finalist</a> for the Pulitzer Prize for its exposé, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced more than $100 million in emergency lead cleanup and general hazardous cleanup funds for Philadelphia schools. Last month, Wolf <a href="https://www.inquirer.com/news/gov-tom-wolf-asbestos-lead-schools-1-billion-20200129.html" target="_blank">proposed</a> $1 billion for statewide remediation of asbestos and lead in schools.</p><p>But that could not contain the crisis in a system with $4.5 billion of documented <a href="https://www.philasd.org/capitalprograms/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2017/06/2015-FCA-Final-Report-1.pdf" target="_blank">deficiencies</a> in its school buildings. This school year, seven schools have been closed for extensive asbestos damage. One <a href="https://www.inquirer.com/education/a/mesothelioma-philadelphia-school-district-lea-dirusso-cancer-20191121.html" target="_blank">teacher,</a> who worked in a 90-year-old building and often swept up dust from flaking heating pipe insulation and busted ceiling tiles before class, is undergoing chemotherapy for mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer triggered by asbestos.</p>
Environmental Injustice<p>In at least one school closure, the stench of race and class environmental injustice was on vivid display. Ben Franklin High School, comprised almost entirely of youth of color who qualify as poor, <a href="https://www.inquirer.com/education/ben-franklin-sla-school-construction-asbestos-inequity-privilege-20191011.html" target="_blank">was not closed until</a> after it also became the home of a magnet school that is 38 percent white, with half of those students above the poverty line. As Ben Franklin teacher told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "When it was us, the district didn't feel like they needed to have any immediacy."</p><p>The lack of immediacy has existed for decades. Jerry Roseman, chief environmental science and public health expert since 1985 for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said it galls him that his sense of outrage and disbelief in school conditions is the same today as it was <em>35 years ago</em>. In an interview with the Union of Concerned Scientists, he said he had just inspected an overcrowded school where playful children were literally banging into damaged asbestos pipe insulation, damaging the asbestos even more, calling it a systemic failure including school district leadership and politicians.</p><p>"What is clear across the country is that school boards neither understand facility conditions and leave them alone to deteriorate and definitely don't understand the impacts on the health, safety, and welfare of children and staff," Roseman said. He noted how parents and teachers are taking things into their own hands with a <a href="http://www.phillyhealthyschools.org/" target="_blank">mobile app</a> to photograph and report disintegrating infrastructure. "You can have great teachers and great principals," he added, "but you do not get great or safe education if you do not take care of a foundational need—the facility."</p><p>Nationally, the threat of toxic school buildings has barely been studied despite the 1986 Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to address airborne asbestos in schools. A <a href="https://www.markey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2015-12-Markey-Asbestos-Report-Final.pdf" target="_blank">2015 report</a> commissioned by senators Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California found that two-thirds of the school districts in 15 responding states had asbestos. Thirty states did not respond to the inquiry at all. Noting that the Environmental Protection Agency had not seriously analyzed school asbestos since 1984, the Markey-Boxer report said the carcinogen remains "ubiquitous" in schools, with the extent "unknown."</p><p>The EPA, under flat funding for most of the last decade, conducts so few inspections under AHERA that a 2018 Inspector General <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-09/documents/_epaoig_20180917-18-p-0270.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> said, "The EPA has not documented that the risk of asbestos exposure in schools has diminished significantly under AHERA."</p>
Reinvestment, Then Divestment Again<p>President Obama worked with Congress to try to strengthen scrutiny of toxics like asbestos with the 2016 <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?411615-1/president-obama-signs-chemical-safety-bill" target="_blank">Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act</a>. But, when it comes to asbestos, the Trump administration attempted to gut the act by trying to exclude asbestos already installed in places like schools ("legacy use") from calculations of risk assessment. Never mind that the White House understands quite well that asbestos is a major health threat. Last summer it conducted $250,000 asbestos <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-21/white-house-relocates-top-aides-for-asbestos-abatement-project" target="_blank">abatement</a> in the West Wing office areas occupied by President Trump's daughter Ivanka, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, policy adviser Stephen Miller, and economic adviser Larry Kudlow.</p><p>Environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, joined with labor unions and family advocacy groups to challenge the EPA and a host of chemical industry groups and the US Chamber of Commerce in court. In November, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared the administration's attempt to exclude legacy use was <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/tsca-opinion-20191114.pdf" target="_blank">unlawful,</a> agreeing that workers face major risks when "equipment or structures are demolished, repaired, or refurbished."</p><p>That ruling, combined with a science-minded federal government, should easily be applied to children who currently go to schools that should have long ago been demolished, repaired, or refurbished. As it is now, Linda Reinstein, co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, which was a co-petitioner against the EPA's attack on legacy use, says America is rolling the dice by letting children study and play in asbestos dust. As Reinstein notes, health effects will not manifest themselves until these children are well into adulthood and long since removed from the source school of their disease. Reinstein lost her husband Alan to mesothelioma and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/opinion/asbestos-epa-trump.html" target="_blank">an asbestos ban bill</a> has been filed in Congress in his name.</p><p>"Even though the latency period is long, I've seen parents tearful and terrified," Reinstein told UCS, "worried that every cough is a precursor of something worse about to happen. If you're a student and you know you've been exposed, you lie with the fear the rest of your life that you've been exposed to something that is life changing. . .The fact that we haven't been studying legacy exposure should be a crime."</p><p>In 1984, the EPA found that, of the 2,600 schools testing positive for asbestos in its sample, only 500 had a plan to deal with it. Today, the Trump administration is trying to avoid testing for legacy installations altogether, in the obvious effort not to be responsible for a remediation plan. That effort was ruled illegal, but given the spiteful nature of this administration, it is more likely to respond by dragging its feet rather than leaping to protect children. That leaves the time bomb ticking, with the risk of asbestos exposure today exploding in the lungs of today's children tomorrow.</p><p>For more on this and other threats to children's health, including what you can do about them, you can read the new UCS storybook — <em><a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/breathe-smog-drink-lead" target="_blank">Breath in the Smog, Drink in the Lead: A Grim Scary Tale for People Who Care about Kids</a> </em>— and its accompanying <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/protecting-childrens-health-and-safety" target="_blank">resource guide</a> and report, <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/endangering-generations" target="_blank"><em><u>Endangering Generations: How the Trump Administration's Assault on Science is Harming Children's Health</u></em></a>.</p>
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- Johnson & Johnson to Stop Selling Talc Baby Powder in U.S. and Canada - EcoWatch ›
Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder on Friday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found trace amounts of asbestos in one of its bottles.
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By Elliott Negin
On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.
Sidelining Science<div id="a0046" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="KTL07A1576661585"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1164145122381950977" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">“By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s @EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the… https://t.co/DCZpzQKdi9</div> — On Capitol Hill (@On Capitol Hill)<a href="https://twitter.com/EarthjusticeDC/statuses/1164145122381950977">1566388800.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Today's EPA offers a stark example of the Trump administration's crusade to dismantle science-based agencies. Nearly 1,600 employees <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/with-a-shrinking-epa-trump-delivers-on-his-promise-to-cut-government/2018/09/08/6b058f9e-b143-11e8-a20b-5f4f84429666_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.580c7cd37b13" target="_blank">left the EPA</a> during the first year and a half of the EPA administration, while only 400 were hired, according to data obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request. Of 1,600 employees <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/epa-workers-trump-administration-2603730765.html">who left</a>, at least 260 were scientists, 185 were "environmental protection specialists" and 106 were engineers. The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/budget" target="_blank">total number of employees</a> at the agency today — 14,172 — is the lowest in 30 years.<br></p><p>Besides chopping staff, the EPA has dramatically reduced the role of outside science advisers. Last fall, EPA Administrator <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/andrew-wheeler">Andrew Wheeler</a>, a former coal industry lobbyist, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/11/climate/epa-disbands-pollution-science-panel.html" target="_blank">disbanded</a> a 20-member scientific advisory committee on particulate matter, <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060102455" target="_blank">failed</a> to convene a similar panel on ozone, and <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060102455" target="_blank">packed</a> a seven-member advisory committee on air quality standards with industry-friendly participants.</p><p>The EPA is not the only agency pushing scientists out the door. The same day the EPA made its chlorpyrifos announcement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/07/18/many-usda-workers-quit-research-agencies-move-kansas-city-brain-drain-we-all-feared/?utm_term=.c549e94ec861" target="_blank">announced</a> that nearly two-thirds of 395 Washington, D.C.-based employees in its Economic Research Service, which provides analyses on a range of issues, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which oversees $1.7 billion in scientific funding, will quit rather than relocate to Kansas City.</p><p>The department's dubious rationale for moving the Research Service and National Institute is placing researchers closer to farmers and <a href="https://www.aaea.org/UserFiles/file/Report-MovingUSDAResearchersWillCostTaxpayers-AAEAReport2019june19final.docx.pdf" target="_blank">cutting costs</a>, but its ulterior motive is to hollow out their staffs, hindering their ability to carry out their missions. Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, acknowledged as much during a <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?463060-1/mick-mulvaney-addresses-south-carolina-republican-party-gala&start=2412" target="_blank">speech</a> he gave at an Aug. 2 Republican fundraiser in South Carolina.</p><p>"You've heard about 'drain the swamp.' What you probably haven't heard is what we are actually doing," he said. "I don't know if you saw the news the other day, but the USDA just tried to move, or did move, two offices out of Washington, D.C…. Guess what happened? More than half the people quit…. What a wonderful way to sort of streamline government, and do what we haven't been able to do for a long time."</p>
Capitol Hill Science Defenders<p>Some members of Congress are fighting back. Late last month, for example, the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress — a temporary committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans — <a href="https://federalnewsnetwork.com/modernizing-congress/2019/07/house-modernization-committee-recommends-bringing-back-office-of-technology-assessment/" target="_blank">unanimously approved</a> a recommendation to resurrect the Office of Technology Assessment, a congressional watchdog agency that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich <a href="https://ota.fas.org/2012/01/31/gingrich-said-to-decimate-congressional-expertise/" target="_blank">killed</a> in the mid-1990s.</p><p>The select committee's recommendation comes on the heels of a draft House <a href="https://appropriations.house.gov/news/press-releases/appropriations-committee-releases-fiscal-year-2020-legislative-branch-funding" target="_blank">spending bill</a> for the 2020 fiscal year that includes $6 million to jumpstart the agency, which provided Congress with <a href="https://ota.fas.org/otareports/" target="_blank">analyses</a> on a range of topics, from acid rain to <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/">climate change</a> to <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/renewable-energy/" rel="noopener noreferrer">renewable energy</a>, from 1972 to 1995.</p><p>Meanwhile, House Democrats and Republicans alike voiced their support for protecting federal science during a recent Science, Space and Technology Committee <a href="https://eos.org/articles/hearing-garners-bipartisan-support-for-scientific-integrity" target="_blank">hearing</a> on scientific integrity. <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/administration/eop/ostp/library/scientificintegrity" target="_blank">Two dozen</a> federal agencies have adopted scientific integrity policies since 2010, but they are inconsistent and difficult to enforce, so some members of Congress want to codify protections in a law.</p><p>"Allowing political power or special interests to manipulate or suppress federal science hurts, and hurts all of us," <a href="https://eos.org/articles/hearing-garners-bipartisan-support-for-scientific-integrity" target="_blank">said</a> New York Rep. Paul Tonko at the July 17 hearing. "It leads to dirtier air, unsafe water, toxic products on our shelves, and chemicals in our homes and environment. And it has driven federal inaction in response to the growing climate crisis."</p><p>Earlier this year, Tonko introduced the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1709/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22scientific+integrity+act%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=1" target="_blank">Scientific Integrity Act</a>, which would guarantee federal scientists the right to share their findings with the public, ensure the accuracy of government science-related communications, and protect scientific research from political interference.</p><p>Federal science has taken an unprecedented beating during the Trump administration and remains a long way from its glory days half a century ago when it landed men on the moon. Tonko recognizes that protecting scientific integrity is a critical first step to rebuilding American scientific enterprise and that it deserves bipartisan support.</p><p>"Scientific integrity is a longstanding concern that transcends any one party or political administration," Tonko <a href="https://eos.org/articles/hearing-garners-bipartisan-support-for-scientific-integrity" target="_blank">said</a>. "The abuses directed by this president and his top officials have brought a new urgency to the issue, but the fact remains whether a Democrat or Republican sits in the [House] speaker's chair or the Oval Office, we need strong scientific integrity policies."</p>
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found more asbestos in make-up sold at Claire's, an accessory store geared towards young teenagers.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
- Asbestos ›
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By Jessica Corbett
In a report that elicited calls for congressional action, The New York Times revealed Wednesday that "senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency disregarded the advice of their own scientists and lawyers in April when the agency issued a rule that restricted but did not ban asbestos."
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By Jessica Corbett
A Reuters investigation published Friday charges that Johnson & Johnson, a multi-billion dollar company known for its healthcare products, knew for decades that its iconic talcum baby powder "was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos," but concealed the information from regulators and the public.
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- Johnson & Johnson to Stop Selling Talc Baby Powder in U.S. and Canada - EcoWatch ›
The Environmental Working Group Action Fund, the political arm of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), released a first-ever report that scores how each member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on chemical policy and safety.
The scorecard shows that 140 House members voted against chemical safeguards every time, while 149 members consistently voted for chemical safety protections.
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- Why Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S. ›
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn't doing enough to protect the 50 million school children and seven million teachers and staff who spend time in U.S. private and public schools from asbestos exposure.
That's the conclusion of a report released Monday by the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), the agency's internal watchdog.
Reports surfaced this month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR) for asbestos in June, requiring anyone who wanted to start or resume importing or manufacturing the carcinogenic mineral to first receive EPA approval.
Attorneys and scientists with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objected to the Trump administration's proposal of a "significant new use rule" (SNUR) for asbestos, according to internal agency emails obtained by the The New York Times.
Trump's former EPA boss Scott Pruitt quietly announced the proposal in June, framing the plan as an "important, unprecedented action on asbestos," a toxic construction material and known carcinogen that kills almost 15,000 U.S. citizens annually.