(c) 2018 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

US EPA Targets Hazardous Chemicals for New Regulations

The Obama Administration has announced a proposed initiative to regulated hazardous substances. The workplace and the Workers' Compensation system has been literally plagued for decades with an epidemic of disease caused by the use of dangerous and unregulated chemicals in the workplace.

Lisa Jackson, US EPA Administrator, in a speech before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco announced the Administrations proposed initiative to finally ban the use of asbestos. Asbestos, still permitted to be used in the US, is well known carcinogen that has been causally connected to asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma (a fatal illness).

Citing the failure of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Jackson has proposed new legislation that will require that manufactures to develop new data on safety of existing chemicals and new chemicals used. She stated:

"As with existing chemicals, the burden of proof falls on EPA. Manufacturers aren’t required to show that sufficient data exist to fully assess a chemical’s risks. If EPA has adequate data, and wants to protect the public against known risks, the law creates obstacles to quick and effective action.Since 1976, EPA has issued regulations to control only five existing chemicals determined to present an unreasonable risk. Five from a total universe of almost 80,000 existing chemicals. In 1989, after years of study, EPA issued rules phasing out most uses of asbestos, an exhaustively studied substance that has taken an enormous toll on the health of Americans. Yet, a court overturned EPA’s rules because it had failed to clear the many hurdles for action under TSCA.

"Today, advances in toxicology and analytical chemistry are revealing new pathways of exposure. There are subtle and troubling effects of chemicals on hormone systems, human reproduction, intellectual development and cognition. Every few weeks, we read about new potential threats: Bisphenol A, or BPA – a chemical that can affect brain development and has been linked to obesity and cancer – is in baby bottles; phthalate esters – which have been said to affect reproductive development – are in our medical devices; we see lead in toys; dioxins in fish; and the list goes on. Many states – including California – have stepped in to address these threats because they see inaction at the national level.

"Senator Lautenberg, Chairman Waxman, Senator Boxer, Congressman Rush and others in Congress have already recognized that TSCA must be updated and strengthened. EPA needs the tools to do the job the public expects. And we are working together with President Obama on this issue.
The Administration's 6 part initiative will include the following according to Jackson:

"First, we need to review all chemicals against safety standards that are based solely on considerations of risk – not economics or other factors – and we must set these standards at levels that are protective of human health and the environment.

"Second, safety standards cannot be applied without adequate information, and responsibility for providing that information should rest on industry. Manufacturers must develop and submit the hazard, use, and exposure data demonstrating that new and existing chemicals are safe. If industry doesn’t provide the information, EPA should have the tools to quickly and efficiently require testing, without the delays and procedural obstacles currently in place.

"Third, both EPA and industry must include special consideration for exposures and effects on groups with higher vulnerabilities – particularly children. Children ingest chemicals at a higher ratio to their body weight than adults, and are more susceptible to long-term damage and developmental problems. Our new principles offer them much stronger protections.

"Fourth, when chemicals fall short of the safety standard, EPA must have clear authority to take action. We need flexibility to consider a range of factors – but must also have the ability to move quickly. In all cases, EPA and chemical producers must act on priority chemicals in a timely manner, with firm deadlines to maintain accountability. This will not only assure prompt protection of health and the environment, but provide business with the certainly that it needs for planning and investment.

"Fifth, we must encourage innovation in green chemistry, and support research, education, recognition, and other strategies that will lead us down the road to safer and more sustainable chemicals and processes. All of this must happen with the utmost transparency and concern for the public’s right to know.

"Finally, we need to make sure that EPA’s safety assessments are properly resourced, with industry contributing its fair share of the costs of implementing new requirements.

1 comment:

mhayon said...

I would applaud the Obama Administration is taking action to ban asbestos use completely in the US. I'm a social worker supporting mesothelioma victims and their families - they live with the devastating affects of asbestos exposure daily. Thank you for the post. -Mellissa Hayon, LICSW, www(dot)mesorc(dot)com