A new report by the Environmental Defense Fund details the major threats to public health and future generations from the Trump Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attacks on the 2016 chemical safety law. Just three years after Congress passed bipartisan legislation, the Lautenberg Act, to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), implementation of the law has gone dangerously off the rails – putting public health at risk.
“At almost every turn, the Trump administration has failed to live up to the letter and spirit of the historic bipartisan reform of TSCA that Congress passed in 2016. Toxic chemicals can cause cancers and other life-threatening illness. The American people expect the Environmental Protection Agency to live up to its mission and to protect them from these threats. At the three-year anniversary of our overwhelmingly bipartisan reform of TSCA, EPA continues to ignore expert scientific staff and walk back protections for workers and consumers. ” said Senator Tom Udall. “EPA leaders – starting with Andrew Wheeler – must change course, commit themselves to protecting the public, and carry out the Lautenberg Act as Congress wrote it.”
The report notes that recent history holds countless stark examples of what can happen when chemical risks are not adequately addressed. We risk making similar mistakes unless the current EPA fundamentally changes course in its implementation of the law. The Trump Administration is allowing new chemicals onto the market with little or no health information and only cursory safety reviews; ignoring real-world exposures when evaluating chemicals already in use today; blocking needed restrictions on dangerous uses of toxic chemicals; and denying the public access to health information on chemicals. These are not merely process problems: the consequences of the Trump EPA’s actions will be felt by our children and subsequent generations.
“The chemical industry is practically running the agency that regulates it. Political appointees at EPA have taken every opportunity to undermine the 2016 reforms to TSCA and elevate the industry’s interests over public health,” said Dr. Richard Denison, EDF Lead Senior Scientist. “The reformed law took a very big step towards a less toxic world for our kids, but the Trump EPA is taking many giant steps backwards – and the consequences of these mistakes will be felt by generations to come.”
The report highlights three of the Trump EPA’s main attacks on chemical safety and the consequences for public health:
- Approving new chemicals without regard for the law or public health. EPA has greenlighted over 80% of the chemicals it has reviewed over the past year—clearing them for unrestricted use in everything from air fresheners and carpets to motor oil and paint—defying the law’s requirement that EPA regulate the risks it identified for some of these chemicals and require testing for others that lack enough information to determine the risks.
- Ignoring real-world exposures when evaluating risks of existing chemicals. Using data available on seven of the first ten chemicals being evaluated under TSCA, EDF has calculated that EPA’s approach fails to account for over 66 million pounds of toxic emissions released to the air, water, and soil every year and releases from over 600 Superfund sites. (See table below)
- Blocking or weakening bans of toxic chemicals. The Trump EPA has abandoned or scaled back bans on dangerous uses of three chemicals EPA proposed under the Obama Administration, leaving at least one million people across the country directly exposed.
For additional information, see this table.
“The success of TSCA reform was born out of a collective acknowledgment that our chemical safety system was failing to ensure the safety of chemicals found in everything from clothing to couches to cleaners,” said Joanna Slaney, EDF Health’s Legislative Director.“But the current administration’s actions are breaking the promise of the strengthened law – protecting industry interests rather than protecting the public and vulnerable populations like pregnant women and children from harmful chemical exposures – as the reformed law mandates.”
See the full report – Toxic Consequences: Trump’s Attacks on Chemical Safety Put Our Health at Risk