Date: June 1, 2022
To: Dr. Michal Ilana Freedhoff
Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
US Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Dr. Freedhoff:
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is misleading members of Congress and the public about the legal structures for worker protections from hazardous chemicals.
On May 10, the American Chemistry Council released their State of TSCA Report: Fix Implementation Now Before It Is Too Late. The ACC report repeats the same claim this chemical industry trade association has used for years and used successfully during the Trump Administration: American workers don’t need protections from unreasonable risks from chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) because OSHA rules and personal protective equipment (PPE) already fully protect them.
- According to US OSHA and WHO estimates, toxic chemical exposures in the workplace kill between 50,000 and 130,000 American women and men from occupational disease every year. This estimate is 10 to 26 times greater than the annual number of workers in the United States who die from occupational injuries.
- OSHA admits their failure to protect workers from chemical exposures on their own website. OSHA’s inability to promulgate more than 31 chemical rules since 1970 is due in part to the lobbying actions of the American Chemistry Council to block rules and make the process more burdensome.
- Under the 2016 revision of the Toxic Substances Control Act, Congress named workers as a vulnerable subpopulation whose exposures EPA must assess and issue mitigation requirements to ensure they do not pose an unreasonable risk to workers.
At the urging of the chemical industry, EPA made some grave mistakes in assessing and controlling worker exposures under the Trump Administration. With this report and recent advocacy, ACC attempts to reinstate and double down on these myths in order to underestimate risk:
- Against long-standing industrial hygiene practices, measuring workplace exposures and assessing risk assuming that workers already had a protection factor from personal protective equipment. The correct approach is to measure occupational exposures to chemicals without any controls in place, and then use hazard controls to reduce exposures. Control measures should follow the hierarchy of controls with elimination, substitution and engineering controls used first and personal protective equipment used as a last resort.
- Wrongly assuming that workers already have either voluntary industry protection or OSHA protections and therefore regulation to reduce exposures under TSCA is not needed. Where OSHA does not have a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for a chemical, an employer is under no duty to control exposures unless it is deemed a recognized hazard under the OSH Act. But an unreasonable risk under TSCA is not necessarily a “hazard” under OSHA regulations. Of course, voluntary industry practices to control hazards are not consistent, not enforced and can be removed at any time.
- Inaccurately assuming that OSHA’s respiratory protection standard applies under TSCA. When promulgating the respiratory protection standards, OSHA rejected an approach that would rely on “available scientific information” outside of OSHA rules to apply the standard. Even if OSHA’s respiratory protection standard applied when EPA finds an unreasonable risk, that standard does not permit employers to place primary reliance on respirators to protect workers from toxic exposures. Instead, OSHA’s respiratory protection standard requires employers to implement the hierarchy of controls.
- Incorrectly assuming that the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard compels employers to implement the recommended controls listed on safety data sheets (SDS). In addition to there being no obligation to control hazards under this standard, the accuracy and consistency of SDS is questionable with studies finding that 36% or more of SDS and labels understate the danger to workers.
- Erroneously assuming that the OSHA General Duty Clause is widely used to cite employers for hazardous exposures to chemicals that OSHA has not regulated. Use of the General Duty Clause is very rare, not preventive—used only when workers are already sick or have died—and leaves workers at unreasonable risk from workplace chemical exposures.
These flawed policy decisions furthered during the prior Administration have been reversed as occupational health and safety experts and relevant federal agencies (OSHA and NIOSH) have worked with EPA to refine their risk assessment and risk management approaches for worker exposures. We cannot let ACC take us backwards by trying to force on EPA the approaches taken by the previous Administration that would fail to protect workers from hazardous chemicals on the job and that would undermine worker safety protections at OSHA.
Workers lives are at stake. We urge you to reject proposals from the chemical industry that would undermine workplace safety by skewing measurement data, misinterpreting OSHA requirements, and relying on voluntary measures.
American Federation of Teachers
Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety
Association of Flight Attendants, CWA
Communication Workers of America (CWA)
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
International Chemical Workers Union
International Union, UAW
Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America
Maine Labor Group on Health
Moms Clean Air Force
National Black Worker Center
National Nurses United
Occupational And Environmental Health Network India
Selikoff Fund for Occupational and Environmental Cancer Research
United Steelworkers (USW)
Utility Workers Union of America
Nicholas A. Ashford, Professor of Technology and Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA
Ellie Barbaresh, Certified Professional Environmental Auditor, Philadelphia PA
Debbie Berkowitz, Former OSHA Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor, Bethesda MD
William S. Beckett MD, MPH, Cambridge MA
Linda S. Birnbaum, Scholar in Residence, Duke University, Chapel Hill NC
Lundy Braun, Professor of Africana Studies and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Brown University, Cranston RI
James Brophy, PhD, Environmental Researcher, Morpeth, ON
Carl F. Cranor, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Faculty Member Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Riverside, Riverside CA
Miriam L. Diamond, Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
Tom Duffy, United Steelworkers Health, Safety and Environment, Pittsburgh, PA
Alice Freund, Industrial Hygienist, Science Teacher, Montclair, NJ
David Foust, University Teacher, Guadalajara, Jalisco, MX
Kenneth Geiser, PhD, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Somerville, MA
Frances I. Gilmore, Certified Industrial Hygienist (retired), Wyndmoor, PA
Joseph T. Hughes Jr., MPH, Chapel Hill, NC
Peter F. Infante DrPH., FACE, Former Director, Office of Carcinogen Identification and Classification and Office of Standards Review, OSHA Directorate of Health Standards 1978-2002, Falls Church, VA
Sharon Itaya, MD, MPH, Austin, TX
Bill Kojola, Industrial Hygienist, Silver Spring, MD
Wolf Mehling, MD, Professor, UCSF, San Francisco, CA
David Michaels, PhD, MPH, Professor, George Washington University School of Public Health, Former Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA (2009-2017), Washington, DC
Celeste Monforton, Dr.PH, MPH, Lecturer, Public Health, San Marcos, TX
Karen B. Mulloy, DO, MSCH, Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Gilbert S. Omenn, MD, PhD, Distinguished University Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Peter Orris, MD, MPH, FACP, FACOEM, Professor & Senior Attending Physician, University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago, IL
Laura Punnett, Sc.D., Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
Kathleen Rest, PhD, MPA, Senior Fellow, BU Institute for Sustainable Energy, Boston, MA
Jordan S. Rinker, MD, MPH, Occupational Medicine Medical Consultant and Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCSF, Corte Madera, CA
Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH, Retired Director, Washington State OSHA, Lacey, WA
Craig Slatin, ScD, MPH, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Department of Public Health, Medford, MA
Ted Smith, Coordinator, International Campaign for Responsible Technology (ICRT), San Jose, CA
Rosemary Sokas, Professor of Human Science and of Family Medicine, Georgetown University, Silver Spring, MD
Mitch Steiger, Sacramento, CA
Patricia Tropia, PhD, Uberlândia Brazil
Dorothy Wigmore, Occupational Hygienist, Kingston, ON
Weyman Wong, MD, Foster City, CA