Last week several environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claiming the EPA was violating the Toxic Substances Control Act by fast-tracking approval for various chemicals.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is also a prominent group supporting the investigation. Their Attorney Ben Levitan claims: “EPA’s proposal would imperil public health protections that help keep Americans safe from life-threatening air pollution, toxic chemicals, and other dangers. Americans have a right to know about proposals like these that could put their families at greater risk, and about any special interests, those proposals may serve. EPA has a legal obligation to release this information to the public.”
Congress had updated the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) back in 2016 for the first time in 40 years. Health and environmental advocates hoped it would be a positive change for protecting Americans from dangerous chemicals and giving the EPA the responsibility to finally ban harmful substances.
Unfortunately, under President Trump, the EPA has not used the new law. It had declined the ban of asbestos and has even gone as far as not keeping U.S. citizens informed about the approval of new chemicals. According to EcoWatch, asbestos is a group of fibrous, heat-resistant minerals used in manufactured goods, particularly building materials. According to the World Health Organization, “All types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).”
“Congress reformed TSCA just a few years ago to protect people’s health from new chemicals. It said, unequivocally, that the public has a right to know about these chemicals before they are put out on the market. Trump’s EPA instead hides health and safety studies and other key information, just so that industry can have it easier. Ignoring TSCA’s transparency requirements makes it more likely that dangerous chemicals are reaching our homes and workplaces, says Earthjustice attorney Tosh Sagar.
According to Insider NJ, the report looked at public notices for about 1,7000 new chemicals from 2016 through February 2020 and found that the notices were published an average 87 days late. 1 out of every 6 notices were published after the chemicals were already approved. The EPA must make a decision for each new chemical within 90 days.
In one case, according to EcoWatch, this secrecy involved a new type of PFAS, a class of chemical already contaminating U.S. drinking water. The EPA’s career scientists found that the new substance could cause respiratory illnesses like asthma and alter DNA, leading to cancer. Nevertheless, it was approved in April 2019 and almost all of the documents provided by the company were never shared with the public.
The investigation found that the EPA doesn’t notify the public when a new chemical is under review and is about to be approved for market, they allow companies to conceal crucial information about chemicals under review, and they don’t audit companies’ CBI claims to determine whether they are warranted, encouraging companies’ unlawful attempts to hide information that should be public.