FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933; firstname.lastname@example.org
EPA Hid Cancer Danger of “Green” Chemical It Promotes
Auto Workers and Consumers Exposed without Any Health Warnings
Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prevented its scientists from acting on data showing that a chemical it promotes carries a significant cancer risk, according to a complaint Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has filed with EPA’s Office of Inspector General. EPA managers still employed by the agency deleted cancer risk calculations and directed the chemical be classified as “not likely to present risks.”
In 2019, a new chemical was brought to EPA for risk assessment. This new chemical included parachlorobenzotrifluoride (aka PCBTF) as a solvent, which is an existing chemical. PCBTF is used in the synthesis of dyes, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, cleaners, degreasers, and as a solvent, mainly in paint and coating formulations. Between 2012 and 2015, the volume of PCBTF produced was between 10 and 50-million pounds annually.
In 2018, the National Toxicology Program published a cancer bioassay in rats and mice that concluded there was clear evidence of carcinogenic activity from PCBTF. CalEPA added PCBTF to their Prop 65 list of chemicals “known to the state of California to cause cancer” on June 28, 2019 based on these data.
Despite these new hazard data and significant exposures, EPA staff were not allowed to assess PCBTF risks in the new chemical. EPA management relied on a 1985 memo to argue that they lacked the authority to assess the risks of PCBTF – an existing chemical – in a new chemical substance. This convoluted misinterpretation also blatantly ignored EPA’s legal duty to – at least – notify the manufacturer and the general public of the unreasonable risks so that they can take voluntary actions to mitigate risk.
By contrast, EPA actually encourages use of PCBTF along with other “VOC (volatile organic compound) exempt” chemicals for reducing ozone levels, versus other VOCs. This “green” exemption does not take into account the toxicity of the chemical itself to human health.
“The failure to reexamine the toxicity of PCBTF in light of the latest toxicity data published four years ago presents an imminent danger to human health,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA. “How EPA handled this one chemical is a microcosm of a broken regulatory program that is managed in an utterly abysmal fashion.”
The problem is that EPA does not regularly assess risks for chemicals that were grandfathered in under the first Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976, or because new data were developed after the chemical was brought to market. In addition, when a new chemical contains existing chemicals, EPA will not, as a matter of practice, allow risk assessors to include newly discovered risks of the existing chemical.
For existing chemicals already on the TSCA Inventory, EPA re-evaluates these existing chemicals at a rate of roughly 20 a year (and it takes three years to complete the evaluation); given that there are 41,953 active chemicals currently on the TSCA Inventory, it will take 7,000 years to do every chemical once.
“The Toxic Substances Control Act does not prohibit EPA from acting on new information, just the opposite,” added Bennett, noting the additional moral obligation to warn about hazards in chemicals the agency promotes. “Given the mandatory duty of EPA to ensure that chemicals do not present an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment, its failure to take any action to address the risks posed by PCBTF in the new chemical substance was contrary to law.”