The EPA is reviewing toxic chemicals, but not the way we want them to

Thanks to one of our supporters for flagging this podcast. She called and said, hey, I just heard this piece from our local NPR station, KQED, about the EPA changing its stance on toxic chemicals. We've got a summary below, and the full broadcast. Preview: Mostly, it's not super uplifting, but it is salient.

(First, note some relevant background that we've previously covered on the limitations of the EPA's ability to protect us from harmful chemicals.)


In summary: While the EPA now has expanded powers to actually evaluate formerly-grandfathered-in chemicals, it will be going at a rate of 20 per year. They are starting with 10 chemicals that are either known to be serious health threats or are believed to be.

And the person overseeing the effort, Dr. Nancy Beck, who has a scientific background - although a more generalist one, has repeatedly questioned the scientific findings of scientists who are experts in their fields, and may have spent as much as a decade studying just one chemical and its impact. This is especially poignant given that, as Eric Lipton of the NY Times states, "It's going to be up to Nancy Beck and Scott Pruitt and his new team to make the ultimate determinations on these toxic chemicals. Some of which are literally killing people. There's no question that they are killing people in the United States." 

And, as John D. Graham, dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University shares, the way that Dr. Beck has re-written the rules means that the EPA is not going to consider all sources of exposure to a chemical that the law requires, which will lead to exoneration of some chemicals, when a comprehensive, and thorough review has in fact not been done. Not only would that mean a failure to take action on a potentially-harmful chemical, it will also limit a state's ability to protect its citizens once a ruling has been made. 

As one caller-in asks, why are toxic chemicals still available for sale??

But, there's some light in there - as well as inspiration for you. To paraphrase our supporter: the last woman who calls in - she said what you say, about how important it is for consumers to vote with their dollars.

In Marie's own words, "I've done a lot of research into the CDC databases...and I think the research is really clear...there is absolutely a health phenomenon happening in the US...cancer incidences are sky-rocketing...and I think consumers have to really take a critical look in terms of the products that they're engaging with. When you look at furniture and how it's loaded with flame retardants and other chemicals...When you look at the beauty industry and what women are being exposed to..."

The reference comes way at the end, obviously, and we recommend taking a listen to the rest too :) 


1. EPA Shifts Its Stance on Toxic Chemicals, Raises Concerns. Forum, KQED, NPR.