[X] CLOSEMAIN MENU

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (5)
    • Announcements (589)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (33)
    • Antimicrobial (12)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (30)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (49)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (30)
    • Biomonitoring (37)
    • Birds (24)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Canada (10)
    • Cannabis (28)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (9)
    • Children (91)
    • Children/Schools (234)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (24)
    • Climate Change (76)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (4)
    • Congress (9)
    • contamination (136)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (15)
    • Drift (6)
    • Drinking Water (8)
    • Ecosystem Services (6)
    • Emergency Exemption (2)
    • Environmental Justice (153)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (452)
    • Events (83)
    • Farm Bill (15)
    • Farmworkers (176)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (4)
    • Fungicides (22)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (7)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (21)
    • Holidays (35)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (4)
    • Indoor Air Quality (4)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (64)
    • Invasive Species (34)
    • Label Claims (47)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (236)
    • Litigation (334)
    • Livestock (7)
    • metabolic syndrome (1)
    • Metabolites (3)
    • Microbiata (18)
    • Microbiome (24)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (1)
    • Occupational Health (8)
    • Oceans (7)
    • Office of Inspector General (1)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (150)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (5)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (2)
    • Pesticide Regulation (746)
    • Pesticide Residues (169)
    • Pets (31)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (1)
    • Poisoning (11)
    • Preemption (37)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Repellent (3)
    • Resistance (112)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (31)
    • Seasonal (1)
    • Seeds (5)
    • soil health (5)
    • Superfund (1)
    • synergistic effects (10)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (12)
    • Take Action (562)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (8)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (443)
    • Women’s Health (22)
    • Wood Preservatives (34)
    • World Health Organization (7)
    • Year in Review (1)
  • Most Viewed Posts

Daily News Blog

06
Sep

EPA’s Failure to Assess Multiple Chemical Exposure Threat Creates Environmental Injustice, Says Inspector General

(Beyond Pesticides, September 6, 2023) In late August, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report concluding that EPA “took a siloed approach” to the cumulative impacts of chemical exposures and the disproportionate nature of those exposures. This approach keeps different parts of the EPA from coordinating their efforts and hinders understanding of the breadth and depth of chemical exposures.

OIG reached this disturbing finding despite the issuance of several executive orders by President Biden requiring EPA to develop policies and actions to assess cumulative impacts of chemical exposures across departments, laws, and environmental media (air, water, bodies, food etc.) and to pay more attention to environmental justice.

Beyond Pesticides has stressed that the whole constellation of chemical exposures and effects should be considered when governments set public policies and regulations. Just last March, Daily News covered another OIG report castigating EPA for betraying its mission by failing to address the fact that very high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds known as “forever chemicals” have been found in some common pesticides. OIG also berated EPA for succumbing to Donald Trump’s interference with setting toxicity values for the “forever chemical” perfluorobutane sulfonic acid. These failures, Beyond Pesticides reported, were owing to a “deeper problem afflicting EPA: industry influence on career staff, and an unwillingness from the EPA to address it.”

Although the new OIG study does not focus on pesticides, its findings also apply to populations exposed to pesticides. The report says that EPA has developed neither the procedural protocols for analyzing chemicals across different environmental media and exposure routes nor the proper scientific tests to study chemical mixtures. Among the laws that require cumulative risk assessments for chemicals with a common mechanism of toxicity is the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA), an amendment to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which specifically requires EPA to consider cumulative risk in setting tolerances for pesticides.

Pesticides are almost always mixtures of “active” and “inert” ingredients. A 2021 study by Robert Sprinkle, MD, PhD, and Devon Payne-Sturges, DrPH, in Environmental Health, took a comprehensive look at EPA’s practices regarding mixtures, which are a rat’s nest of convoluted reasoning. The authors write that in the original 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, mixtures were excluded from the agency’s definition of a “chemical substance.” What this means in practice is that “[a]n environmental mixture could not be, in TSCA terms, a ‘mixture’ if its components include chemical substances altered in the environment. Nor could the still toxic breakdown products of two different industrial substances constitute a mixture.” There is an exception: if EPA finds that if a mixture’s effects could not be predicted by each constituent’s effects, laboratory testing would be required. This means that the agency could view each component of a mixture as “acting in isolation both from nature and from each other.”

Encouraged by the pesticide industry, EPA only requires the “active” ingredient to be tested, and not the other elements of the mixture, because the latter supposedly has no effect. However, according to Drs. Sprinkle and Payne-Sturges, “In July 2016, an intensive search of applications for patents on pesticide formulations had reported that 96 of 140 (69 percent) had been described by their respective manufacturers as demonstrating ingredient synergies. These synergies, rather than going unmentioned out of fear that their documentation would increase regulatory scrutiny, were being presented to strengthen claims of novelty and, hence, patentability.” EPA could check patent records periodically to find honest industry information.

Tests used to justify the registration of pesticides are usually paid for and conducted by manufacturers or their subcontracted consultancies and laboratories. There is a fairly standard battery of animal tests in laboratories using regulatory toxicological protocols. But, Drs. Sprinkle and Payne-Sturges wrote that this approach “could not be expected to succeed at an integrative task, an environmental-ecological-epidemiological task. Yet laboratory toxicology remained the empirical arbiter of toxicant regulation.”

Moreover, EPA only considers the cumulative effects of groups of chemicals with the same mechanism of action, so any effects must be additive. It does not look for effects from combined chemicals and different mechanisms of action, even though there are many studies demonstrating this. As Patrick Masseo wrote in Environmental Health News, “[O]ur government still lacks a thorough and adequate process to conduct assessments of and to collect critical information about, the cumulative risk and impact of co-exposures such as vinyl chloride via air pollution and dioxins through groundwater contamination.”

Poor people of color often take the brunt of these co-exposures, and environmental justice is often ignored, even though the EPA has both legal obligations and executive instructions to support it. FQPA is a step forward in that it requires taking into account dietary and nondietary exposures, but it also has a huge loophole because it does not include occupational exposure. This omission has a disproportionate effect on people of color, particularly farmworkers and landscapers and their families.

EPA also ignores parts of the Superfund law, formally known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), which entails analyzing the effects of many chemicals at once because almost all Superfund sites contain multiple contaminants and nearby residents are exposed to them.

In its August report, OIG used EPA Region 4’s actions at the 35th Avenue Superfund site in Birmingham, Alabama as a case in point. Although it has been partially remediated, there has been substantial industry interference with the process. Numerous industries, including two coal-fired coke plants, a cast iron pipe company, a paint and coatings company, an aluminum company, and several other industries are located there. These companies have emitted arsenic, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) benzo(a)pyrene, and other pollutants for more than 100 years. Three neighborhoods cluster around the Superfund site, and the EPA investigation found that soil from the largest coke plant had been used as yard fill on many home lots. The EPA has removed soil from about 650 homes in the three neighborhoods and spent about $46 million so far.

This area of North Birmingham was crucial to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Bethel Baptist Church in the Collegeville neighborhood was a gathering spot for participants in the Freedom Rides. The church was bombed three times during the era. This hard-fought history may be one reason why some residents want to stay in the neighborhood and see it thoroughly cleaned up rather than moving elsewhere.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducted a public health consultation with the 35th Street community. The investigation covered only surface soil and garden produce exposures and only measured levels of arsenic, lead, and benzo(a)pyrene in residents’ blood, even though the pollution in the area contains many other substances. Nor did the ATSDR consider the cumulative impacts of these toxicants combined.

While ATSDR did not find blood lead levels above the EPA reference value of 5 µg/dL, the agency also noted that, even below that threshold, children are at risk of decreased academic achievement, lowered IQ, attention deficits, hearing problems, and delayed growth and puberty. Lead also crosses the placenta and can create a risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and damage to a fetus’s brain, kidney, and nervous system. Children who play in dirt and ingest it are at particular risk. In adults, lead contributes to kidney problems, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive dysfunction.

Notably, ATSDR’s “next steps” section of its consultation lists seven actions to be taken, five of them directed at parents, such as “prevent[ing] their children from intentionally or inadvertently eating soil, especially for those yards with elevated arsenic, lead, and PAH levels that have not yet been cleaned up and for those yards that have not yet been tested.” These recommendations shift the burden of public health once again to individuals.

The industry has brought further cleanup to a standstill. In 2018, a Birmingham attorney and a vice president of the coke plant responsible for most of the emissions, now owned by the Drummond Company, were convicted of bribing a state legislator to prevent EPA from adding the site to the National Priorities List.  A listing would have enabled long-term cleanup of the area. The EPA could send the bill to the company, and the State of Alabama would have to pay 10% of the cost, which it wanted to avoid. The state environmental director argued that “the site did not pose a health hazard to people living there,” according to AL.com. To keep the state out of the costs of cleanup, the lawyer and the executive bribed the legislator with a $375,000 contract to work against the listing. To date, the 35th Street Superfund site has not been added to the NPL.

In its August report, OIG states EPA has not coordinated efforts across divisions responsible for enforcing various laws like the Clean Water Act, TSCA, the Clean Air Act, and FQPA because, preposterously, it did not think it had executive or legislative authority to do so. EPA is divided into sections based on these laws, and the sections do not have a history of talking to each other despite the clear legal obligations. This inertia contributes to delays in providing environmental justice to exposed communities and resolving the glaring issue of chemical mixtures.

There is one federal agency that seems to get it. In the mid-2000s, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) began addressing the mixtures problem and its implications for environmental justice. According to Drs. Sprinkle and Payne-Sturges, under the directorship of Linda Birnbaum, PhD, NIEHS began to support research into the “exposome,” meaning “the totality of an individual’s exposure before conception onwards through the lifespan, plus the microbiome plus the genetic and epigenetic diversity of human vulnerability.”

However, since 2016, the undertow of political interference has restricted its ability to achieve this goal. Its reach is also limited because the NIEHS is not a regulatory body and is without the requisite authority to make substantive policy changes. In the meantime, interference with regulatory actions at the EPA is likely to yo-yo again unless there is stability in the executive branch.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The EPA Needs to Further Refine and Implement Guidance to Address Cumulative Impacts and Disproportionate Health Effects Across Environmental Programs, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 23-P-0029, Aug.22, 2023.

Share

3 Responses to “EPA’s Failure to Assess Multiple Chemical Exposure Threat Creates Environmental Injustice, Says Inspector General”

  1. 1
    Marian Carter Says:

    I am thoroughly disgusted with the EPA for failing to protect the environment and its inhabitants, The agency has betrayed its mission in a number of way: failing to address the fact that very high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds known as “forever chemicals” have been found in some common pesticides; letting industry determine toxicity values for the “forever chemical” perfluorobutane sulfonic acid, failing to assess the toxic fallout of a combined number of these chemicals, etc. These failures indicate to me that the EPA is either unable or unwilling to do its job. Maybe the personnel should be replaced. Hmmm?

  2. 2
    Cathie Wanner Ernst Says:

    Protect consumers this is wrong

  3. 3
    Elizabeth O'Nan Says:

    The QEESI test could identify the chemical injuries that the EPA’s failure to regulate toxic chemicals has denied, hidden, and caused.

    Please do not equate TILT/chemical intolerance with “MCS” or call it “controversial.” It plays into the hands of corporations and insurers who have difficulty accepting that we now have a biomechanism which explains TILT.

    https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-021-00504-z

Leave a Reply

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (5)
    • Announcements (589)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (33)
    • Antimicrobial (12)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (30)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (49)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (30)
    • Biomonitoring (37)
    • Birds (24)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Canada (10)
    • Cannabis (28)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (9)
    • Children (91)
    • Children/Schools (234)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (24)
    • Climate Change (76)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (4)
    • Congress (9)
    • contamination (136)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (15)
    • Drift (6)
    • Drinking Water (8)
    • Ecosystem Services (6)
    • Emergency Exemption (2)
    • Environmental Justice (153)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (452)
    • Events (83)
    • Farm Bill (15)
    • Farmworkers (176)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (4)
    • Fungicides (22)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (7)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (21)
    • Holidays (35)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (4)
    • Indoor Air Quality (4)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (64)
    • Invasive Species (34)
    • Label Claims (47)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (236)
    • Litigation (334)
    • Livestock (7)
    • metabolic syndrome (1)
    • Metabolites (3)
    • Microbiata (18)
    • Microbiome (24)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (1)
    • Occupational Health (8)
    • Oceans (7)
    • Office of Inspector General (1)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (150)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (5)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (2)
    • Pesticide Regulation (746)
    • Pesticide Residues (169)
    • Pets (31)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (1)
    • Poisoning (11)
    • Preemption (37)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Repellent (3)
    • Resistance (112)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (31)
    • Seasonal (1)
    • Seeds (5)
    • soil health (5)
    • Superfund (1)
    • synergistic effects (10)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (12)
    • Take Action (562)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (8)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (443)
    • Women’s Health (22)
    • Wood Preservatives (34)
    • World Health Organization (7)
    • Year in Review (1)
  • Most Viewed Posts