Mar 21, 2019

EPA Identifies 40 Chemicals to Prioritize for Risk Evaluation

WASHINGTON  — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is publishing a list of 40 chemicals to begin the prioritization process – the initial step in a new process of reviewing chemicals currently in commerce under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

"EPA continues to demonstrate its commitment to the successful and timely implementation of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "We are delivering on the promise of Lautenberg to better assess and manage existing chemicals in commerce and provide greater certainty and transparency to the American public."

"Initiating a chemical for high or low prioritization does not mean EPA has determined it poses unreasonable risk or no risk to human health or the environment; it means we are beginning the prioritization process set forth in Lautenberg," said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

The Agency is releasing this list in order to provide the public an opportunity to submit relevant information such as the uses, hazards, and exposure for these chemicals. A docket has been opened for each of the 40 chemicals. The publication of this list in the Federal Register initiates a 90-day public comment period. Publication also activates a statutory requirement for EPA to complete the prioritization process in the next nine to 12 months, allowing EPA to designate 20 chemicals as high priority and 20 chemicals as low priority by December 2019.

TSCA requires EPA to publish this list of 40 chemicals to begin the prioritization process to designate 20 chemicals as "high-priority" for subsequent risk evaluation and to designate 20 chemicals as "low-priority," meaning that risk evaluation is not warranted at this time.

One of the chemicals identified for high-priority evaluation is formaldehyde, a chemical that has been studied by EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program for many years.

"Moving forward evaluating formaldehyde under the TSCA program does not mean that the formaldehyde work done under IRIS will be lost," added Dunn. "In fact, the work done for IRIS will inform the TSCA process. By using our TSCA authority EPA will be able to take regulatory steps; IRIS does not have this authority," she noted.

When prioritization is complete, chemicals designated as high priority will begin a 3-year risk evaluation process to determine if the chemical, under the conditions of use, presents an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment. The designation of a chemical as a low priority means that further risk evaluation is not warranted at this time.

The 20 high priority candidate chemicals include seven chlorinated solvents, six phthalates, four flame retardants, formaldehyde, a fragrance additive, and a polymer pre-curser. EPA has received a manufacturer request for a risk evaluation of two additional phthalates and is currently determining whether the request contains the minimum needed elements to proceed under EPA's regulations. If complete, EPA has 15 days to provide notice of such a request.

The 20 low priority candidate chemicals have been selected from EPA's Safer Chemicals Ingredients List, which includes chemicals that have been evaluated and determined to meet EPA's safer choice criteria.

Mar 18, 2019

Preventing Illness from Silica Dust

Workers in construction and manufacturing jobs are often exposed to respirable crystalline silica, which is released when cutting or drilling into stone and concrete. Breathing silica dust is dangerous and can lead to serious and often fatal illnesses.

There are steps employers must take to protect workers by reducing exposure to dust. These steps include using controls like wet methods and ventilation. Respirators can be used, but only if other methods are not protective enough.

The following resources provide guidance for how employers can protect workers from hazardous exposures to silica dust.

Photo: Wet methods and ventilation can reduce dust exposures.
Image courtesy National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)


Silica Safety Resources for Stone Fabricators – CDPH web page

Respirable Crystalline Silica Standards – Cal/OSHA web page

Work Safely with Silica – CPWR website

Silica topic page – NIOSH

Mar 6, 2019

Attorneys Implore Judge to Keep Sailors’ Fukushima Case in U.S.

SAN DIEGO (CN) – Former Senator John Edwards and his co-counsel implored a federal judge Wednesday not to dismiss claims from U.S. service members who say they were exposed to radiation while aboard U.S. ships sent to render aid after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan.

"We have 500 sailors who are badly hurt and some of them are dead. We have not been able to ask them a single question under oath … at the end of the day these folks just want their day in court," Edwards told U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino.

But Sammartino said at the beginning of the nearly three-hour court hearing she was inclined to dimiss the claims against Tokyo Electric Power Co. – or TEPCO – and General Electric for lack of personal jurisdiction.

U.S. sailors filed a class action in the Southern District of California in 2012 claiming radiation they were exposed to following the meltdown of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan while aboard U.S. vessels on a humanitarian mission has caused cancer, brain tumors, birth defects in their children and other rare health problems. Some have even died, according to their attorneys.

If U.S. courts dismiss the two related cases – Cooper et al. v. TEPCO et al. and Bartel et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Company Inc. et al. – the sailors could bring their claims in Japan under its Compensation for Nuclear Damage Act.

Sammartino did clarify throughout the hearing that she would not waste her or the attorneys' time by holding a court hearing if she wasn't going to consider their arguments.

Class attorney Charles Bonner of Sausalito, California implored the judge not to dismiss the litigation, noting that attorneys have not been able to conduct discovery in the case, and that the defendants' motions to dismiss were "based on legal arguments," not facts.

Bonner suggested class counsel needed to obtain contracts between GE, which designed and helped to maintain the nuclear reactors for 40 years in Fukushima, and TEPCO, which operated the plant. Bonner said the contracts likely contain a choice-of-law provision that would indicate whether the parties would agree to litigate in the U.S. or Japan.

"Our sailors have already been here five years. They need some resolution in this court," Bonner said.

TEPCO attorney Gregory Stone of Munger Tolles  & Olson in Los Angeles said the case has seen new developments in the few years since Sammartino found it should not be dismissed – a decision affirmed by the Ninth Circuit.

Those new developments include three times as many cases filed in Japan over the nuclear meltdown, which Stone said "demonstrates the Japanese interest in resolving these claims."

TEPCO has paid 8.163 trillion yen, or $76 billion – one percent of Japan's total GDP – to resolve claims stemming from the disaster, "a huge amount of money for a government to designate to one incident," Stone said.

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NEW Anthropologist-led FEMA Report on national preparedness

The publication of a new 38-page FEMA Report, Building Cultures of Preparedness, an initiative funded by FEMA Higher Education to present research related to FEMA's new Strategic Plan for 2018-2022, "Building a Culture of Preparedness."

The report is the first FEMA work to be authored by environmental and cultural anthropologists, joined by practitioners and academic colleagues. The majority of authors are members of the Culture and Disaster Action Network (CADAN) organized to bring local and cultural knowledge into disaster policy and practice.

Preparedness strategies to date have increased first responder and government capabilities, but individual and community progress towards enhanced levels of preparedness has been limited. Authors of the new report suggest that achieving the 2018–2022 Strategic Plan's vision of enhanced preparedness requires a bottom-up approach to close these gaps.

Highlighting the vast diversity of American communities and households, the report demonstrates that a one-size-fits-all strategy is not well-suited to the demands of variable and distinctive environments – a national Culture of Preparedness will have to be built one community at a time. Preparedness is a local matter, requiring solutions tailored to different cultural contexts and embraced by communities. Achieving the reality of a resilient nation as envisioned in the Strategic Plan requires us to think in the plural, building "Culture(s) of Preparedness."

The report lays out four Guiding Principles for building Cultures of Preparedness followed by practical strategies and examples as well as successful outcomes in real-world settings.

The report's authors include:
Katherine E. Browne, (lead author) Colorado State University / CADAN
Laura Olson, (lead author) Georgetown University, Emergency & Disaster Management Program / CADAN
Jenny Hegland, Jenny Hegland Consulting
Ana-Marie Jones, Interpro Inc. 
Julie Maldonado, Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN) / CADAN
Elizabeth Marino, Oregon State University / CADAN Keely Maxwell, Environmental Protection Agency / CADAN
Eric Stern, University of Albany-SUNY, College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cyber-Security
Wendy Walsh, FEMA Emergency Management Higher Education Program

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