March 04, 2020
New report reveals that Trump White House overrode EPA scientists who linked TCE to fetal heart birth defects, laying the groundwork for a drastically weaker public health standard for the pervasive solvent chemical
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommmittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, released the following statement condemning the Trump administration for directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to override decades of scientific research on the public health dangers of the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE), proven to cause fetal heart defects, cancer and immune disorders:
“Once again, the Trump White House is overruling federal scientists when it comes to assessing the risks of toxic chemicals, giving more weight to the interests of polluting companies than to the interests of the public and those communities at greatest risk. TCE was among the very first chemicals to see proposed action under the newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act and is the epitome of a harmful chemical that needs to be heavily restricted. And yet, the EPA that is supposed to protect us has shelved those protections and is now erasing scientific findings linking TCE to fetal heart defects under pressure from the White House. Congress demonstrated a bipartisan commitment to strengthen our chemical safety law nearly four years ago with the intent of restoring credibility to the EPA to regulate chemicals. Actions like these demonstrate why the Trump administration cannot be trusted to look out for our health and safety when corporate bottom-lines are at stake.”
Udall’s statement follows an investigation by Reveal detailing how the Trump Administration is enabling the continued production and use of a dangerous chemical. A comparison of EPA’s initial draft risk evaluation of TCE obtained by Reveal to the version released in February shows that:
– Trump officials overrode EPA scientists’ recommendations and would allow exposures to the chemical 500 times higher than what the agency has recommended for nearly two decades.
– Despite explicit directions by the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act to take into account the impacts of chemicals on vulnerable populations, such as infants and pregnant women, virtually every mention of TCE’s linkages to fetal heart defects was removed from the version of the TCE risk evaluation that was released to the public.
– Changes to the draft evaluation came after an industry-for-hire scientist was invited to meet with EPA staff, including a former chemical industry executive now serving in EPA’s TSCA office.
Further analysis of the administration’s changes to the TCE risk assessments can be found HERE.
In 2016, Udall led passage of the landmark, bipartisan chemical safety legislation, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, to reform the broken Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. Among the reforms to the law were a requirement to protect vulnerable populations — infants, pregnant women, the elderly and chemical industry workers — and to evaluate and review the safety of all new and existing chemicals on the market.
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