Sierra Club Sues Trump’s EPA for Fast-Tracking Dangerous Chemicals
This week, the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency based on an investigation that found that the EPA was regularly violating the Toxic Substances Control Act. The report found alarming transparency issues when it comes to the EPA approving new chemicals to go on the market.
“The EPA has sided with the chemical industry over public health and safety. That’s why the Sierra Club and other groups are going to court to hold them accountable for their disregard for public health and blatant lack of transparency. Trump’s EPA is fast-tracking chemical applications without giving the public a chance to comment. This report found that the EPA is hiding information from the public and not holding chemical companies accountable for transparency. This is alarming in a state like New Jersey because more people in our state are exposed to harmful chemicals like PFAS than any other state,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Trump Administration doesn’t care if people are getting sick and dying from these harmful chemicals. They need to be held accountable for exposing millions of Americans to dangerous chemicals while keeping the public out of the process.”
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) governs the manufacture, use, and distribution of chemicals. The report found that the EPA is not alerting the public when a new chemical is under review, as required by the TSCA.
“This report is alarming. It shows that only 1 out of 6 chemicals were approved before public notices were published. On average, the EPA is putting out public notices only 3 days before the EPA must make a decision on the application. They are pushing these chemicals through even though many of these chemicals are hazardous and even potentially carcinogenic. They are deliberately hiding things from the public and approving chemicals that might not be safe,” said Jeff Tittel. “They could be putting dangerous chemicals without letting the public know or giving people a chance to submit comments or concerns.”
The report looked at public notices for about 1,7000 new chemicals from 2016 through February 2020 and found that the notices were published an average 87 days late. 1 out of every 6 notices were published after the chemicals were already approved. The EPA must make a decision for each new chemical within 90 days.
“The EPA has become the ‘Every Polluters Agency.’ Instead of holding chemical manufacturers accountable for making safe products, they are rubber stamping applications left and right. Hiding important health and safety information also has serious consequences for accidents and spills. When a spill or accident happens with these chemicals, we may not understand the consequences of these chemicals getting into the environment. New Jersey is one of the most densely populated states in the country, and we have some of the most hazardous facilities and toxic sites,” said Tittel. “They are supposed to audit 25% of applications to make sure that companies are disclosing all information that should be public, but they have only reviewed 27 applications since 2016.”
The report also found that the EPA has allowed companies to conceal crucial information about chemicals under review. The EPA has allowed chemical manufacturers to claim that health studies are confidential business information (CBI). This allows the companies to keep critical health information from the general public.
“The chemicals that have been approved in the past few years by the EPA include dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ like PFAS. More people in New Jersey, almost 1.6 million, are exposed to PFOA and PFOS than in any other state. These chemicals are particularly dangerous because they’re water soluble and cannot be filtered out of drinking water. As they bioaccumulate in a person’s body, they stay there. These forever chemicals create significant health problems, including cancers and a weakened immune system,” said Jeff Tittel. “By keeping the public out of this process and not looking at the health impacts of the chemicals that they are approving, the EPA is putting the public at risk.”
According to the report, the EPA has only audited 27 out of 1,250 new chemical applications since 2016, even though the TSCA requires that they review at least 25 percent of all CBI claims. This lack of enforcement encourages unlawful attempts by companies to hide information that should be public.
“This is just another example of the Trump Administration’s shameful disregard to protecting public health and the environment. The Trump administration wants to sell us out to the chemical industry. It is important that we stand up to make sure that the actions of this administration do not go unchecked.
We must make sure that the people of New Jersey are not being exposed to PFOS or other toxins in our drinking water. We need to make sure that we have the strictest standards in place for these toxins to protect us from weaker federal standards,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We have been fighting to protect our environment and public health from President Trump since his election. We will keep fighting to make sure our air is clean to breathe and our water is pure to drink.”