Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families http://saferchemicals.org A national effort to protect families from toxic chemicals. Wed, 17 Jan 2018 22:48:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 http://saferchemicals.org/sc/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/cropped-schf-emblem-32x32.png Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families http://saferchemicals.org 32 32 New report: 9 out of 10 receipts contain toxic BPA or BPS http://saferchemicals.org/2018/01/17/new-report-9-out-of-10-receipts-contain-toxic-bpa-or-bps/ http://saferchemicals.org/2018/01/17/new-report-9-out-of-10-receipts-contain-toxic-bpa-or-bps/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 22:44:49 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15566 A new report by our partners at HealthyStuff.org out today exposes a danger at many checkout counters—toxic receipts.

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A new report by our partners at HealthyStuff.org out today exposes a danger at many checkout counters—toxic receipts. They found toxic bisphenol A (BPA) or its chemical cousin bisphenol S (BPS) in 93% of the receipts tested.

You’ve probably heard about BPA in hard plastic water bottles and we’ve told you about BPA in the linings of food cans. It’s been banned from some children’s products like baby bottles and sippy cups in the US. But did you know that after touching a single receipt, these chemicals can enter your bloodstream within minutes?

What’s the problem with BPA and BPS?

These chemicals are endocrine disruptors that mimic hormones like estrogen and thyroid hormone, disrupting the body’s normal functioning. Studies have found links between BPA exposure and numerous health problems like breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes and obesity.

Unlike some chemicals that are only toxic at certain doses, scientists have found that even low doses of these chemicals can impact fetal development and may contribute to reproductive impairment, ADHD, autism and other health problems. The most common replacement chemical for BPA in receipt paper, BPS, and emerging science suggests it may be just as bad as BPA. It’s a classic case of a “regrettable substitute.”

What happens when you handle a toxic receipt?

In receipt paper known as “thermal paper” because of the way the ink develops, BPA and BPS are added in their free form without being bound to the paper or polymerized. So the chemicals can easily transfer to anything a receipt touches—your hand, the money in your wallet or even the groceries in your shopping bag. Several studies have found that handling receipts, even briefly, leads to significant BPA or BPS absorption into the body.

And this type of “thermal paper” isn’t limited to receipts—it’s also used for movie and concert tickets, boarding passes and deli meat and cheese labels. It’s pretty hard to avoid. And studies have found that the body absorbs more BPA when thermal paper is handled with moist or greasy fingers. Using hand sanitizer and hand creams can make the body absorb BPA much more rapidly.

While virtually every person who has been tested has had BPA and BPS in their bodies, cashiers and other workers who handle thermal paper have more of these chemicals in their body than the rest of us. The fetuses of pregnant workers who handle toxic receipts may be the most vulnerable to exposure.

Are there alternatives?

Yes! The easiest alternative is for retailers to offer digital receipts. When that’s not an option, retailers can use a replacement paper with a phenol-free developer. Best Buy has been doing this for a few years now.

Trader Joe’s agrees to ditch toxic receipts

More and more retailers are listening! Less than two months after Trader Joe’s received one of the lowest scores in our annual report card, the company has just committed to phasing out the use of these bisphenol chemicals in receipts! The company made this commitment knowing that the Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org project was releasing the report. Bloomberg broke the story today:

“We are now pursuing receipt paper that is free of phenol chemicals (including BPA and BPS), which we will be rolling out to all stores as soon as possible,” the company said in a statement.

The Ecology Center sent a letter to Trader Joe’s informing them of its findings before the report’s release.

This shows the power our movement has to make change!

We congratulate Trader Joe’s for taking these steps and hope the company won’t stop there. We’d like to see Trader Joes take the next step and adopt a robust safer chemicals policy!

So what can you do?

  1. Tell retailers that you want them to switch to phenol-free receipt paper and release a comprehensive safer chemicals policy if they haven’t already. Change happens when we ask for it! So check to see if your favorite stores were covered in the study and whether they were graded in our report card, then send them a message or give them a call. Here’s a sample:

    I’ve learned that the receipt paper used at some stores is coated with BPA or BPS, known hormone-disrupting chemicals. They can be absorbed through the skin, disproportionately affecting cashiers. You should use BPS- and BPA-free paper and offer electronic receipts. This change should be a part of a comprehensive chemical policy to protect employees and customers from toxic chemicals.

    Here’s an easy action to call on TJX Companies and Meijer to eliminate these chemicals.

  2. Ask for digital receipts. Many retailers, including Whole Foods and CVS, offer digital receipt programs. By opting out of a paper receipt, you can reduce your exposure, your cashier’s exposure and the amount of BPA and BPS that are manufactured. If you have to take a receipt, fold it printed side in—the back of the paper is usually not coated.
  3. Don’t throw receipts in the recycle bin! While the HealthyStuff.org study found that a handful of retailers are using uncoated paper, chances are that most receipts you receive are coated with BPA or BPS. While I would normally encourage you to recycle paper, recycling receipts can contaminate other products downstream like toilet paper and paper towels made from recycled content. Yuck!

 

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EPA ordered to act on lead to protect children’s health http://saferchemicals.org/2018/01/02/epa-ordered-to-act-on-lead-to-protect-childrens-health/ http://saferchemicals.org/2018/01/02/epa-ordered-to-act-on-lead-to-protect-childrens-health/#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2018 22:00:49 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15517 Last week, thanks to our coalition partners WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Sierra Club, and Earthjustice, and others, a federal court ordered the U.S. EPA to update standards for lead in paint and dust to protect children’s health. The agency must propose the revised standards in 90 days, and finalize them a year after that, despite EPA’s arguments for a further delay.

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Last week, thanks to our coalition partners WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Sierra Club, and Earthjustice, and others, a federal court ordered the U.S. EPA to update standards for lead in paint and dust to protect children’s health. The agency must propose the revised standards in 90 days, and finalize them a year after that, despite EPA’s arguments for a further delay.

Eve Gartner, an Earthjustice staff attorney who helped argue the case, stated: “This is going to protect the brains of thousands of children across the country . . . It’s going to mean that children that otherwise would have developed very elevated blood lead levels will be protected from the damage associated with that, assuming E.P.A. follows the court order.”

The court’s timeline may seem quick, but every day the current standards are in place, children remain at risk for lead poisoning. Moreover, without a court mandate, the agency planned to delay for at least six more years. It’s already been eight years since EPA agreed to update these standards, in what would be the first revision since they were established. EPA issued the dust-lead hazard standards in 2001 and adopted Congress’s definition of lead-based paint in 1996.

Advances in scientific research in the intervening years have shown us that children face harm even from low levels of exposure to lead. EPA’s 2001 dust-lead hazard standards are tied to what was previously thought to be the “level of concern” for lead in a child’s blood: 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL). But in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially acknowledged that there is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood. CDC changed its recommendation on what level should trigger a public health response by cutting its level of concern in half and renaming it a reference level.

In our 2017 report, Children at Risk, we discussed the importance of regular blood testing to identify young children with elevated lead levels. This approach allows for earlier intervention to mitigate developmental damage, and identification and elimination of sources of exposure. Because it’s better to prevent the exposure in the first place, it’s crucial that EPA gets these dust and paint standards right.

The long road to the court’s decision began in 2009. A group of non-profit organizations including Sierra Club and Alliance for Healthy Homes petitioned EPA “to more adequately protect” children and update the standards for lead in paint and dust. EPA quickly agreed to issue a rule, and worked on the matter over the next several years, but a rule never materialized. To prompt action, WE ACT, Sierra Club, and others represented by Earthjustice petitioned the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to direct EPA to finally update the standards as it promised years earlier.

We applaud our coalition partners for this critical achievement for children’s health. EPA’s standards are more than overdue for an update.

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E.P.A.’s “interesting” holiday gift: delaying bans on hazardous chemicals http://saferchemicals.org/2017/12/21/epa-s-interesting-holiday-gift-delaying-bans-on-hazardous-chemicals/ http://saferchemicals.org/2017/12/21/epa-s-interesting-holiday-gift-delaying-bans-on-hazardous-chemicals/#respond Fri, 22 Dec 2017 00:14:48 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15491 This week the news broke that EPA had moved rules to ban certain uses of three dangerous chemicals from the “pending” column into the “long-term action” column in its regulatory agenda.

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This week the news broke that EPA had moved rules to ban certain uses of three dangerous chemicals from the “pending” column into the “long-term action” column in its regulatory agenda. In the same way that you might say that a holiday gift from your aunt is “interesting” when you know you’ll immediately re-gift it, “long-term action” is DC bureaucrat-speak for “shoved into a drawer,” “kicking the can down the road,” or “not happening.”

A year ago, we applauded when the EPA proposed the three rules banning certain uses of dangerous chemical solvents – methylene chloride (dichloromethane), N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) and trichloroethylene (TCE). These were the first proposed restrictions on toxic chemicals under the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, and they demonstrated how EPA could use the new law to take action to protect public health. While the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) aren’t everything that we need to protect public health, the new law holds the promise that EPA finally is able to put commonsense restrictions on known chemical hazards. It made sense to start with chemicals for which the agency already had an extensive body of evidence showing harm to our families’ health.

According to EPA’s risk assessments, trichloroethylene (TCE) is associated with such health hazards as kidney and liver cancers, non‐Hodgkin lymphoma, developmental effects, neurotoxicity, and others. Used in paint strippers, methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) are toxic to the brain and liver and can harm the reproductive system. Inhalation of paint strippers containing methylene chloride has also been linked to at least 50 deaths since the 1980’s. This includes 21-year old Kevin Hartley from Tennessee who died in April after stripping a bathtub.

Restricting uses of these chemicals seemed to be a no-brainer—unless of course, the brains of the operation (EPA) come straight out of the chemical lobby.

As the year wore on, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families submitted formal comments to the EPA, as did tens of thousands of activists across the country. We met with staff at the EPA to say that the rules were well supported by the science. We also told them that finalizing the rules would not only protect millions of workers and consumers from the hazards of these chemicals, but it would also begin to restore the public’s confidence in the EPA’s ability to protect our families from toxic hazards.

By kicking this can down the road, the Trump EPA is showing that it will not prioritize public health ahead of the interests of the chemical lobby. Not shocking, really – the Trump nominee to run the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (Michael Dourson, who withdrew from consideration last week when it became clear that he could not be confirmed) has worked on behalf of the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, an opponent of the rules.

Administrator Scott Pruitt has chosen this course of inaction, but EPA could still take the rules out of the drawer. If you’re as outraged as I am, help us sound the alarm by submitting a letter to the editor of your local newspaper calling on the EPA to regulate these dangerous chemicals.

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Victory! EPA nominee Michael Dourson withdraws http://saferchemicals.org/2017/12/15/victory-epa-nominee-michael-dourson-withdraws/ http://saferchemicals.org/2017/12/15/victory-epa-nominee-michael-dourson-withdraws/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:17:14 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15471 In a year like 2017, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the victories. This week we learned that Michael Dourson has withdrawn from consideration for Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. This great news followed a persistent campaign to defeat his nomination by numerous environmental health organizations and […]

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In a year like 2017, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the victories.

This week we learned that Michael Dourson has withdrawn from consideration for Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. This great news followed a persistent campaign to defeat his nomination by numerous environmental health organizations and activists across the country.

The victory reflects the work that public health groups did together to sound the alarm on how uniquely unqualified Dr. Dourson is—particularly as EPA establishes new frameworks for evaluating and regulating chemicals under the newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act. It also reflects the determination of our allies in Senate offices on both sides of the aisle, who would not accept this nomination. As EPW Ranking member Tom Carper (Del.) said after Dourson’s announcement, “When you think the nominees are just totally inappropriate for a particular position, fight it with everything we have.”

In October, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and our partners sent a letter to the Environment and Public Works Committee urging them to reject the Dourson nomination. The Trump administration has certainly not hesitated to install representatives of polluting industries in the agencies responsible for protecting public health and the environment, so we knew we had our work cut out for us.

Before the EPW committee met with Dourson in October, we worked with colleagues at Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group and the Environmental Defense Fund to accompany people from communities across the U.S. who have been affected by the harms of chemicals under EPA review as they told their stories in Senate offices. Senators heard story after story of real-life impacts of hazardous chemicals in their communities – from Hoosick Falls, NY water contamination to cancer clusters in Indiana tied to chemicals like TCE and PFOA in drinking water.

The evening before the EPW vote, Center for Environmental Health’s Ansje Miller and I delivered messages to Senate offices from more than 100,000 people urging them to reject the nomination.

After the EPW committee’s party-line vote to advance Dourson’s nomination, our partners in communities across the country turned up the heat in local media outlets, making sure their neighbors knew how high the stakes are for this office. Thanks to notable work from North Carolina groups, that state’s Republican Senators publicly declared their opposition to the nomination—and more may have followed with time. Feeling the heat, Dourson withdrew his name for consideration on Wednesday!

This certainly won’t be the last we see of chemical industry insiders at EPA, so we’ll keep monitoring and exposing their influence over chemical policy.

But today we savor and celebrate the victory.

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Trick or…Trick? Who’s Behind the Mask at the Trump Environmental Protection Agency? http://saferchemicals.org/2017/10/31/trick-or-trick-whos-behind-the-mask-at-the-trump-environmental-protection-agency/ http://saferchemicals.org/2017/10/31/trick-or-trick-whos-behind-the-mask-at-the-trump-environmental-protection-agency/#respond Tue, 31 Oct 2017 20:54:31 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15343 With the possible exception of those stuck in the attic searching for a Halloween costume, we've all seen the havoc unleashed by the Trump EPA lately — the proposed rollbacks of commonsense safeguards that protect us from air and water pollution and that restrict exposure to toxic chemicals in our lives. This has real-world impacts, making our communities less safe and harming young children and the most vulnerable among us in particular.

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Cross-posted from We All Live Downstream, the blog of Clean Water Action.

With the possible exception of those stuck in the attic searching for a Halloween costume, we’ve all seen the havoc unleashed by the Trump EPA lately — the proposed rollbacks of commonsense safeguards that protect us from air and water pollution and that restrict exposure to toxic chemicals in our lives. This has real-world impacts, making our communities less safe and harming young children and the most vulnerable among us in particular.

Researchers like Kathryn Rogers at the Silent Spring Institute are on the front lines of this battle, particularly during October, the month when the breast cancer epidemic is in the spotlight. According to Kathryn, “The Environmental Protection Agency is giving less scrutiny to toxic chemicals that are making Americans sick. This is especially concerning for breast cancer, where exposure to environmental chemicals is a key risk factor for the development of disease.”

Given the founding mission of the Environmental Protection Agency, this should not be happening — the “P” is supposed to stand for Protection, not Pile on the Pollution. So how is the Trump Administration able to move this polluter-friendly agenda so quickly?

In part, the answer lies in the leadership staff appointments at EPA who have been plucked from polluting industries to serve under Scott Pruitt, who has cultivated a cozy and deferential relationship with corporate polluters. The nominations for EPA’s top two positions dealing with toxic chemicals are perfect cases in point.

Dr. Nancy Beck: Just last year, Beck represented the American Chemistry Council, the trade group for the chemical industry, as one of their senior advocates. In a nutshell, her job involved advocating for chemical policies to be shaped in ways that benefited the financial interests of the chemical industry. This year, the Trump team nominated and successfully pushed for her appointment as Deputy Assistant Administrator within EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. The “revolving door” between government and industry deposited her in one of the top positions in the Trump EPA regulating her former employers in the chemical industry.

Dr. Michael Dourson: Dourson has been nominated to the Assistant Administrator position in EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention alongside  Beck.  Dourson founded and led an organization (TERA) with a troubling track record of downplaying the health threat from chemicals and is considered a go-to source for hire for the chemical and tobacco industries. As an example, DuPont sought out Dourson’s firm for a recommendation for “safe” levels of exposure for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical made by DuPont that is linked to cancer and other health damage. Dourson’s recommendation turned out to be 1,000 times weaker than the level ultimately determined by the EPA when they later conducted their own assessment.

Last week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted along party lines to approve Dourson’s nomination to the EPA. In other times, Dr. Dourson’s ties to the chemical and tobacco industries would most likely have prevented consideration for this post. Despite the controversial nature of the nomination, and potentially in violation of federal law, Scott Pruitt has been allowing Dourson to serve in an advisory capacity.

But before he is fully confirmed, there will need to be a full vote on the Senate floor. Join us in urging that we #DumpDourson by calling your own Senator and urging a no vote. You can reach them through the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Below is a sample message to leave for your Senator:

I’m calling to urge you to vote no on Michael Dourson’s nomination to lead EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He has a record of working hand-in-hand with the chemical industry to undermine public health protections. We need advocates at EPA for health and safety, not someone with this troubling conflict of interest.

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EPA must finish the job on toxic solvents http://saferchemicals.org/2017/10/30/epa-must-finish-the-job-on-toxic-solvents/ http://saferchemicals.org/2017/10/30/epa-must-finish-the-job-on-toxic-solvents/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 21:52:05 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15337 Almost a year ago, using its authority under the newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the EPA proposed banning certain uses of three solvent chemicals—methylene chloride (MC or DCM) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) for paint and coating removal and trichloroethylene (TCE) for spot removal in dry cleaning and industrial vapor degreasing. Nearly a year later, the agency still hasn’t finalized these protections.

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Almost a year ago, using its authority under the newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the EPA proposed banning certain uses of three solvent chemicals—methylene chloride (MC or DCM) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) for paint and coating removal and trichloroethylene (TCE) for spot removal in dry cleaning and industrial vapor degreasing. Nearly a year later, the agency still hasn’t finalized these protections.

More than 60,000 people submitted comments in support of finalizing these public health protections through Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and our allies in the environmental health community.

This week, concerned by reports that EPA may delay or weaken final action on the rules, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families was joined by sixty-three public health, consumer, and environmental groups, in sending a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt calling on the Trump Administration to finish the job of protecting our communities and families from these dangerous chemicals.

If these rules are delayed, more than two million workers and consumers will be needlessly exposed to serious, well-documented health risks. We urge you to keep the rulemaking process moving forward and finalize the three rules as proposed as soon as possible.

With overwhelming bipartisan votes, Congress overhauled TSCA last year in direct response to EPA’s abysmal record in addressing unsafe chemicals under the law. The Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act removes the roadblocks to effective public health protections that had stymied action under the old law. Thanks to the 2016 law’s TSCA amendments, EPA now has the tools it needs for forceful action to eliminate unacceptable chemical risks.

It is long past time for the EPA to ban these uses, which have been shown hazardous to worker and consumer health time and time again. Waiting to finalize the bans puts the health of millions of consumers and workers at risk. In fact, just a few months ago, 21-year-old Kevin Hartley died after using a methylene chloride-based paint stripper at a job site in Tennessee. What is the EPA waiting for?

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Costco develops new safer chemicals policy http://saferchemicals.org/2017/10/26/costco-develops-new-safer-chemicals-policy/ http://saferchemicals.org/2017/10/26/costco-develops-new-safer-chemicals-policy/#respond Thu, 26 Oct 2017 17:56:22 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15325 We’re pleased to report that Costco has announced that it is committing to reducing harmful chemicals in the products it sells by adopting a new Chemicals Management Policy! Fewer hazardous chemicals on Costco’s shelves mean fewer hazardous chemicals in our homes, our bodies, and our environment.

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We have some exciting news on Costco! We’re pleased to report that Costco has announced that it is committing to reducing harmful chemicals in the products it sells by adopting a new Chemicals Management Policy! Fewer hazardous chemicals on Costco’s shelves mean fewer hazardous chemicals in our homes, our bodies, and our environment.

Costco made its announcement on its website stating:

“Costco’s Chemical Management Policy goes beyond the boundaries of regulatory compliance in an effort to reduce potential chemical harm to humans and to the environment from the product manufacturing process and from consumer use and disposal.”

The policy outlines the steps the company is taking with suppliers including:

1) Identifying chemicals of concern (utilizing comprehensive testing programs);

2) Removing or applying the process of informed substitution for any identified chemicals of concern;

3) Identifying ways suppliers can change their manufacturing processes to reduce hazardous chemical use; and

4) Reviewing qualified third-party green certifications.

Additionally, the company is partnering with the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry to help develop implementation of this Chemical Management Policy, beginning by focusing on three product areas: furniture, textiles, personal care and household products. This builds on Costco’s Smart Screening Program the company announced earlier in the year.

Costco also revealed more of the chemicals and products it is testing through its Smart Screening Program, such as flame retardants, phthalates, PFAS chemicals, and organotins in various products. We hope over time Costco will disclose the full list of chemicals it is restricting and testing for, as other major retailers have done.

Costco’s announcement is really good news for its members who will benefit from safer chemicals in their shopping carts and homes. But it’s also a signal to the market that harmful chemicals need to go. Costco’s suppliers will have to examine their products and reduce their use of toxic chemicals.

Costco is finally starting to catch up with other big retailers, like Walmart and Target, that have adopted safer chemicals policies and are actively identifying and reducing toxic chemicals in consumer products. Last year the Who’s Minding the Store report card gave Costco an “F”. It’s safe to say the company is no longer failing, and its grade will surely improve in the forthcoming 2017 report card.

We can’t downplay the role consumer demand plays in these decisions. In January at its annual shareholder meeting, Costco received over 35,000 signed petitions asking the company to adopt a safer chemicals policy. Combined with thousands of emails and customer comments asking the company to reduce the chemicals on its shelves, Costco heard its members loud and clear, and the company answered. Thank you, Costco!

Costco’s actions are positive and something to be excited about. Of course, the company needs to follow through and implement the new policy with clear goals, timelines, and progress reports on its implementation of this initiative. We’ll look for future announcements from Costco on the specific chemicals and products the company is targeting for elimination, as well as specific goals for reductions.

Costco has finally responded with meaningful actions demonstrating the company cares what its members want and their health. Now it’s up to Costco to follow through. We look forward to seeing how Costco moves forward in implementing this policy in the year to come.

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Families & Senators speak out: EPA toxics nominee Michael Dourson is all wrong for the job http://saferchemicals.org/2017/10/12/families-senators-speak-out-epa-toxics-nominee-michael-dourson-is-all-wrong-for-the-job/ http://saferchemicals.org/2017/10/12/families-senators-speak-out-epa-toxics-nominee-michael-dourson-is-all-wrong-for-the-job/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:14:05 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15303 Donald Trump has chosen a chemical industry consultant to run EPA’s chemical safety office. At Michael Dourson’s Senate confirmation hearing last week, one senator suggested that he’s “never met a chemical he didn’t like.”

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. So-and-so builds a career undermining government efforts to protect the public from being harmed by an industry. Then the Trump administration nominates so-and-so to regulate that industry.

Donald Trump has chosen a chemical industry consultant to run EPA’s chemical safety office. At Michael Dourson’s Senate confirmation hearing last week, one senator suggested that he’s “never met a chemical he didn’t like.”

Senate EPW committee hearing on Dourson and other nominees

Most confirmation hearings for “undercard” positions at federal agencies don’t draw that much attention from the press or the public. This one was remarkable because of the crowd at the press table. It also drew people to Capitol Hill from communities across the country to sound the alarm about Dr. Dourson’s connections to the chemical industry. The job that Dr. Dourson has been nominated for is uniquely important – in 2016 Congress gave EPA new authorities and tools to protect us from toxic chemicals. The director of that program must be committed to putting public health ahead of the chemical industry.

Before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held its hearing to consider Dourson’s nomination, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families worked with our partners at the Center for Environmental Health to send a letter signed by more than 100 local, state and national groups urging the Senate to reject the nomination.

David Berry of Fairbanks AK and SCHF Government Affairs Director Liz Hitchcock met with Alaska Senator Daniel Sullivan.

The day before the hearing, I had the privilege of joining a team of citizen “lobbyists” from Fairbanks AK and Boise ID in meetings with their senators where they talked about toxic contamination in their communities and the impact it’s had on their families’ health. Our five teams included residents of Hoosick Falls NY, whose water has been contaminated with carcinogenic PFOA, and two families from Johnson County, Indiana whose children were among forty-two local childhood cancer cases since 2010, and who are concerned about the environmental factors, including chemicals like TCE, that may be causing these cancers.

PFOA and TCE are two of the chemicals for which Michael Dourson has been involved with developing standards that have underplayed their health hazards.

One of our citizen lobbyistsTrevor Schaefer from Idahoeven has a federal law named after him. His brain cancer at the age of 13 inspired Idaho Senator Mike Crapo to work with Senator Barbara Boxer to sponsor a law to investigate cancer clusters in communities across the U.S. “Trevor’s Law” was adopted in June of 2016 as part the act reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The EPW committee members raised serious questions about the nomination:

Said Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, “…manipulating science to achieve a predetermined outcome is not what the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention should be about.”

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand noted the Hoosick Falls families who were in the crowded hearing room. “These families are so frightened,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to not know if the water your children are bathed in is safe.”

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on the nomination in the next few weeks. Then the full Senate will then consider it. Please take a few minutes to let your senator know that Michael Dourson is the wrong person for this very important job.

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Best Buy announces new program to tackle toxic chemicals http://saferchemicals.org/2017/08/10/best-buy-announces-new-program-to-tackle-toxic-chemicals/ http://saferchemicals.org/2017/08/10/best-buy-announces-new-program-to-tackle-toxic-chemicals/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 17:30:31 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15234 Consumer electronics at a store near you may soon be free of certain hazardous chemicals. Best Buy is the latest retailer to announce progress in tackling toxic chemicals in products in recent months.

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Consumer electronics at a store near you may soon be free of certain hazardous chemicals. Best Buy is the latest retailer to announce progress in tackling toxic chemicals in products in recent months.

Yesterday Best Buy publicly released its new Chemical Management Corporate Statement, which was accompanied by a blog post providing some additional background. We applaud Best Buy for developing this new initiative and disclosing this policy statement publicly, the development of which was disclosed last year in our retailer report card and most recently in the company’s 2017 sustainability report.

Best Buy’s new initiative is important as it is the largest retailer of electronics in America. Electronics are often made with hazardous chemicals that can pose serious health hazards throughout their lifecycle from production to use to disposal.

In this post, we highlight some of the important elements of this new initiative and also opportunities for improvement.

Highlights of new chemical management program

  • In a new blog post, the company announced that “Best Buy is committed to positively impacting the world by focusing our work on three areas: our communities, our environment and our people. Properly managing of the use of chemicals is essential to safeguarding each of these three areas, which is why we are refreshing our chemical management program.” The Chemical Management Corporate Statement begins by describing the purpose of the program: “Beyond compliance, we created a chemical management program to systematically evaluate and prioritize efforts to address chemical risks and opportunities. We seek to reduce the use of chemicals, phase out chemicals of concern and improve the general management of chemicals.
  • To Best Buy’s credit, the company is not only tackling chemicals in products, but also in manufacturing and operations. This is significant as the manufacturing of electronics materials and chemicals can pose significant hazards to workers and surrounding communities. The new Chemical Management Corporate Statement applies to operations, private-label products, vendors, and the company’s recycling program.
  • For corporate, retail, service and distribution operations, the company states its staff “actively look for opportunities to reduce the use of chemicals. Whenever possible, we work to transition to safer alternatives, with a preference for EPA Safer Choice chemicals.” We applaud Best Buy for showing preference for products that meet this important third-party safer chemicals program.
  • The policy requires business-to-business (B2B) disclosure of and restriction of chemicals in its private-label products and in factories. For private-label and direct import products, the company has developed supplier requirements for products and chemicals in manufacturing, and has developed a Restricted Substance List (RSL), “which specifies chemicals restricted based upon regulations or known hazards and chemicals suppliers are required to report usage to us.” The company, however, stops short at describing what types of hazardous chemicals they’re focusing on (e.g. carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants, persistent, bioacumulative and toxic chemicals ( PBT’s)) and which ones they are restricting.
  • Best Buy deserves credit for summarizing how it is ensuring compliance with this new program. For its restrictions on ingredients in private-label products, the company’s “product specification documents include chemical requirements, and increasingly rigorous assurances and testing of products are required based upon the level of risk” and it partners “with suppliers to identify opportunities to transition to preferred chemicals.” Additionally, as part of its regular audit program, Best Buy will “monitor factories to assure adherence to our RSL as well as our Supplier Code of Conduct, which specifies safe chemical procedures, and we require improvements when we find gaps.” The company also provides trainings for factories to “improve their chemical management processes.”

Opportunities for improvement – need for transparency and public facing goals

We’re happy to see Best Buy announce that it is making progress in addressing toxic chemicals in products and operations, but there is as always room for improvement.

Last November Best Buy stated that in 2017 it would publicly release its Restricted Substance List (RSL) and Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL), which the company got points for in our report card. We are disappointed that Best Buy has yet to fulfill this pledge to disclose these lists of chemicals publicly in 2017. It is challenging for NGO’s, investors, and consumers to judge the substance of this new chemical management program without knowing the identity of the chemicals it is setting restrictions on. While the company states this initiative goes beyond legal compliance, it is challenging to evaluate to what extent the policy addresses emerging chemicals of concern such as certain toxic flame retardants. We hope Best Buy will join other retailers like Walmart, Target, and CVS in disclosing its RSL, especially in advance of our next retailer report card we plan to release this November. Along similar lines, the company has also not explained how it will identify or evaluate “preferred” chemicals. Having a clear definition of safer alternatives and a process for evaluating the hazards of alternatives is critically important to avoid regrettable substitution.

The company can also take the next step by announcing public facing goals with clear timeframes to implement the policy. For example, this past January Target announced a new safer chemicals policy along with new goals and timeframes to eliminate key chemicals of high concern. In April CVS announced timeframes for reformulating nearly 600 private label products. We encourage Best Buy to join these other major retailers in setting clear goals and benchmarks for reducing and eliminating chemicals of high concern, such as toxic flame retardants and phthalates, which are commonly found in electronics. We also hope Best Buy will consider joining Walmart and CVS in becoming signatories to the Chemical Footprint Project.

Thank you Best Buy

In the end, we congratulate Best Buy for developing this new Chemical Management Corporate Statement. We hope the company will follow through on its commitment to disclose the chemicals it is restricting in products and in manufacturing by the end of 2017. The company has committed to publicly report on progress in its next annual sustainability report, which we will look forward to.

Best Buy’s new statement also underscores the need for other major electronics retailers like Amazon to catch up to help drive dangerous chemicals out of electronics.

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Maine passes first-in-nation law on flame retardants in upholstered furniture http://saferchemicals.org/2017/08/04/maine-passes-first-in-nation-law-on-flame-retardants-in-upholstered-furniture/ http://saferchemicals.org/2017/08/04/maine-passes-first-in-nation-law-on-flame-retardants-in-upholstered-furniture/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 21:52:03 +0000 http://saferchemicals.org/?p=15229 Firefighters and families worked alongside a powerful coalition of labor and environmental groups, including the Environmental Health Strategy Center and its action arm, Prevent Harm, to pass what now is the first law in the nation to phase out all toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture. 

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This week, by a decisive bipartisan vote to override Governor LePage’s veto, Maine Legislators prioritized the health and safety of Maine children, families, and firefighters—and established a precedent-setting standard for the nation.

Firefighters and families worked alongside a powerful coalition of labor and environmental groups, including the Environmental Health Strategy Center and its action arm, Prevent Harm, to pass what now is the first law in the nation to phase out all toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture. This first-in-the-nation law establishes a new national precedent for protecting public health.

Our staff members organized volunteers and joined firefighters and their families to speak out on behalf of this bill, making the long trek to the State House in Augusta to talk directly with legislators, from early this year right up to the legislators’ override vote on Wednesday.

It wasn’t easy. Not at all. We were up against intense lobbying by out-of-state representatives of the chemical industry. Misleading information and debunked pseudoscience repeatedly made its way to Maine legislators and media outlets.

The chemical industry’s trade group, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) lobbies—often successfully—against state legislation that would harm chemical sales, such as LD 182. The chemical industry has manipulated scientific findings to overstate the effectiveness of toxic flame retardants and downplay the health risks for years, as the Chicago Tribune revealed in an award-winning investigative series as far back as 2012.

In the end, Maine common sense prevailed. The override vote was 123-14 in the House, and 31-1 in the Senate.

The facts swayed Maine legislators: toxic chemical flame retardants are linked to cancer, the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths among firefighters, and increase the risk of birth defects and learning disabilities among children. Moreover, safety experts and firefighters agree that flame retardants are not needed to slow down fires.

“Once again, Maine common sense leads the nation. This new law phases out all flame retardant chemicals in residential upholstered furniture, because none are needed for fire safety. And the Maine ban tells the chemical industry to give up its futile attempt to weaken national protections,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center and Prevent Harm.

LD 182 is groundbreaking for two reasons. First, because flame retardants are unnecessary for fire safety, the new law phases out all such chemicals. This avoids “regrettable substitution,” in which alternatives also prove dangerous. Second, the law helps chill chemical industry lobbying for changes in national fire safety standards to counter California’s decision to no longer require flame retardant chemicals in residential upholstered furniture.

The state of Maine has sent a message to the chemical industry that the health and well being of firefighters and families is more important than their profits. Misinformation circulated during the process of getting this bill passed was unfortunate and uncalled for,” said John Martell, president of the Professional Firefighters of Maine, which joined forces with the Environmental Health Strategy Center and Prevent Harm to pass LD 182. “The facts show these chemicals don’t work and are unsafe. There are safer alternatives for life safety in our homes.”

Regardless of industry efforts, after January 1, 2019, such furniture can no longer be sold in the State of Maine if it contains flame retardant chemicals.

“Safer States is extremely proud of Maine’s firefighters, state advocates, parents, and everyone else who helped get this policy adopted,” said Sarah Doll, national director for Safer States, a network of environmental health coalitions and organizations in states around the country. “Restricting all toxic flame retardants in residential furniture sets a national precedent that will protect firefighters and communities in Maine and beyond.”

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