Thursday April 17, 2014
White House Backs Chemical Industry Against Kids, Stalling EPA Hazard Reviews of Toxic Chemicals Like TCE, IndefinitelySalem-News.com
Obama is playing with fire, placing millions of Americans at risk and harming efforts to curb current problems.
(WASHINGTON D.C.) - Corporate polluters won two big victories recently, but you only heard about one. That was president Obama's decision to block EPA from issuing cleaner smog standards, Daniel Rosenberg, Senior Attorney, Washington DC with Switchboard, the Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog reports.
His decision provoked such outrage across the country that the White House switchboard was jammed by angry callers.
You didn't hear about the second because, according to multiple sources, the White House worked behind the scenes to stop EPA from issuing a hazard assessment of the cancer-causing chemical TCE – and is working to effectively shut down the EPA’s program for assessing the hazards of chemicals – the basis for setting and updating health standards for drinking water, air quality, and clean-up of contaminated soil.
TCE (Trichloroethylene) is a widely-used solvent and is one of the most commonly found chemicals at Superfund sites across the country. You may recall it was TCE that gave kids leukemia in Woburn, MA and because the subject of a famous book and movie, A Civil Action.
Doctor Phil Leveque is one of the nation's most educated Forensic Toxicologists, he spent many years as a Professor of Pharmacology, and was for many years, an Osteopathic Physician. He offered testimony in the nation's first TCE-death related court case, in 1974.
The defendant was Dow Chemical. The victim had used TCE to clean supermarket floor bubblegum stains, and died after breathing it regularly over a three-week period.
Dr. Leveque explained while testifying as an expert witness that TCE was originally created to be used as an anesthetic, intended to replace ether; however it was soon discovered that a human being can have direct contact with TCE only once, particularly when used as an anesthetic, and that a second contact will be fatal, without question.
So, it went from the medical world to the industrial cleaning world, because that is apparently how they do things here in the U.S. It was known from the beginning that this triple chlorine base degreaser was deadly, they thought it had one use, and simply made a lateral move.
It is as if the ego of the creator of the substance only cared about promoting its use, at all costs. Knowing that direct contact quickly turns fatal, sufficient warnings were never issued by Dow Chemical advising users not to breathe its toxic fumes.
It is only one, but TCE is a principle contaminant at the now-closed Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, where several Salem-News.com writers served. This has been a focus of more than a hundred of our reports since 2008, along with Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, an active Marine Corps base where Marines serve today. It was learned in recent years, that the government paid scientists to construct a false report declaring that the water supply at Camp Lejeune was safe, see Report Clearing Marine Corps Connection to Camp Lejeune Sickness was Purchased.
It is also the subject of a brand new book soon to be released by Robert O'Dowd and Tim King of Salem-News.com, titled: A Few Good Men, Too Many Chemicals which goes beyond El Toro, but mainly centers around the contamination at that Orange County, California location that was literally soaked in TCE and many other hazardous chemicals for more than fifty years.
Tim King said, "Obama has shown time and time again that he is the president of the mindless corporate sociopaths who could care less about the common man. It is terrible, it is sinful, it is shameful, and it will also ignite our afterburners. Perhaps they think we are unable to counter such madness when in fact, at least when we were publishing stories about El Toro frequently, spending time on scene, befriending Irving City Council members who sought our knowledge about the real story of the base, you couldn't Google anything to do with the place without pulling up our stories about the rotten contamination that lurks there to hurt people today and tomorrow the way it hurt and killed my brothers of yesterday."
He added, "They are trying to make derelicts out of the population of our society. Well protected from this TCE hazard, Obama and his cronies and the corporate CEO superstars are immune, this is obvious proof that Obama doesn't give a rip about the American people, especially Veterans, particularly Marines, that sucks."
Marines at El Toro used it to clean the jet fighters that were based there for so many years. The TCE was typically dumped into the ground after use and absorbed by the water tables beneath which Salem-News.com Environmental Reporter Roger Butow, of nearby Laguna Beach, also a former El Toro Marine, dubbed quite fittingly, 'toxic soup'.
From there, the TCE 'plumes' begin and these travel off the base and actually flow for several miles, directly beneath Irvine City Hall. It is quite a reality for the 'safest city in America' as Irvine claims. Of course of you talked to Christina Shea, Irvine City Council member through 2011, she will tell you stories about the mismanagement of funds, the way the mayor Larry Agran hid information, lied to voters, and did everything possible to push the 'Great Park Project' through.
This is the other side of the plan for El Toro; the one that goes beyond building Lennar luxury homes on the contaminated ground. For years, there has been a proposal for a park on a former Marine base that is so toxic that it will stick to the tires of your car on summer days over 80 degrees. The place is a ruin, and yet it represents dollar signs, so with total disregard to the terrible health hazard, the various plans have continued to move forward.
King says the acts of President Barack Obama are in this case, a death sentence to Americans everywhere. It is a disgraceful matter and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the U.S. President's interests are with the corporate polluters, not with the interests of people.
Daniel Rosenberg explains in the Switchboard blog, that EPA was set to release its final updated assessment of TCE on Friday, September 2nd, (the same day the Administration blocked EPA from issuing a new health standard for ozone).
The updated assessment concludes that TCE is a known human carcinogen (whether you drink it, breath it, or absorb it through your skin), and causes even more chronic diseases than previously thought.
In addition to cancer, TCE has been linked with harmful effects to the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system, male reproductive system, and developing fetus.
Because the updated assessment would lay the groundwork for more protective cleanup standards and exposure limits, the chemical industry has fought for more than twenty years to prevent EPA from updating its assessment – along with the Departments of Energy and Defense, which created a lot of those Superfund sites.
Meanwhile, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, and the National Academies of Science have consistently endorsed EPA’s updated assessment. In 2006, the National Academies recommended that EPA finalize its assessment so that efforts to reduce exposure to TCE could be made “expeditiously.” Friday came and went, but the TCE assessment was not released. The same day draft assessments of two other chemicals – (1,4 dioxane and n-Butanol) that had been made available for public comment on August 31st were mysteriously rendered “temporarily unavailable”.
These assessments are conducted by EPA’s IRIS program (IRIS stands for Integrated Risk Information System, which may be why few people are familiar with it). Although it is obscure, the assessments conducted under the IRIS program are extremely important.
They are the scientific foundation for health standards that are set to protect us from pollution in air, drinking water and contaminated soil. Word has begun to circulate that the White House has moved to stop any more IRIS assessments from being released – including for tetrachloroethylene or “perc” which is best known as the cancer-causing chemical commonly used in dry-cleaning, and a new cancer risk estimate for arsenic.
That’s funny, because that’s what the chemical industry and one of its scientists-for-hire demanded earlier this summer in a letter to the White House hatchet man Cass Sunstein, and in testimony before the House Science Committee’s Investigation and Oversight Subcommittee. That was part of the industry’s campaign to discredit EPA and its scientists by distorting and misrepresenting the findings of a National Academies review of another long-delayed assessment of formaldehyde. The chemical industry was also apoplectic that a separate Report on Carcinogens from the National Toxicology Program in June concluded that formaldehyde caused cancer, including leukemia, and that styrene was a probable carcinogen (the industry has now sued to overturn the NTP’s finding on styrene).
In a beltway journal report [Risk Policy Report – subscription required] today an unnamed industry representative went so far as to brag about the work done “behind the scenes” to pull the strings that stalled the program.
The IRIS program was plagued by political interference throughout the Bush Administration and was sufficiently paralyzed that it was only issuing 2 assessments per year, creating a backlog of hundreds of chemicals requiring initial or updated hazard assessments. A key part of the problem was that the OMB under the Bush Administration inserted itself directly into the IRIS process, and required EPA to submit draft assessments for multiple rounds of review by the White House.
The problem was so bad that the Government Accountability Office published a report about it, and designated the program as one at “High Risk” of failure due to the EPA’s inability to issue hazard assessments (the other two federal programs designated as “high risk” by GAO were those for regulating the financial industry and medical devices).
When EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson first took office, she began to repair the damage to the IRIS program, and reduce the backlog of chemical assessments. Issuing the TCE assessment after two decades would be an important step forward toward restoring the program’s credibility and effectiveness. Maintaining a steady flow of assessments will be even more critical.
The public wants to be protected from exposure to toxic chemicals in the air, the water, and in the products they bring into their homes every day. But it seems that the White House isn’t thinking about health, the environment, or the public, only what the chemical industry and other big polluters are demanding.
Preventing EPA from issuing a final assessment of TCE -- or reverting to the Bush administration’s approach of continual White House interference to block release of assessments or demand weakening changes sought by the chemical industry – would be a deliberate decision to consign America’s children, and the public at large, to prolonged exposure to carcinogens and other toxic substances in their air and water. In the health realm, it is hard to think of a worse legacy than that.
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