Monday, July 16, 2018

Guarding Against Cancers In the Pruitt- Wheeler Deregulated (I.e. 'Swamp critter') EPA Era

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Panel from recent EDF 'Solutions' issue on avoiding chemical contaminants

The recent news (July 12) in The Denver Post that drinking water in north metro Denver - serving 50,000 residents- has been contaminated by perflourinated chemicals (PFCs) is not inspiring news - especially in the era of the swamp rats (like Scott Pruitt, and now Andrew Wheeler) controlling the EPA.  As we know the regulations on water pollution have now been massively loosened, spreading potential carcinogens far and wide. In north metro Denver, for example, the citizens - if they're not drinking bottled water- face increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, as well as developmental damage to fetuses and liver tissue damage, this according to the Post.

An EPA warning map of high density PFC locations - before the swamp rats took over the agency - is shown below:
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Meanwhile, in Fayetteville, West Virginia, the water in the area's schools still runs orange, but kids are expected to drink it. And Flint, Michigan is still trying to recover from the lead in its own water supply,    In southern Colorado we are dealing with high levels of perchlorates, the chemical in rocket fuel - and known to cause cancers of the liver, kidneys, breast and prostate.

Since the ascension of Pruitt, and now his underling Andrew Wheeler, contamination of water is going on at a frenetic clip. Especially since the Trump administration, after heavy lobbying by the chemical industry, is scaling back the way the federal government determines health and safety risks associated with the most dangerous chemicals on the market, documents from the Environmental Protection Agency show.

To get a perspective here, under a law passed by Congress during the final year of the Obama administration, the E.P.A. was required for the first time to evaluate hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals and determine if they should face new restrictions, or even be removed from the market. The chemicals include many in everyday use, such as dry-cleaning solvents, paint strippers and substances used in health and beauty products like shampoos and cosmetics.

But under pressure from Pruitt, and as it moves forward reviewing the first batch of 10 chemicals, the E.P.A. has been ordered to exclude from its calculations any potential exposure caused by the substances’ present  in the air, the ground or water, according to more than 1,500 pages of documents released last week by the agency.

Instead - in a "softball" approach,  the agency will focus on possible harm caused by direct contact with a chemical in the workplace or elsewhere.  In other words you will actually have to make direct contact with the carbon tetrachloride or 2, 4 dinitrophenylhydrazine to ascertain that it actually killed or poisoned you. 

The approach means that the improper disposal of chemicals — leading to the contamination of drinking water, for instance — will often not be a factor in deciding whether to restrict or ban them. Fracking companies,  like many here in Colorado, . can then toss out as many drums of hydrogen cyanide as they want with impunity, and no one will be the wiser.  Until people get sick - and maybe not even then.

Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, who retired last year after nearly four decades at the E.P.A., where she ran the toxic chemical unit during her last year. said flatly (ibid.):

“It is ridiculous! You can’t determine if there is an unreasonable risk without doing a comprehensive risk evaluation.”

The latest EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) Bulletin ('Solutions', Spring, 2018) , as if the preceding isn't enough, now also reports a further loosening of rules for disposal of 1,4 - dioxane, a solvent linked to liver cancer.   

The news is that while Pruitt, and now Wheeler, have been getting a lot of press attention, less has been paid to their top henchmen and a industry hired gun - Dr. Michael Dourson. He's now nominated to oversee the EPA's chemical safety office, which will mean lowering the safety rules to the minimum. According to Dr, Sarah Vogel, EDF VP for Health (op. cit., p. 9):

"He's not a person you want as EPA's top regulator of chemicals He is well known in the business as the go to guy to get your chemical blessed."

  For example, in terms of the liver cancer -causing 1,4- dioxane, Dourson has proposed (ibid.) "setting a safety level in drinking water that's 1,000 times higher than the original EPA level."  This means paint companies will be able to literally dump tons of the stuff into rivers, lakes etc.

And  if you are unlucky enough to reside near a  prime paint solvent dumping site, you will have to possibly contend with the same liver cancer that took down my youngest brother, Mike, barely 6 weeks ago.

Faced with this prospect, readers may wish to consult the table of precautions at the top, compliments of the same EDF Solutions issue.

Another highly toxic chemical for which Dourson wants the safety margins lowered is methylene chloride.  In one research paper, published  in n obscure industry journal, Dourson "lowballed the risks and called for EPA's safety standard on the chemical to be significantly loosened." (ibid.)

While many hailed the passage of the new chemical reform bill passage in 2016 a huge victory for better health and wellness in this country, we're now faced with rollbacks on multiple fronts - poisoning our water air, as well as soil.  (The bill amended a 1976 law so deeply flawed that regulators could not even ban asbestos a "notorious and deadly carcinogen."

When I related the content of my blog post to Janice, she asked: "Don't these Trumpie swamp rats realize lowering of regulations for chemicals allowed in water will just make more people sick. Send more people to hospitals for cancer and other treatments, especially those in Trump won states?"

I replied: "That is why these degenerates are racing to try to gut the ACA and also limit Medicaid access - unless those that need it are prepared to work almost an extra job!"

She screamed: "Bastards!"

But that's what things have devolved to:   more illness, more hospital treatments, more debt, more  grief and for those citizens who can least afford it. Which elicits the question: How much pain will it take before the Trump backers, voters turn against their mutant, orange ape leader and traitor? Foreclosures on family farms, businesses from his nutso tariffs?  Or  contracting stage IV  liver cancer- such as took down my brother Mike-  from exposure to chemicals in water like 1,4- dioxane, causing them to medically spend themselves into poverty.

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