Elizabeth Grossman

In action that may portend how the 114th Congress will treat science, the House has passed two bills that would limit the EPA’s use of science. The White House is threatening to veto both – and an additional bill that in the White House’s view could weaken the Clean Air Act’s public health and environmental protections.

Despite significant unanswered questions about human and environmental health impacts – and no exposure monitoring requirements – the EPA has approved a new herbicide called Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered corn and soybeans in six Midwestern states. Environmental groups and farmers are suing to block approval, saying EPA failed to adequately assess health risks.

“If the California Public Health Department had been able to find out that my company was using a chemical that was killing people, I might never have gotten so sick that I had to have a lung transplant,” Ricardo Corona told a California Judiciary Committee last April, testifying in favor of California Senate Bill (SB) 193 that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on September 29th.

In announcing National Farm Safety Week, President Obama emphasized his Administration’s commitment to reducing hazards of agricultural work – including for young people. So how are we doing at protecting children and teens working on farms and ranches? Note: There is no federally required safety training for youth working in agriculture. Estimated injury rate is 38 per day and fatalities, 115 per year

That people who work nights have their sleep cycles thrown out of balance has serious consequences but urging a potentially habit-forming, psychoactive drug on an economically stressed, overworked workforce, would seem to be a symptom, at the minimum, of a pharmaceutical industry gone awry. Shouldn’t we instead be figuring out how to reduce the occupational health risks of work schedules?

It may come as a surprise to those not familiar with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the primary law that regulates chemicals used in the US that go into products other than cosmetics, drugs and pesticides – to learn that about 15,000 chemicals on the TSCA inventory have their identities claimed as trade secrets.

If the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) give their approval to a new herbicide called Enlist Duo and to corn and soybean seeds genetically engineered (GE) to resist that chemical, the United States could see a significant increase in what is already one of the country’s most widely used herbicides.…

The incident report details are horrific and heartbreaking. If this was a radio broadcast, my editors and I would likely preface what I am about to relate with a warning: “The following report contains material that may be disturbing.” On July 2nd, 28-year old Joel Metz became the eighth cell tower worker to die on the job this year. OSHA and the industry have initiated new safety measures but nothing seems to be changing.

What do these places have in common: Camp Lejeune in North Carolina; Mountain View, California, where Google headquarters are located; Endicott, NY – the birthplace of IBM; and 389 Superfund sites in at least 48 states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands? All are contaminated by trichloroethylene (TCE), a carcinogenic solvent. TCE’s health hazards are well-documented. So why are Republicans rushing to condemn EPA’s just-completed TCE risk assessment?

When a widely used chemical is identified as an environmental health hazard and targeted for phase-out and elimination, among the most challenging questions for those involved with making such a chemical are: What to use instead? and Will the replacement be safe? The US Environmental Protection Agency’s report identifying alternatives to the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) illustrates how difficult those questions can be to answer.