Policies and Practices

The Policies and Practices work group is focused on reducing harmful chemical exposures and adverse health outcomes, eliminating inequities, and spurring the development and use of safer alternatives. To review the group’s membership, charge, and past meeting summaries, visit the National Conversation work group page.

Next Steps
The National Conversation Council will consider public input received through web dialogues and public comment in revising the Action Agenda in the early spring 2011. Work group reports will be appended to the action agenda.



  1. Eileen Senn

    Independent Industrial Hygiene Consultant

    In your view, what are the most important recommendations put forward by the work group?
    Recommendations 1 and 3.

    Do you have suggestions for strengthening the report or any of the recommendations?
    Strengthen #6 on worker protections from chemical exposures.

    PELs perpetuate a deeply flawed approach to controlling chemical exposures whereby OSHA cannot require engineering controls unless the agency collects air samples that prove that employee exposures exceed a PEL. Invariably, exposures are in compliance with current standards, in spite of significant symptoms and concerns experienced by workers. Air sampling then becomes an extra obstacle in the struggle to reduce exposures and health problems.

    Instead of updating PELs, OSHA should require employers to assess and control exposures as part of a Health and Safety Program or Injury and Illness Prevention Standard. Employers should be required to perform qualitative assessments of chemical exposures by observing visible contaminants, noting odors, predicting exposure from situations such as open containers, and activities that disperse chemicals, such as spraying, and from interviews of workers about their health symptoms and complaints.

    Employers should also be required to implement the hierarchy of controls for all chemical exposures as part of a Health and Safety Program Standard. Exposures should trigger controls and those controls should be best practices. Controls should be implemented for all routes of entry for which there is potential exposure. Better and better controls could be required to be phased in over time. Precedents for OSHA standards requiring the use of exposure controls without regard to exposure levels include 1910.1003 on the 13 carcinogens, hazardous chemicals in laboratories, bloodborne pathogens, several ventilation standards, process safety management, asbestos, lead, and cadmium in construction, confined space entry, and personal protective equipment standards.

    OSHA industrial hygienists should be re-trained as experts in ventilation and engineering control design, operations, and maintenance. They should use airflow instruments and checklists to examine ventilation systems. They should issue citations if such systems are not properly designed, operated, or maintained.

    Even if all OSHA industrial hygienists did with this new rule was ensure that all existing ventilation systems are working properly, that would go further towards reducing chemical exposures than having them collect air samples.

    Such an approach would benefit small and medium sized businesses that do not have the resources to conduct air sampling. Hiring a consultant to air sample can easily cost $1,000-$5,000. Such resources if allocated to local exhaust ventilation improvements may have a much more efficient and beneficial impact on the workplace than the sampling. The AIHA manual and various European organizations have developed qualitative exposure techniques to help small and medium sized businesses identify the needs for exposure control without using significant resources to measure exposures. One of the most recognized techniques is the control banding , which has much to recommend it. My reservation is that it will only work well if chemicals are assigned to the correct health hazard group – and we often don’t have the toxicity data to do that. However, if control banding were modified to group solids by dustiness and liquids by vapor pressure, it could work well.

    Because of data gaps in skin absorption and ingestion toxicity data, OSHA should require employers to either assume that all chemicals are toxic by all routes of entry when prescribing controls or, for dermal exposures, require employers to utilize A Strategy for Assigning New NIOSH Skin Notations.
    [file] to Policies and Practices Group.doc[/file]

  2. Lori Wilke

    Recommendation 1 is definitely needed.

  3. Susan Hurd

    I write to advocate on behalf of those disabled with multiple chemical sensitivities, MCS, including myself, and other illnesses directly adversely affected by chemical exposures. I also am a holistic psychotherapist, MA, CAGS, LMHC and specialize in health psychology issues.I used to teach environmental education,have a BA in Mass Communications, and focused on environmental and social justice issues with documentary and educational media. I am well qualified with my suggestions.

    The over view summary: VI: prioritize actions to address the disproportionate treatment and burden of chemical exposure placed on under represented populations, as well as on page 9 Tertiary Prevention subgroup.. addressing harm caused by historic practices and protecting health of at risk populations………………………. I strongly suggest prioritizing policies on Green, less toxic affordable housing and developments being built, as well as work places, hospitals and other public buildings. There are NO current regulations in what constitutes as Green. Therefore, if one is recycling including with toxic building materials or using toxic but energy efficient materials it can be called GReen. Green should mean less toxic, heathy, safer, and the use of zero VOC or low VOC products are in use, that do not contain bio hazardous, neurotoxic, and carcinogenic toxic building materials like formaldehyde. THe EPA acknowledges that formaldehyde and high VOCs that have formaldehyde are highly toxic yet they are still part of historic common building practices. Formaldehyde is used in paints, carpets, glues, particle board frame structures and sub-flooring, cupboards, laminate flooring like Pergo and some bamboo flooring being promoted as Green.It also is found in most wall boards. Formaldehyde is a leading trigger for chemical sensitivities/ MCS. 4%, 12 million are currently disabled with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, MCS. 40% of the US is chemically sensitive and 72% of all asthmatics are chemically sensitive. 60% of those with fibromyalgia are chemically sensitive. Many with headaches and migraines, learning disabilities, ADHD also are adversely affected by chemical exposures. EVery 10 years these statistics double! It is healthier and cost effective to build Green less toxic housing, work buildings, schools, hospitals, etc. THis should be a priority to with policies developed.

    THose fully disabled, as I am, are forced with near non-existent affordable housing choices that will keep them healthy and productive working citizens. IT is cost effective to provide Green affordable housing which then lessens harm from chemical injury, improves health and well being all around. Many are forced into homelessness with NO SHelters that are MCS Green accessible, nor is any temporary housing that is MCS accessible is offered for emergencies. No affordable public subsidized/HUD housing is being offered nationally that is Green MCS accessible with good air quality, free of high VOCs and free of toxic formaldehyde products and that also will use less toxic integrated pest management and lawn care. People disabled with MCS therefore often are forced in substandard living conditions resorting to living in tents, sheds, porches, old motorhomes, trucks, or crash with family and friends with safer housing, if they can not afford a Green/less toxic home to meet their needs. Many with MCS need to live in separate dwellings that do not have shared walls or shared air systems or shared public laundry facilities. They do need single family homes/cottages that are made with Green less toxic materials like tile floors, solid wood floors, plaster or tile or solid wood walls or zero VOC wall board. Basically the way homes used to be built 40-50 years ago or older often can work for those with MCS. THose with MCS also need filtered water or well water that is untreated, and need washer dryer hooks. DRy, non toxic storage is needed to let toxic products outgass as needed such as new appliances, shoes, clothing, bedding, books etc. THe National COuncil for Independent Living, NCIL that provides HUD with 25% funding for disabled housing issues has proposed in its policy in FAll 2009 that HUD begin building 2% of HUD housing as GReen MCS accessible housing. THis policy proposed by NCIL to HUD needs to become reality ASAP and enforced!

    Like a person in a wheel chair needs to have accessibility into their home and work place,those with MCS also can not enter a building, home or work place or public bathroom unless they have less toxic, zero VOC materials used and that also are not spewing or permeated with toxic air fresheners which make those with MCS very ill and prevent accessibility, especially into public bathrooms and other places using toxic fragrances as some stores now pump into their stores like BEd and Bath and the GAP do. The ADA does recognize that fragrances are a barrier for some and its a reasonable request to keep a place fragrance free. Yet,public bathrooms, stores and other places are using highly toxic fragrance preventing accessibility.

    Formaldehyde outgassing automatically prevents one with MCS to be able to live in a home rental or to own a newly built affordable home with formaldehyde laden products. It is time to make it policy to remove highly toxic formaldehyde from particle board/pressed board materials, from carpets, paints and glues, etc. It is neuro-toxic and carcinogenic. It is time to phase out and use low and zero VOC paints. A toddler that is crawling on a typical high VOC carpet that will outgas high VOCs and formaldehyde for many years will inhale the equivalent of three cigarettes worth of VOCs daily! Of course similar statistics can be be assumed to take place with high VOC paint and particle board that also will outgas high VOC and formaldehyde emissions causing many adverse health problems including behavioral, learning disorders, asthma, MCS,cancer. CHildren art supplies by law must be non -toxic. Stain used on wooden play ground equipment is mandated for low/zero VOC water based stains to be used, yet this is not followed through building materials in use in homes, schools, decks, etc. IT is time to start building/providing Green MCS affordable housing, work places, public bathrooms and other public places to be accessible.

    HUD only has ONE MCS accessible housing complex located in Marin County, CA and it is full to capacity with a waiting list that is closed. 4%,12 million is MCS disabled. To put this in perspective, 1% of the US population is wheel chair disabled, yet all HUD housing is wheel chair accessible and many public buildings are wheel chair accessible. According to ADA and the Fair Housing Act one may not be refused necessary disability accommodations that will afford equal opportunity. HOusing must be built to provided disability accessibility. Necessary MCS/Green accommodations are NOT being provided.MCS is recognized by the ADA, HUD, and NAtional Council for Independent Living,NIC. HUD policies need to be changed ASAP. NEcessary accommodations are NOT taking place by HUD in order to help one disabled with MCS afford single family less toxic housing from private sector or from the public HUD sector. NO options exist.HUD only allows a Fair MArket Rate,FMR, based on multifamily housing, which one with MCS may not be able to live in. A FMR adjusted to afford to rent a single home to meet their disability needs does not exist. THis means maybe a person with MCS may be able to find ONE home that MIGHT work and be affordable every 6 months or longer. Policy changes are in dire need! ASAP!!!

  4. Linda Jacobson

    Several years ago, I realized that if I was exposed to plug-in or continuous spray air fresheners, my Hashimoto’s disease went into flare-up, within 2 days (that’s how soon my blood was tested after the exposure). In each case, my thyroid numbers went back to normal, gradually, over the course of a month. These exposures could be indirect and minimal (e.g.., sitting in a hall outside the office suite that used the products for 10 minutes). At the same time, I had many symptoms of a flare-up of ulcerative colitis. However, since I no longer bleed even in the worst flare-up, this can only be verified by an invasive procedure, and I have not done so.
    Since then, I have tried contacting the Colorado Public Health Dept., CDC, EPA, NIH, and the local office of the ATSDR, all of whom referred me in a round robin to nowhere.
    This is of particular concern, because several local hospitals and clinics use these air fresheners. If I am in a serious traffic accident near one of these hospitals, the additional compromises these products put on my body could mean the difference between life and death.
    Although I have notified these establishments, I have had mixed success. One hospital wrote that, since these products were legal, there was no reason to stop using them. An endoscopy center across the hall from my orthopedic doctor told me they “had” to use them.
    These kinds of situations need to be addressed by:
    a. Providing an easy to access, well-publicized database where individuals and doctors can report such anomalies.
    b. Educating hospitals and clinics about what they need to do to be accessible to ALL patien

  5. Barbara Rubin

    To Whom it May Concern,

    I only received word last night of this project and that comments were due by five o’clock this afternoon. As there remains only one hour now before I can send you comments, please forgive this generic submission. Some of theses issues are crucial to the American health care system already stretched to the point of collapse as nearly a third of American adults (to age 64) and a quarter of our children are demonstrating chronic health conditions and disabilities. Our soaring rate of developmental disabilities which now affects one in six children according to Dr. Phillip Landrigan of the Mt. Sinai Hospital Center in NYC, is a good measure of our need for better management of chemicals.

    I am a clinician and special educator who was disabled with permanent central nervous system and metabolic damage at the age of 45, by toxic chemicals used in a school setting. I became a whistle-blower through calling in the EPA to investigate misuse of pesticides and began a decade of learning about your areas of study. I hope my discoveries regarding the large gaps in public policy will be of use. Please let me know if I can offer further detail of these major points to you after your deadline. My mild aphasia and acquired ADD as a result of pesticide poisoning does not make this an efficient process.

    1.Education: Citizens are generally referred to as consumers in this country. This has allowed us to become confused regarding a citizen’s right to safe drinking water, an unadulterated food supply, and clean air in our enclosed living and working spaces. Instead we are approached only in our role as good customers for the industry best able to advertise a quick answer to any of our needs. As we see in the larger economic picture, buying cheaper and more readily obtained products and services (e.g. construction, pest control, laundry services) can result in a far more costly cascade of events such the lost productivity and school attendance of children and adults suffering with asthma; reduction in achievements by children suffering losses of intellectual potential from lead, mercury, neuro-toxic pesticides; loss of a strong consumer base as disabled workers and those following the downward spiral to that end point (one third of the workforce) cannot use their discretionary income for anything but health care services. Citizens need to become more familiar with chemicals and that can only be done by altering a public policy which endorses ignorance. In fact, we are not permitted in may locales to know in advance when toxic chemicals will be introduced into our lives by employers, landlords and school administrators. Congress has yet to release the School Environment Protection Act from committee which would have mandated my advance notice of pesticide applications and possibly saved my health and career when such notice was denied me. Vendors selling toxic products are ignorant of their ingredients and hazards while proprietary formulas are permitted, eradicating freedom of choice on the basis of health related standards. Education in all subjects is, well, subject to public policy as follows.

    2.Public Policy:
    a) Full disclosure of ingredients in all products: Since patents protect industry formulas and exact proportions of ingredients are not released to the general public, mandates of full disclosure for 100% of a product’s contents is essential. Capitalism is a trickle up policy by which consumers control the marketplace according to demand. One cannot demand the best quality products when secrecy makes knowledge of what constitutes “best” from the process.
    b) Full disclosure (non-punitive) of all applications of toxic chemicals. Staff and parents need to know when schools are receiving insecticidal treatments. Communities ought to be able to go to the clerk’s office and know what is in use in farm fields so they can decide if living in a particular location is a good choice for themselves and their children. The EPA does not receive notice of farmer’s use of herbicides and pesticides which do not require a license to obtain. Numerous studies show drift is a serious issue for many miles in farming communities and has been seen to cause changes in central nervous system functions.

    c) Oversight of chemical use has long been a source of conflict of interest. The department of agriculture is intensely involved with a very specialized industry. Their involvement in the management and enforcement of pesticide laws (FIFRA) in our residential and non-farming industry practices is entirely inappropriate. People are not crops and the use of agricultural chemicals indoors completely alters their actions and efficacy as well as endangering a large group of non-targeted living beings. In schools, hospitals, and nursing homes that means our most vulnerable populations are exposed to chemicals which are not only going to act upon them differentially than healthy adult males (current reference group) but also interact with medications being taken (particularly cholinergically active medications) for a wide variety of normal developmental and abnormal health conditions. A body of scientists and citizens ought to be reviewing the use of industrial chemicals in non-industry settings. SEPA has not passed because the House Agriculture committee will never approve such measures. Notice of applications and restrictions in the class of chemicals applied in schools is counter to the wishes of agribusiness.

    3. Bio-monitoring: Recognition of chemically induced illness is very poor for a variety of reasons. This can only be overcome by increasing the ease of bio-monitoring for components in indoor air and of blood/urine metabolites for commonly encountered chemicals. As of this moment, there are no laboratories in the US which assess metabolites of the most commonly used pesticides in this country – pyrethroids and DEET. The fact that older use pesticides became regulated (and a number banned) as bio-monitoring for them became more accessible, one can only suppose such an absence of testing for pesticides, hormones and certain solvents are intentional. The CDC looked at 3,000 individuals in 2002 and found 70% of them positive for metabolites of current use pesticides. Yet they were unable to provide me with any lab facilities capable of measuring it in the population today.

    4. Enforcement: I have received two death threats in the past 13 months and had my residences and car sprayed with pesticides. Not one agency in this nation actually gets involved in crimes using common chemicals including Homeland Security, the EPA, FEMA or the CDC despite all groups being notified. They referred me to the local police who referred me back to them. Someone must take responsibility and quickly for investigating the misuse of chemicals for gain (I am a litigant and advocate for safer use of chemicals). I may not live to see my litigation to completion and have no recourse whatsoever.

    Barbara Rubin
    44489 Town Center Way 117
    Palm Desert, Ca 92260

  6. Susan Hurd

    I strongly encourage that the policy workgroup first, stadardize the word Green. Though the original definition meant practicing non-toxic, healthier living and building practices that kept people healthy and the Earth/environment healthy, it has strayed too far! For example, children playgrounds with toxic shredded tires now exist nationwide!! IT is called Green since it is recycled tires! People are naive, even the educated and affluent parents in these towns with recycled playgrounds are being blinded to how toxic it is and not something to let their toddlers/children be playing, getting on their skin, and clothes or putting into their mouths as toddlers will do. Another example is with housing practices. I have visited Green housing which still is using common historic practices building with toxic formaldehyde particle walls and sub-flooring, installing laminate and bamboo flooring that also still are made and outgassing much formaldehyde, as are pressed board cupboards. THese homes also are being built with toxic vinyl siding. For those disabled with multiple chemical sensitivities, MCS, which causes hyper-reactivity and triggers many neurological adverse reactions and immunological reactions as the EPA recognizes can be tirggered by high VOC paints and building materials and formaldehyde building materials, one with MCS never could live in these so called Green homes. THere is federal HUD housinig grants to build Green and money is being used to build housing that is being called Green but still has poor air quality and toxic. HOwever, if they use low VOC paint which also still can have toxic VOCs in it, or use something like bamboo laminate flooring, or put a wind mill to generate electricity, they are calling it Green. ZERo VOC paints are the way to go. Using zero or using the very lowest possible VOC emissions with flooring or other building materials is the way to go, and to keep it MCS accessible. GOing with what is cheapest often can be toxic and will cause more money later on with health problems, disability issues and other issues costing a great amount for these services. I

    4%, 12 million are now disabled wtih MCS. 40% are chemically sensitive to various degrees. 72% of all asthmatics are chemically sensitive also triggered by toxic building materials, high VOC paints and carpets, flooring, and also by chemical cleaning products and fragrances just like those with MCS are. Building Green is I believe the number one priority!!! Building safe, Green housing is the number one priority in offering affordable safe, accessible housing to those with MCS and asthma and others with chemical sensitivities. HUD only offers one MCS accessible housing complex in the nation! To put this in perspective,1% is wheel chair disabled, yet ALL HUD housing is wheel chair accessible. HOwever, many more are MCS disabled!!! Like a person in a wheel chair can not have accessibility without necessary wheel chair accommodations those with MCS, asthma need MCS acacessibility to enter a home or other building which does require needing good air quality with less toxic Green practices taking place. The NAtional Council for Independent Living, NCIL, which provides 25% funding to HUD did propose in Fall 2009 that HUD starts building at least 2% of their housing Green and MCS accessible and also provide single family homes with separate walls as many with MCS require. THis is a priority to have policy work on! HUD is not providing MCS accessibility and accommodations nor is making proper rental allowances with the FAir MArket Rate for one to afford a single family home that could be MCS accessible. Policy is needed to be changed so that necessary FMR allowances are increased for those with MCS. IF HUD can not at this time provide MCS accessible subsidized affordable housing then they must provide necessary increases for one to afford single family housing from the private sector and pay private sector rates for a single family home rental. THose with MCS are being forced into homelessness. THere are NO MCS homeless shelters or temporary housing shelters to provide necessary accommodations. There are no nursing homes providing MCS accessibility. IT is crucial for all and those with MCS to have shelter that will not make them sick, keep them healthy and then keep them productive citizens in society. When Green MCS housing can be found people can thrive, and live healthfully, work PT or FT and contibute back to society in many ways as long as they are provided MCS accommodations needed. IT is cost effective on many levels to provide Green housing and Green buildings that will meet MCS accessibilty standards. It keeps everyone healthier. THose with MCS are likened to the canary birds in the mines that could get sick and die first from toxic gases building up in the mines. When the bird got sick and died they knew to get out of the mine fast. THose with MCS detect more quickly what is not healthy for any of us. We are great consultants and guides to pay attention to with implementing Green building/housing policies. We also are overall an at risk population that needs protection and more representation while providing necessary accommodations. HUD does acknowledge MCS and does distribute ot their offices a MCS training education DVD produced by ALison Johnson, founder of the CHEmical Sensitivity FOundation. THE NAtional Council for Indpendent Living, NCIL also acknowledges MCS. Education and training is needed in every government organization and beyond so that Green MCS accessibility starts taking place.

  7. Vivian Keller

    1. I am asking that pesticides be kept out of reach of uneducated individuals.

    2. Inappropriate off label use. A neighbor poured organo-phosphates on the ground, undiluted, on ant hills. It drifted into our yard, causing me and my family to become very sick for 2 weeks. She also became very ill.

    25 years ago, I knew a woman who fogged before every vacation and became disabled, first experiencing psychological symptoms before they realized her problems were physical. Her daughter had immune disorders.

    Another woman I knew, was setting off foggers in her in-laws house, when she fell backwards into the box and set off all the foggers at the same time.

    3. All pesticide use should be documented and permits required for use.

    Twice, different people have used the threat of pesticide use to force behavior. My parents were threatened and then the neighbors followed through, putting 6 people in the hospital. Of those 6, only 2 are still alive. My cousin died at 35 from heart failure after spending over 10 years on disability.

    I was threatened by a former friend to clean her house, or she would spray me. She then proceeded to have her husband spray and even sprayed the inside of our car. I had seizure activity and lost bladder control. My children also became ill and are now sensitive to perfumes. I have heard of other people also being threatened and blackmailed.

    4. Laws pertaining to the use in the presence of children or during pregnancy.

    A woman sprayed RAID at a wasps while pregnant. When ever a bug came into the house, she would spray. She has her children spray the doorways. The child who usually sprays is now diagnosed with autism and her mother is getting social security for her. Her children have projectile vomiting at least once a year. Her husband became mentally ill and was unable to control his behavior or thoughts and is now in prison. She is now a prescription junkie.

    Another family applied quantities around their yard and fogged their house. Their son had rages where at the age of 5 he threw a full sized table across the room.

    5. I am also asking that organo-phosphates be banned. Organo-phosphates do permanent debilitating injury.

    I was exposed at the age of 21. I have been sick and disabled for most of a quarter of a century. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, toxic encephalopathy, allergies, tinnitis, sinusitis, IBS, autistic like sensory overload, Irlen syndrome, headaches, frequent infections, chemical sensitivities, nerve signal problems, muscle weakness, muscle jerks, hyperkalemia. And depression. When I got better and was working and attending UCSB, a nearby room was treated with organo-phosphates and I became re-disabled. I know it was organo-phosphates because I keened. When I got to my car for 1/2 an hour, I drooled, cried profusely, and had involuntary muscle movements, loosened teeth. etc. I was also exposed to other chemicals at the school where I worked.

  8. Katie Weisman

    Coalition for SafeMinds

    The Coalition for SafeMinds was founded to raise awareness, support research, change policy and focus national attention on the growing evidence of a link between mercury and neurological disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder, language delay and learning difficulties. Our mission is to restore health and protect future generations by eradicating the devastation of autism and associated health disorders induced by mercury and other man made toxicants.

    SafeMinds supports the emphasis in this report on primary (preventative) interventions. In the case of mercury, however, we feel that its toxicity is well-established and, unlike some chemicals which may have acceptable exposure levels, the most appropriate action is to move directly towards a ban of mercury in all products, both domestic and imported. In the interim, we support the idea of finding less toxic alternatives to mercury in all possible applications and requiring any product containing mercury to be clearly labeled regardless of amount. We would recommend that the Work Group create a category of chemicals like mercury, where the research is robust, to receive priority action.

    Mercury is toxic in such small amounts that consumer protection must take priority. There have been recent reports of mercury in skin-whitening products and children’s jewelry. Mercury continues to be used in dental amalgam (silver fillings), vaccines given to infants and pregnant women (flu shots, in particular) and fluorescent lamps, yet many consumers remain unaware of their exposure. In addition, the implementation of mercury product recycling programs for fluorescent lamps, e-waste, batteries, thermometers and thermostats remain spotty at best. A newly emerging concern is the unregulated use of coal combustion by-products (CCBs or CCPs), which contain significant amounts of mercury and other contaminants, in landfills, construction products (cement and drywall) and other untested applications. In addition to mercury’s elimination in new products, SafeMinds advocates for the mandatory recycling of mercury-containing products and strong regulation of coal ash end use.

    By way of some background for our position, both the NHANES and the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) show increases in blood mercury in the general population in their most recent published reports. In 2004, Dr. Kathryn Mahaffey of the EPA estimated that as many as 1 in 6 children born in the United States could be at risk of developmental disorders due to maternal blood mercury levels. Environmental levels of mercury are rising as evidenced by the EPA listing mercury advisories for lakes and rivers in 48 states as of 2006. A study by Sunderland, in 2009, has shown that mercury levels in the North Pacific have risen by approximately 30% in the past 20 years. Studies by Palmer and Windham have linked environmental mercury levels to autism and special education rates.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft reports.


    Katie Weisman
    Coalition for SafeMinds, Environmental Committee

  9. Douglas Crawford-Brown

    University of Cambridge

    I am providing comments in regard to the “priority actions” that include the following, and how the Precautionary Principle might relate to these:

    • Conducting research to establish criteria for using the precautionary approach to chemicals
    • and to support a range of precautionary options;
    • identifying the scientific evidence incorporated into the precautionary approach;
    • identifying the most important and useful data to include in alternatives assessments to
    • implement precautionary decisions;
    • identifying what additional scientific data can be obtained readily that can influence
    • precautionary approach decision making; and
    • refining the analytical methods for integrating the information collected, comparing
    • alternatives, involving the public, and monitoring the consequences of decisions made.

    These don’t specifically Address the issue of which version of the Precautionary Principle is being considered, but they do raise the question of using a wide array of data (including precursors and structure-activity relationships), in whatever form they are available, to allow at least a preliminary estimate of the risk to be formed. They note in particular that the available information might include bioaccumulation, endocrine disruption, and structural similarity to chemicals with known toxic characteristics (i.e. structure-activity relationships). The Conversation goes beyond discussing the ways in which this new information might be used, and also discusses how existing epidemiological and toxicological research methods might be improved to reflect a concern for precaution. This includes applying such methods to “very susceptible or vulnerable populations” so one can be sure even these groups are being protected.

    The discussion is relevant to one of the criteria of application of the Precautionary Principle laid out by the EC Communication (2000), that of “proportionality”. The options for risk management under uncertainty include “filling information gaps with additional research, reducing exposures, or developing alternative chemicals, processes, or products”, which presumably avoid the risk by replacing “unknown unknowns” with at least “known unknowns”. The Conversation then goes on to state that these risk management options should be “proportional to the levels of potential risk that chemicals may present”, which is precisely what the EC means by proportionality. It is essential to retain this aspect of the Precautionary Principle so the degree of precuation is not torn loose from the potential threat posed, which could lead to all threats being treated equally (i.e. with a ban).

    Significant discussion is also devoted to evaluating risks to populations when there are exposures to multiple sources of risk. In the past, the “margin of safety” approach was applied compound-by-compound in setting exposure limits for contaminants in water. The argument was essentially that the margin of safety was sufficiently large that even if a person were exposed to several contaminants simultaneously, the aggregate risk would still be acceptable. This began to be called into question by the environmental justice movement, which considered poor populations living near industrial complexes, and where exposures could be to dozens of contaminants simultaneously.

    To account for this situation, hazard indices summed over contaminants with similar modes of action are usually developed. This can be seen as a response to maintaining the Precautionary Principle even in the case of overlapping exposures. Here, the issue of burden of proof can be especially problematic, because the mixture to which a population is exposed might include contaminants from many different sources. In these cases, who has the burden of proof, since no one entity has responsibility for all of the contaminants in the mixture, and yet the risk might be from the collective action of the mixture, not from any one constituent? As the National Conversation notes, that burden usually falls onto the regulator, since no one source of the risk has the information needed to assess how the aggregate risk is affected by their one contribution to that risk.

    The proposal in the Conversation is then that the burden of proof might still be placed back onto the source of the risk, but with the additional requirement that this risk be assessed under the conditions of multiple exposures; i.e. that the source of the risk show how that source will act in exacerbating the risk already present from other contaminants. They go on to state that “the proponents of a product or project need to show that a chemical will not make the existing situation worse and that a new chemical may actually provide benefits in the context of having considered all reasonable alternatives.” The second half of this statement again comports with the EC Communication, where the Precautionary Principle should be applied in a context of considering the alternatives to a given material, process or product, and the risks they – or even no action – will impose on a community. The first half of the statement is more problematic, because it seems to go back to a position – not supported by the legal interpretations of the Safe Drinking Water Act of even NEPA – that a situation must pose no additional risk to be considered acceptable. This position is untenable and not required by law. Still, the Conversation does draw attention to the important criterion of the Precautionary Principle that society should always ask why a given material, process or product is being produced in the first place (what social good it is serving) and whether this is the best way to go about serving that good. Again, this is a feature of the EC definition that should be encouraged.

  10. Stephanie Wozniak

    My general comment after briefly reviewing all of the draft reports and hearing that our nation has been officially declared the “fattest” nation on earth is this: clearly I believe the overwhelming presence of persistent, bio-accumulative, toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, reproductive system damaging and endocrine disruptive chemicals in our food supply, air, water and homes has made us not only the fattest, but also the most depressed, medicated, lethargic, apathetic and generally unhealthy people who are most likely to become extinct by our own actions and arrogance.

    I would like to say that without a doubt one of the most important decisions our nations leaders and scientists and industry leaders can make is to stop poisoning the population and the environment with wood preservatives and other known dangerous pesticides.

    Please see attachment for complete fax submission and work group specific comments.
    [file] Wozniak – Policies and Practices.pdf[/file]

  11. Sarah Brozena

    American Chemistry Council

    General Comments
    The National Conversation’s draft workgroup recommendations represent a good first step in increasing the dialog with the public health community about the important issue of public health and chemical exposures. The diversity of topics covered in the Conversation is extensive. Work Group members should be commended for expending so much time and effort addressing issues ranging from regulation of chemicals in commerce under the Toxic Substances Control Act to assessment of Superfund sites, consideration of environmental justice concerns, and chemical security issues.

    That said, ACC was disappointed with many of the process aspects of the National Conversation. It was never exactly clear for whom the recommendations were being developed, and for what purpose. It was never clear how the Leadership Council was supposed to treat the recommendations of the work groups. In retrospect, we think the National Conversation would have been more productive if it had been organized as a Federal Advisory Committee because that format would have provided greater discipline to the process. The process issues made it difficult for our organization to contribute to the Conversation in a comprehensive way.

    In addition, some of the specific draft action recommendations of the work groups reveal major gaps in understanding what information is already available on chemicals today, how chemicals are regulated and managed under a myriad of federal and state laws, the science of risk assessment and toxicology, the complexity of the chemical value chain, and the practical considerations that must be taken into account when regulating chemicals in commerce. ACC supports modernization of the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA). As we are certain the Working Groups understand, TSCA is a very complex issue and modernizing the statute is not a simple prospect. Not all of the recommendations of the work groups relate to TSCA modifications, but several reflect a basic lack of understanding of many of the complexities of chemical regulation. These comments do not address every recommendation, but our comments focus on ACC’s broader concerns about some of the work groups’ recommendations.

    Comments on the Policies and Practices Work Group’s Report:
    A. Identification of Safer Alternatives Cannot Be Done in a Vacuum.
    One of the Policies and Practices Work Group’s “action recommendations” calls for a focus on “prevention” in chemical regulation and practices. While the concept of “prevention” is a basic concept in public health and one that has some applicability in chemical regulation, the work group’s recommendation defines prevention very narrowly as a “phase out” of hazardous chemicals where viable safer alternatives could be developed.

    A phase-out or ban on a chemical is only one of several risk management options that EPA should be authorized to make after reaching a safety determination about a chemical. Phasing out chemicals should not be viewed as always the most appropriate or the most prevention oriented solution. Although a phase-out may suggest the availability of an alternative, alternative does not mean risk-free. In short, the risks, costs and benefits of potential alternatives must be assessed as completely as the substance under scrutiny.

    Similarly, alternatives assessment is only one of many tools EPA should have in its arsenal of potential risk management actions on chemicals that have been subject to safety determinations and do not meet the safety standard. EPA should be able to consider other risk management tools ranging from labeling, handling instructions and exposure limits to engineering controls, specific use restrictions, and phase-outs. EPA should be able to require companies to develop an alternatives assessment when it concludes that a chemical is not safe for an intended category of uses and can not effectively be made safe through the application of other risk management measures.
    In addition, alternatives must be assessed against the same safety standard as the subject chemical. Then the alternatives assessment itself must consider a multitude of life cycle factors, not just whether the hazard profile of the alternative is better on paper than that of the chemical targeted for phase out. Hazard is but one factor that must be considered. Other factors include performance and efficacy of the chemical in its use; exposure patterns; risks, costs and benefits of the alternative; process safety; consumer safety; energy efficiency; and waste generation, among others.

    Further, the work group’s call for the government to be the center of development, commercialization and diffusion of “safer alternatives” takes the notion of government authority to another level altogether. Government should provide incentives for the development of sustainable chemistries, but government should not be in the business of picking chemical “winners” or “losers”. Government is not in the business of chemical manufacturing so has no understanding of the multitude of factors that go into decisions about whether a chemical is appropriate for the particular, specific uses of a chemical. EPA’s expertise is in protection of human health and the environment, not in designing, manufacturing, commercializing or designating chemicals for particular uses in commerce. EPA should have authority to determine when alternatives assessment is necessary, but EPA should not be in the business of developing lists of “safer alternatives” for particular use categories.

    B. Greater transparency of information must be balanced against the need for confidentiality.

    ACC believes that health and environmental information needed to manage chemicals safely should always be publicly accessible. ; however, the action recommendation on improving transparency of information about chemicals is overly simplistic. It overlooks the numerous, legitimate reasons for protecting information from disclosure. There are practical, efficient ways to provide greater transparency about chemicals without requiring chemical information on “all” products to be made public through the supply chain, yet the report is devoid of any discussion of those measures. ACC recommends that the working groups revisit this issue and better balance the report on this element.
    C. Some Other Policies and Practices Work Group Recommendations Are Incomplete
    Many of the Policies and Practices Work Group recommendations are incomplete. For example, the recommendation on the use of high throughput test methods to more quickly identify hazards of chemicals completely overlooks the need to ensure that these methods are validated. The recommendation for “prompt action” to eliminate or reduce harmful exposures to toxic chemicals again assumes that lists of chemicals should be able to be drawn up swiftly and actions to eliminate them taken purely on the basis of a hazard profile of a chemical. Consideration of uses of chemicals – which affect any assessment of likely exposures –is completely missing from this simplistic recommendation.

    ACC agrees with the recommendation that biomonitoring information should be used to set priorities – but we think these priorities should relate to safety determinations, not automatic decisions to reduce exposures. As the CDC has made clear in each of its National Exposure Reports:

    [J]ust because people have an environmental chemical in their blood or urine does not mean that the chemical causes disease. Research studies…are required to determine which levels of the chemical may cause disease and which levels are of negligible health concern.

    Many of the Policies and Practices Work Group’s recommendations raise issues that are being raised in the debate on TSCA modernization, as well as at EPA as the Agency exercises its existing TSCA authorities. ACC will continue to contribute constructively to the discussion of these issues through the TSCA modernization debate and through its comments to the Agency on its proposals to implement TSCA.

  12. Nsedu Witherspoon

    Children's Environmental Health Network

    Policies and Practices :

    The Network supports strongly supports the principles detailed in this report, especially the emphasis on protecting children and other vulnerable populations, such as:
    *In “Principle iii” on p. 3, “Certain portions of the population, such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly, are more susceptible, and require additional protections.”
    *All chemicals and their alternatives should be evaluated against a health standard that protects all people and the environment, especially the most vulnerable subpopulations, including children, workers, and pregnant women. “ (p. 22) This concept should be incorporated in all of the work group reports.

    However, the Network urges more clarity in the recommendations that children need to be specifically considered and protected. The Network recommends additional background and a greater emphasis in the recommendations on protecting children. Focusing on “workers/workplace” and “community” exposures leaves gaps in protecting children.
    o Children are affected by “lifecycle” exposures (community exposures where manufacturing plants are located; exposures while using products; and exposures due to end of life handling such as leaching from landfills into water supplies and the transport of PCBs and C8 around the globe)
    o Children have unique environments: the womb, child care centers, schools that need to be specifically considered, yet are not usually included in discussions of “worker” and “workplace” and “community” protections
    o Children and children’s unique environments (schools, child care, playgrounds) are not yet routinely included in monitoring and research studies.
    o Studies show that the youngest children are quite often the group that has the highest exposures to chemicals in the environment.
    o Children are not protected in their “workplace” of school or child care; NIOSH and OSHA do not focus on children
    o Children are affected by their parents’ workplace exposures (not just take home, but fetal and preconception exposures)

    *In considering lead agencies and relevant government entities, the report should include Executive Order 13045 on children’s environmental health and safety and call for the re-establishment of the interagency task force it created.

    *The definition of ‘underrepresented populations’ adopted by the work group includes adolescents (but not other children), older adults, those of low socioeconomic status, those residing in rural areas, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans, and American Indians. (p. 11) The Network urges the inclusion of all children in this definition.

  13. Diane VanDe Hei

    Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies

    The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) appreciates the opportunity to submit comment on the Policies and Practices Work Group draft report. AMWA is an organization of the largest publicly owned drinking water systems in the United States. AMWA’s membership serves more than 130 million Americans with drinking water from Alaska to Puerto Rico.

    AMWA is the nation’s only policy-making organization solely for metropolitan drinking water suppliers. Member representatives to AMWA are the general managers and CEOs of these large water systems.

    AMWA supports the principles and recommendations of this issue paper, particularly as they would help prevent exposure to harmful chemicals via drinking water or recreational waters. These principles and recommendations, if implemented, will go a long way toward protection of public health and the environment by avoiding exposures to harmful chemicals in the first place. It is much easier and cost-effective to prevent exposures to harmful chemicals in our nation’s air and source water by, as much a possible, keeping these chemicals out of the environment rather than trying to remove them through water treatment later. Providing additional information to the public about chemicals in all consumer products will also improve the knowledge of the general public, resulting in greater support for the principles and recommendations of this workgroup.

  14. Mary Lamielle

    National Center for Environmental Health Strategies

    I am pleased to see that the Policies and Practices Work Group Report did not use the term “green” but chose to use descriptors such as “safer” or “safer alternatives,” “eliminate or reduce harmful exposures,” “cleaner technologies,” etc.
    The report variously identifies “at risk,” “vulnerable,” “susceptible,” and “overburdened and under-represented” or “under-represented populations.” The Work Group Report specifically identifies “children, pregnant women, and the elderly” as most vulnerable populations. (p. 2, l. 31; p. 22, l.46) This list should, at minimum, be revised to include “persons or groups previously injured by chemical exposures.” Proposed rewrite: “children, pregnant women, the elderly, and persons or groups previously injured by chemical exposures.” Clearly individuals disabled with chemical sensitivities/intolerances are one such population at risk and vulnerable as well as under-represented.
    I was disappointed that the Work Group Report didn’t include specific examples of best practices. I would like to recommend that the group members consider the CDC Fragrance-Free Policy which is part of the CDC Indoor Environmental Quality Policy (pp. 9-10) which protects employees from potentially harmful exposure to fragranced cleaning and maintenance products and personal care products, as a model that should be promulgated across federal agencies and in the private sector. (I was unable to attach this. Contact me at (856)816-8820 or for a copy)
    I would also recommend the US Access Board’s Indoor Environmental Quality Project Report (, which focuses on making public and commercial buildings healthier for everyone and more accessible for individuals with chemical and electrical sensitivities, be reviewed and cited as a model in addressing IEQ issues.
    With regard to RECOMMENDATION #5 and the discussion of product labeling, pesticides are one area in need of further legislative or policy initiatives that would require disclosure and listing of inert ingredients in a pesticide product. I previously served on an EPA Inerts Disclosure Work Group. While inerts comprise most of a pesticide product, there is no requirement that those ingredients be disclosed or listed on a product label or MSDS. This needs to change. I would make a similar argument for disclosure of ingredients in fragrances. Fragrance can be an ingredient in many pesticides, cleaning agents, and personal care products, as well as perfumes themselves. While there are reportedly over 3000 chemicals that can be used in perfumes, there is no requirement for disclosure of ingredients, no product label, and no testing for individual ingredients or those in the final mixture.

  15. Mari Eggers

    Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee

    Please find attached comments from our Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee, composed of health, environmental and education professionals and cultural experts, all Tribal members, from the Crow Reservation in southcentral Montana. We had not realized the format for submission would be separated by work group, and hence compiled responses to several reports into one document. Page one lists who we are, and pages 2-4 are specific to your work group report. We also attached a recent article about our work. We thought your report was excellent and appreciate the opportunity to comment.
    File: CumminsEtAl_2010_CBPR_In_Indian_Country1.pdf
    [file] conversation summary1.ppt[/file]

  16. Steven Gilbert


    First, I want to congratulate the panel on an excellent report particularly with the emphasis on prevention. I would encourage adding a section or paragraph on ethical considerations. For example, that all children (or creatures) have a right to an environment in which they can reach and maintain their full potential (see attached paper). Discuss / acknowledge our ethical responsibilities to future generations. Also be bold and discuss the precautionary principle (see attached). Many of the elements of the PP were addressed, which is great. We have a very precautionary approach to putting new drugs on the market – a similar approach is necessary for industrial chemicals.

    [file] sgg article.pdf[/file]
    [file] Public Health PP 2005.pdf[/file]

  17. Kathy Curtis

    Oregon Toxics Alliance...

    Oregon Toxics Alliance, Northwest Indiana Toxics Action Project, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, University of Alabama Hospital Highlands, Oregon Environmental Council, Clean New York, Environmental Health Fund, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

    Comments to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention regarding National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures
    Workgroup Reports

    General Comments:

    The Massachusetts TURI program should be made into a federal program, using a similar structure. It is funded by a user fee that companies pay based on the amount of hazardous materials they use. The fees are used to support programs that work with companies to help them reduce their use of hazardous chemicals, which then reduces the fees they have to pay to the program. In addition, companies that reduce their hazardous chemicals also reduce costs to store, ship, and dispose of them, which usually saves them money overall.

    Children are generally not called out in any of the work group reports, yet they are a specific vulnerable population: they cannot identify risks, remove themselves from harm, or describe exposures or events. Neither CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking nor the National Children’s Study collect information regarding children’s exposures in schools or child care centers, but they should be. When those are mentioned in various work group reports, it would be prudent to add that EPHT and NCS need to swiftly address these well-known data gaps with revised work plans. Children have exposures “on the job” in schools and child care centers and outnumber adults by about ten to one (depending on age group and health status) in those settings, but children/families have no recourse and no public services to intervene or to track or research those exposures.

    Policies and Practices Work Group:

    The Policies and Practices report did a superb job of placing as a priority inherently safe design and technologies, green chemistry, safer substitutions, and other preventive methods. The collection or generation of scientific data was also of prime importance (along with transparency, coordination, data validation, and policy implementation) but as a follow up to prevention. The report placed a very high value on the information required to do a hazard (not risk) assessment and then take action to prevent unsafe exposures. This is both visionary and practical.

    The Policies and Practices Workgroup report rightly acknowledges that existing chemicals policy is hampered by deficient testing and information authority, and by fragmentation and segregation of critically related public health concerns into separate agency silos. Pesticides are an important subset of chemicals, with enormous impacts on public and environmental health. Although industrial and agricultural chemicals are regulated separately, it would be a significant boon to public health if there was improved agency coordination with regard to the two. For instance, the USDA should be added in as one of the lead agencies in Recommendation #2 and Recommendation #3 related to the expeditious identification of toxic hazards and the development and implementation of safer alternatives. This is especially appropriate, as the organic agricultural sector has a long track record of seeking and implementing appropriate non-toxic alternatives to chemical pesticides.

    The EPA DfE program is excellent and should be supported and strengthened. However, on page 20, line 22, the description of EPA’s Design for Environment Program is inaccurate: Products do not need to “meet” EPA’s criteria to get an EPA label, nor are the criteria “stringent”. The DfE criteria may be less stringent and more flexible than 3rd party certification standards, and DfE labeled products are not independently evaluated. Technical assistance to manufacturers of chemical intensive products by EPA’s Design for the Environment Program should continue but EPA should restructure it to operate as a type-1 eco-labeling body. For example, NYS and a five-state procurement cooperative in New England, and other states, have declined to include DfE labeled cleaning products since they cannot be relied upon to meet any known or verifiable standards.

    On page 21, we recommend you add the following to recommendation to Worker protection “Improve worker protection …. By incentivizing prevention through the use of safer substitutes on jobs using hazardous chemicals (OSHA policy gives preference to safer substitutes, but employers rely on Personal Protective Equipment and worker education.)

    On page 21, add this new recommendation: Improve children’s health protection from chemical exposures. Incorporate prevention through requiring examples of safer substitutes in federal and state agency websites and publications on child care and household tips (i.e. focus on use safer substitutes, rather than suggestions to lock up toxics); mandate Integrated Pest Management in all schools and child care centers; mandate the use of certified green cleaning products in all child care centers and schools; scale-up and fund EPA’s voluntary Schools Chemical Clean out Campaign and require it to fund state environment and health agencies to create robust school chemical cleanouts to rid all schools of old, outdated, hazardous flammable and explosive chemicals and heavy metals such as elemental mercury, and lead; require states agencies and school systems to adopt green procurement policies.