5 ways we're defending chemical safety against the Trump administration

Andrew Wheeler and President Trump

It’s been four years since Congress passed legislation overhauling our chemical safety system to better protect American families. In the time since that bipartisan achievement, the Trump administration has worked to systematically undermine the law and weaken chemical safety.

But we’re not sitting idly by, and we have the law on our side. This year, on the anniversary of the legislation’s passage, we’re highlighting some of the victories we’ve had and ways we’re fighting back to demand EPA protect the American people from harmful chemicals.

  • 1. Winning important legal cases to hold EPA to the letter of the law

    Last year, in response to a challenge from EDF, a federal court delivered a strong rebuke to the Trump EPA’s efforts to undermine the public’s right to know about the chemicals in our homes, schools, and workplaces. The ruling on our lawsuit means that companies can’t hide, and EPA must make public, more information about chemicals in use today.

    And a ruling last year in a different case – brought by health, labor and environmental groups, including EDF – has already increased pressure on EPA to stop ignoring known sources of exposure to chemicals when assessing their risks. Conducting the comprehensive risk reviews that the law requires is critical to protecting health, especially for vulnerable populations, like children, pregnant women, and fenceline communities.

    The bottom line: Hard-won legal rulings are making it more difficult for the Trump administration to weaken chemical safety.

  • 2. Revealing undue industry influence on approvals of new chemicals

    EDF closely tracks EPA’s flawed reviews of new chemicals entering the market. So it caught our attention when the agency gave a company the green light to use a chemical in ski wax only months after saying it would block it, based on the concern (among others) that the chemical could “waterproof the lungs.” After digging into the case, we found that the company had essentially bullied EPA into approval, threatening to use “more environmentally harmful” ingredients if the agency didn’t give in. We provided documents and information to Outside Magazine, which published a feature article revealing this serious case of industry influence. Meanwhile the same company settled an enforcement lawsuit brought by EPA for illegally importing numerous ski wax chemicals.

    The bottom line: We’re monitoring industry influence and drawing attention to egregious cases.

  • 3. Suing EPA to compel disclosure of health information on new chemicals

    EPA regularly conceals health information about chemicals that companies are trying to bring to market – against clear requirements in the law that such information cannot be withheld. In a recent investigation, EDF and Earthjustice found the agency is slow to alert the public when a new chemical is up for approval, allows companies to hide health and safety information, and doesn’t check companies’ claims to determine if what they deem “confidential business information” is even eligible for protection from disclosure. These actions not only go against the law’s transparency requirements, they put public health at risk.

    So, EDF — along with other national and state allies, and represented by Earthjustice — is suing EPA to force the agency to stop violating the law in implementing its program to approve new chemicals.

    The bottom line: The public deserves complete and accurate information about new chemicals, and the law requires that EPA provide it. We are taking legal action to make sure the agency complies.

  • 4. Spotlighting the agency’s abandonment of sound science on known hazardous chemicals

    Trichloroethylene (or TCE) is a cancer-causing chemical used in adhesives, spot removers and other common household products. Even very low exposures to it are linked to fetal heart defects that can have life-long health consequences. Yet the Trump administration’s latest risk evaluation of this chemical downplays these dangers, while also ignoring major known exposures, in the process violating the law. EDF is shining a light on the agency’s actions on this chemical – including by revealing the major flaws in its decision making and holding it accountable on the science.

    The bottom line: We’re pushing for EPA to uphold its responsibilities to science, public health and the law.

    Take action: Tell EPA to listen to the science on TCE »
  • 5. Exposing the impact of conflicts of interest

    It’s no secret that the Trump Administration has stacked various agencies with former industry executives and lobbyists who have deep conflicts of interest. One such political appointee is Nancy Beck – a former chemical industry exec who has used her time at EPA and the White House to reverse course on protections, adopt illegal practices and undermine science. Her impact has been far-reaching: She’s undercut our landmark chemical safety law and played a key role in blocking and weakening bans on toxic chemicals, among many other actions that benefit industry.

    And now, President Trump has nominated her to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a position she would hold through 2025 if confirmed. CPSC is the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of everything from cleaning products to baby cribs and children’s toys. EDF is urging Americans to contact their representatives and demand they stand up for the integrity of the agency by opposing this hazardous nominee.

    The bottom line: The Consumer Product Safety Commission needs a leader who puts public health and safety before her own interests – unlike nominee Nancy Beck.

    Take action: Help stop this dangerous nomination in its tracks »

Want to know more about Trump’s attacks on chemical safety and how we’re holding the Administration accountable? See our report from last year to dig into the issues, and follow the EDF Health blog for the latest.