Trump EPA Rushes Assessment of Toxic Chemical 1,4-Dioxane, Putting Public Health at Risk

Assessment of Ubiquitous Water Contaminant Ignores Drinking Water Exposure, Dismisses Byproduct Risk

November 19, 2020
Sam Lovell, (202) 572-3544,

“With today’s release of a supplement to its draft risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane, the Trump EPA is once again demonstrating its utter disdain for public input and scientific expert review and its willingness to do industry’s bidding.

“The agency is short-circuiting the proper procedure for this additional assessment by forgoing peer review altogether and providing less than three weeks for public comment. These decisions reflect the dismissiveness of this administration over the past four years toward meaningful public participation and scientific expert input.

“While we have yet to closely examine the document, it is already apparent that the agency has again ignored a major way millions of Americans are exposed to 1,4-dioxane—through their drinking water—thereby dramatically underestimating the risk the chemical poses.

“And while EPA now acknowledges consumers can be exposed to the chemical because it is present as a byproduct in millions of everyday products, it has conducted a limited analysis in order to conclude such exposures do not present unreasonable risk.

“The Trump EPA’s action grants yet another wish to the formulated products industry, which last year abruptly reversed course and demanded that EPA now include the byproduct exposures the industry had convinced EPA to exclude up to that point—and find those exposures present no unreasonable risk. The motivation: to broaden the preemptive effect EPA’s assessment would have on states’ authority, several of which have been taking actions on 1,4-dioxane to protect their residents.

“The only good news here is that the Trump EPA’s days are numbered. The incoming administration has the opportunity to restore health-protective implementation of the country’s chemical safety law.”

Dr. Richard Denison, EDF Health Lead Senior Scientist.

Background information:

  • 1,4-dioxane is a likely human carcinogen that frequently contaminates drinking water.  
  • EPA’s own data show that the chemical is present in a fifth of U.S. public drinking water systems serving nearly 90 million Americans in 45 states, according to testing data from local utilities. The data show that more than 7 million people in 27 states are served by public water systems where the chemical is present at levels EPA has found significantly elevate cancer risk.
  • The new supplement to EPA’s risk evaluation focuses on potential risks 1,4-dioxane poses when present as a byproduct in common consumer products such as detergent and hand soap, as well as when it is released to surface water—but only when people are exposed through fish consumption or swimming (which EPA asserts do not present unreasonable risk), and not through drinking water. 
  • See EDF Blogs on 1,4-dioxane.

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