Is the Chemical Industry Looking for Chemicals in People?

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EWG Public Affairs: 202.667.6982, alex@ewg.org

Is the Chemical Industry Looking for Chemicals in People?

EWG Finds Few Publicly Available Biomonitoring Reports by Industry

WASHINGTON - Only a scant number of chemical industry studies documenting Americans’ exposures to industrial chemicals appear on public databases maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and even fewer focused on children’s exposures, according to an Environmental Working Group investigation.

Biomonitoring studies are regularly conducted by academic and government scientists and have become vital elements in determining toxic pollutants found in the bodies of Americans and the health risks these chemicals may pose. But EWG has found little evidence that industry is submitting biomonitoring studies to EPA, suggesting either that industry is not conducting this important research or it is not divulging it to government authorities.

“Logically, the chemical industry should be conducting the same basic studies to understand the safety of its chemicals for the public,” EWG president Ken Cook has written EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “And if not, then why not?”

“Health agencies worldwide successfully use biomonitoring data when assessing chemicals for health and safety,” Cook added. “EWG strongly advocates that regulators and industry test for synthetic chemical contaminants in people, especially in human umbilical cord blood. These tests demonstrate how readily chemicals enter and accumulate in our bodies, even during the earliest stages of development.”

EWG researchers searched two EPA repositories that contain more than 50,000 industry-sponsored studies about the health effects of industrial chemicals. EWG uncovered virtually no relevant submissions when researchers used “umbilical,” “pregnant,” and “biomonitoring” as search terms.

Under section 8(d) of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, the agency has authority to require companies to submit unpublished health and safety studies, both completed and ongoing. EPA has additional authority under section 8(e) to require companies to notify the agency immediately should they develop information that reasonably supports the conclusion that their chemicals present a substantial risk of injury.

In 2003, EWG notified EPA that DuPont had withheld evidence of worker exposure data from the agency. EWG submitted an internal DuPont study from 1981 in which the company had detected quantifiable levels of a nonstick chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOA or C-8, in eight pregnant workers at the company’s plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, as well as umbilical cord blood and blood of newborns. The company had also noted facial birth defects for several of the children. In July 2004 EPA found DuPont guilty, and in 2005 the company was fined $16.5 million for its actions. Some EPA scientists have called the chemical a “likely carcinogen,” but the EPA has not concluded an official position on that point.

Cook urged Jackson to use her authority to address this apparent data gap.

“Biomonitoring truly is the gateway to fully comprehending the impacts of chemical exposures on public health,” Cook wrote. “In view of that, EWG hopes that EPA will take these requests under serious consideration as it makes the most of its existing authority” under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

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The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.

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