Makes the case for federal leadership on TCE guidelines
Testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works yesterday, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) made the case for federal leadership in setting a uniform TCE standard. She discussed one of the central recommendations that came out of the New York State Assembly report that she helped to craft in 2006: “Vapor Intrusion of Toxic Chemicals: An Emerging Public Health Concern.”
The report found that “the New York State air guideline for TCE of 5.0 mcg/m3 was not based on the most protective assumptions supported by science. In developing its guideline for TCE, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) made a number of choices that resulted in a less protective standard, including the choice not to consider the epidemiologic studies used by EPA in its 2001 draft assessment. As a result, the DOH guideline is two orders of magnitude higher that the most risk-based concentrations for TCE in air developed by California, Colorado, New Jersey, and several EPA regional offices which range from 0.016 to 0.2 mcg/m3.”
Lupardo also told the committee that New York had changed its TCE guideline in 2003 (from 0.22 mcg/m3 to 5.0 mcg/m3) in the midst of the IBM cleanup leaving many homeowners confused and frustrated because they were no longer eligible for ventilation systems.
Lupardo told the committee that “The [New York State Assembly] Environmental Conservation Committee strongly recommended that DOH revise its current indoor air guideline for TCE to reflect the most protective assumptions about toxicity and exposure supported by science. We believed that in the face of uncertainty regarding the threat of harm to human health posed by vapor intrusion, that DOH should err on the side of caution and adopt a much more conservative approach. Unfortunately, they did not.”
That was the basis for her argument that we need federal leadership on this topic. The “Toxic Chemical Exposure (TCE) Reduction Act,” which was introduced by U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-Hurley), would provide a national primary drinking water regulation for TCE, and a reference concentration of TCE vapor that is protective of susceptible populations, along with important health advisories. It would put an end to a confusing hodgepodge of individual state guidelines and arbitrary regulations.
While the legislation establishes an Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) reference concentration of TCE vapor, Lupardo expressed concern that EPA’s new interagency review process could actually increase the challenges that they face in evaluating and regulating chemicals. Lupardo testified that “the IRIS database could soon become obsolete, because of the backlog of ongoing assessments. I hope that the TCE assessment does not fall prey to policy biases that overshadow good science.”
A recent investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that “EPA has not been able to routinely complete timely, credible assessments or decrease its backlog of 70 ongoing assessments — a total of 4 were completed in fiscal years 2006 and 2007." These assessments have a direct role in the lives of people, particularly those who live at or near hazardous waste sites. The GAO report can be found online at http://www.gao.gov/docsearch/abstract.php?rptno=GAO-08-743T.
In the meantime, Lupardo is considering introducing legislation in the Assembly that would set a more protective TCE guideline for New York State. “Up to this point, we have not wanted to legislate what should be a regulatory matter. We hope that the EPA will finally provide the guidance that we desperately need.” Lupardo plans to share copies of all of the testimony presented yesterday to DOH Commissioner Daines for his review.
She ended her remarks with a call for a separate investigation of workplace exposures, especially for communities like Endicott where many residents were exposed at home and at work.