Energy & Environment

Biden EPA to reassess Trump-era chemical health findings

A flag of the Environmental Protection Agency is seen outside their headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 3
Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will reassess findings under the former Trump administration about the safety and use of several chemicals. 

In a statement released Wednesday, the EPA said it would make changes to the risk evaluation for the chemical 1,4-dioxane and may also add new information to evaluations for six others. 

These risk evaluations are used to decide whether chemicals present unreasonable risks so the agency can decide how to manage those risks. 

“The policy changes and path forward announced today will allow the agency to restore public trust, provide regulatory certainty, and most importantly, ensure that all populations that may be exposed to these chemicals are protected,” EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Assistant Administrator Michal Freedhoff said in a statement. 

On 1,4-dioxane, an industrial chemical that the EPA said was a potential carcinogen in the 2020 assessment, the agency will consider whether to include additional ways that people can be exposed to it, including drinking water and air, in the evaluation. 

It said that these exposure pathways were excluded from the Trump-era evaluation, which found that the chemical doesn’t present unreasonable risks to the general population. 

On the other six chemicals, which include substances called TCE and methylene chloride, the agency will assess whether there’s the potential for unreasonable risk to nearby communities through air and water exposure. 

If it finds that there might be additional risks, the agency will supplement its evaluation. 

Trump-era reviews of methylene chloride and TCE have come under particular scrutiny, with environmental groups accusing the agency at the time of understating the threats that these substances pose. 

Outlet Reveal reported last year that the Trump White House had the EPA change a TCE assessment after agency scientists linked it to fetal heart defects. 

Asked about the change in congressional testimony, a key White House official indicated last year that the EPA made the ultimate decision.  

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