The Environmental Protection Agency plans to prohibit the use of a harmful chemical that has been detected in drinking water in the United States.
The Biden administration has suggested prohibiting the use of TCE, a highly dangerous substance frequently found in stain removers, adhesives, and degreasers. Studies have revealed that this chemical has been polluting drinking water on a large scale throughout the United States.
The decision was made following numerous years of accumulating scientific proof indicating that TCE is highly poisonous even at minimal levels of exposure, as stated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the EPA, stated that the scientific evidence regarding TCE is undeniable. This chemical is hazardous and implementing a ban on it will safeguard families, workers, and communities.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a type of volatile organic compound that humans are often exposed to in different environments, but those who use products containing this chemical in their work are at the highest risk. It is also commonly found in carpet cleaning solutions, hoof polishes, brake cleaners, pepper spray, and lubricants.
In addition to other health concerns, the substance is believed to be a cancer-causing agent and a toxicant to the liver, impair male fertility, result in neurological harm, harm the kidneys, and contribute to Parkinson’s disease.
Authorities believe that the presence of TCE in water sources is responsible for the development of several cancer clusters. The chemical, along with other pollutants, has been found in drinking water on military bases and is believed to be the cause of illness and deaths among service members nationwide. Superfund sites, which are reserved for the most contaminated areas in the US, have been identified in regions with the highest levels of TCE contamination.
A recent study by the EPA revealed that approximately 250 million pounds of TCE is still being generated in the United States every year, with a significant portion of it ultimately entering the water supply.
Attempts to prohibit the substance have been ongoing for four decades. In 2016, the Obama administration suggested strict restrictions on its usage, but the Trump administration reversed these actions and essentially halted the process. The Biden administration is taking a stronger stance than the Obama Environmental Protection Agency by suggesting a complete ban, a rare move for the agency when regulating hazardous chemicals.
Public health advocates have pressed for prohibition since the 2016 passage of legislation that expanded the EPA’s authority over toxic chemicals and made it easier to outlaw them. Advocates applauded the Biden administration for taking the step.
Avonna Starck, the state director of Clean Water Action in Minnesota, stated that this regulation will have a significant impact by potentially saving numerous lives and billions of dollars in healthcare expenses, lost work time, and environmental remediation.
The Environmental Protection Agency is following the example set by New York and Minnesota, who have already prohibited the use of this chemical. Advocates argue that this demonstrates how state actions can push the federal government to take action on regulating chemicals.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that TCE poses a significant risk to both human health and the environment in 52 out of 54 industrial and consumer applications. The agency, along with public health advocates, have pointed out that there are safer alternatives available for commercial use.
However, the rule is being challenged by the industry. The American Chemistry Council stated that the rule does not align with scientific evidence and claimed that the EPA’s research was not realistic. They argued against limiting the use of TCE in various industrial applications.
If Trump is re-elected in 2024 before the ban takes effect, it could be reversed, but the finalization of the rule could still take a year or more. Public health advocates are urging the EPA to expedite the implementation of the rule.
According to Earthjustice’s senior attorney, Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, the EPA utilized scientific research and took into account the concerns of affected communities in order to propose one of the most robust chemical regulations in recent memory. However, there is still work to be done in strengthening protections for communities located near chemical facilities during the phaseout of TCE, and it is crucial for the EPA to quickly finalize this proposal.