EPA eases path for new chemicals, raising health fears

After EPA streamlines approval process, critics say that the agency is skipping vital steps that protect the public from hazardous chemicals.

In this video grab, Nancy Beck speaks about the use of science in the rule-making process on March 9, 2017 in Washington.

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is shifting course under the Trump administration on how it assesses new chemicals for health and environmental hazards, streamlining a safety review process that industry leaders say is too slow and cumbersome.

But some former EPA officials, as well as experts and advocates, say the agency is skipping vital steps that protect the public from hazardous chemicals that consumers have never used before, undermining new laws and regulations that Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2016.

According to these critics, that could mean that manufacturers might get approval to introduce a new chemical for one purpose, without getting a thorough, timely review of the chemical’s safety if it is later used for a different purpose. Asbestos, for example, was commonly used in building insulation before the EPA cracked down on its use, but the carcinogenic chemical is still found in brake pads for automobiles — posing hazards for garage mechanics — and is widely used to manufacture chlorine.

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