EPA, Chemical Industry Version: Killing Workers Is Job One
When he was a candidate for President, Donald Trump (in)famously said that he could stand in the middle of fifth avenue and shoot somebody, and he wouldn’t lose any voters. While he hasn’t taken that particular step, his Administration has not been shy about demonstrating its disregard for human life—and particularly workers—in other ways. When it comes to protecting workers, as well as the general public, from exposure to dangerous and even deadly toxic chemicals, the Trump EPA has bent over backwards to ensure that workers are not protected, from unsafe exposures to hazardous materials.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment & Climate Change is holding a hearing today on the Trump EPA’s failure to protect workers from toxic chemicals. There is a long list of examples the committee could choose from. Here are just a few of the most egregious:
At least four deaths have occurred since the Trump Administration refused to finalize a ban on consumer and commercial uses of methylene chloride (MC) and N-methylpyrollidone (NMP) in paint strippers that had been proposed under the Obama Administration. In the face of lawsuits and consumer demand, more than a dozen retailers including Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Amazon have committed to pulling the products from their shelves. Despite this show of public and retailer demand for safer paint stripping products, the Trump EPA is poised to execute a smoke and mirrors stunt that will both undercut retailers and ensure that workers and consumers will continue to be exposed to these dangerous products.
EPA’s final rules—expected possibly by the end of this week—will “ban” consumer uses of MC (but not NMP) in paint-strippers but allow its continued commercial use; a loophole that will leave commercial products on the shelves for anyone to purchase, including non-commercial users and thereby making even the consumer ban meaningless. Although EPA is announcing a future program for the training and certification of workers to safely use the NMP and MC paint strippers; this was previously proposed by the chemical industry and rejected as ineffectual and unenforceable by the Obama EPA. Nobody should be fooled: injuries and deaths will continue for workers and consumers with these loophole rules, made by and for industrial chemical manufacturers.
In one of his first acts as EPA Administrator, corrupt and disgraced Scott Pruitt announced that EPA would rollback the Obama EPA proposed ban on agriculture uses ofchlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide made by Dow Chemical and linked to acute worker poisonings and lasting neurological problems in prenatally exposed children. NRDC and our partners including Pesticide Action Network and Earthjustice are using the law and science to compel EPA to finalize protections. Sadly, the Trump EPA seems to consider harm to kids, workers, even whole communities as just the price of doing business.
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