WASHINGTON, DC August 1, 2018 – Today, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Center for Environmental Health (CEH), and a broad coalition of environmental and public health organizations are joining Americans adversely impacted by the industrial solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, to demand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carry out proposed bans on high-risk uses of the carcinogenic compound.
Citizens from New York, North Carolina, Indiana, Arizona, and California are telling their stories of how they believe TCE exposure may have harmed their loved ones or has threatened their own health.
“Today, people from across the country who have been harmed by this deadly, cancer-causing chemical have flown to DC to make their voices heard,” said Ansje Miller, CEH’s Policy Director. “Their demand is simple: the EPA should put the health and livelihoods of people and families above corporate profit and ban TCE once and for all.”
The EPA says TCE is carcinogenic by all routes of exposure. Exposure to TCE has been linked to liver, kidney and neurological damage, hormone disruption, birth defects, leukemia and other cancers. EPA documents raise concerns that the agency may backtrack its proposed ban on the toxic chemical and ignore critical studies finding that TCE exposure causes heart defects in developing fetuses and has other serious health effects.
Linda Robles – a resident of Tucson Arizona – has experienced the devastation wrought by TCE for over three decades. She lost one daughter to lupus, and her youngest daughter, now 23, is currently undergoing chemotherapy and in her end stages of kidney nephritis, which was caused by lupus. Another daughter and grandson were each born with a cleft lip. Linda’s ex-husband had a kidney tumor removed in 2016, and her granddaughter was diagnosed with kidney nephritis in 2013. She has been a leader in seeking justice for families in the area and is currently filing claims against the Air Force due to continued cases of cancer and other illnesses suffered by Tucson’s south side caused by groundwater pollution left behind by defense plants and other industries.
“I’ve seen firsthand how this toxic chemical ravaged our community and poisoned my family,” said Linda Robles, Tucson resident, and community advocate. “It’s reprehensible the EPA is considering backtracking on its promised ban of TCE. The agency should reverse course immediately and protect the health of American citizens and the community of South Tucson, not the corporate interests that poisoned us.”
In December 2016, the EPA proposed banning uses of TCE as an aerosol degreaser and a spot cleaner in dry cleaning facilities. It was the first ban proposed in more than 25 years under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, the nation’s primary chemicals law. A month later, the EPA also proposed banning TCE in vapor degreasing. Under the Trump administration, the EPA retreated from its proposed bans and is now also excluding exposures to TCE in water, air and soil from a key safety assessment on the chemical.
In 2015, TCE was detected in EPA-mandated tests by more than 300 public water systems in 36 states. In about half of those systems, average annual levels of TCE were above what some health authorities say is safe for infants and developing fetuses. The chemical has contaminated the drinking water for 14 million Americans as well as hundreds of Superfund sites across the country, where it causes significant health risks.
The news conference coincided with the first congressional hearing for Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who is facing questioning by the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee.
“Protecting public health was once an EPA priority – now it’s being treated as just another obstacle to maximizing corporate profit,” said Miller. “This radical departure from the agency’s core mission means chemical industry executives stand to make millions while ordinary Americans like those coming together today will be exposed to more toxic chemicals.”