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TCE: September 2011 Archives

The Politics of Pollution: Corporate Polluters Win Again

After a twenty-year wait, EPA was set to issue its updated hazard assessment for trichloroethylene ("TCE") earlier this month.  Unfortunately - - at least for everyday American citizens - - the deadline passed without a word from EPA. TCE is a man-made volatile organic compound used by corporations for decades to strip grease and grime off metal parts.  As a result of carless handling, TCE can be found in soil, air and groundwater at polluted Superfund sites across the Country.  TCE is known to cause a host of injuries to human health, including to the central nervous system, kidneys, liver and lungs.  The updated and unreleased hazard assessment would have upgraded TCE's cancer classification from a "likely human carcinogen" to a "known human carcinogen". So why would the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency charged with protecting human health and the environment, fail to release an up-to-date hazard assessment of TCE?  The answer is simply: POLITICS.  You see, once the updated hazard assessment is released, corporate polluters lose what matters most to them:  money.  An updated hazard assessment would lead to more stringent clean-up standards and open the door to more personal injury lawsuits filed on behalf of people who were made sick or died from exposure to TCE.  Facing these unwanted consequences, corporate polluters turn to "go-to" politicians for help. Sadly, in this case, that help came from the White House, according to Daniel Rosenberg of the Natural Resources Defense Council.  In his blog of September 13th, Mr. Rosenberg reported that "[T]he White House worked behind the scene to stop EPA from issuing a hazard assessment of the cancer-causing chemical TCE - and is working to effectively shut down the EPA's program for assessing the hazards of chemicals - the basis for setting and updating health standards for drinking water, air quality, and clean-up of contaminated soil." The shelving of the updated TCE hazard assessment is just another sad example of how politics and polluters can, and do, mix.  In this case, the results are a more toxic America.

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