Toxics and Superfund
Cleaning Up Severe Environmental Hazards
Congress created the Superfund program to drive the cleanup of more than 1,000 sites across the nation that had been polluted with toxic wastes. But after the Gingrich Revolution, Congress let lapse the principal funding mechanism -- a tax on the industries whose toxic pollution poisoned the sites. Predictably, cleanups have slowed to a crawl, endangering public health in the areas surrounding toxic waste sites. The problem came into particularly bold relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when it was revealed that several still-polluted Superfund sites had been flooded.
Other efforts to combat toxic pollution are important, too. One important initiative is the federal government Toxic Release Inventory, a compilation of industry-reported toxic emissions that can serve as a valuable tool for policymakers and regulatory enforcement efforts.
Another significant toxics issue has to do with what we don’t know about toxics. Many Americans would be surprised to discover that most of the chemicals used in commerce have never been adequately tested for safety. CPR Member Scholars have worked both to illuminate and overcome the resulting “data gap.”
In September 2012, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Waydin Radin published a white paper exposing
the work of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), two industry advocacy groups that have undue influence on the regulation of toxic chemicals. The two firms specialize in a particularly insidious brand of “dirty” science by recruiting EPA experts to co-author papers and participate in policy-making workshops that are heavily biased toward manufacturer interests.
Read about CPR Member Scholars’ work on toxics and Superfund:
- Cozying Up. Read Cozying Up: How the Manufacturers of Toxic Chemicals Seek to Co-opt Their Regulators, CPR White Paper 1211, by Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Wayland Radin, September 2012. Read a day-of-release blog post by Steinzor.
- Mintz Testimony on Enforcement. Read Joel Mintz's June 6, 2012 testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power on EPA's enforcement record during the Obama years.
- International Treaties. Read Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties, CPR White Paper 1201.
- BPA. Read about CPR Member Scholars work on bisphenol A, the dangerous substance found in baby bottles, food cans, and more.
- IRIS. Read about CPR Member Scholars work to fix EPA's flagship toxicological database, the Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS.
- Proposed Executive Orders for the Obama Administration. In November 2008, the Center for Progressive Reform transmitted to the Obama Transition Team a slate of seven Executive Orders addressing a series of critical issues, including climate change, transparency in government, environmental justice, children's exposure to toxics, citizens' right to sue corporations whose products cause them harm, and stewardship of public lands. Read a web article about the proposals, and read the white paper itself, Protecting Public Health and the Environment by the Stroke of a Presidential Pen (3.2 meg download). Or read the news release.
- 'Mother Earth and Uncle Sam.' Read Rena Steinzor's book, Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: How Pollution and Hollow Government Hurt Our Kids, published in 2008, on the harm to children from toxic chemicals.
- Superfund. In June 2006, CPR, together with the Center for American Progress, released a joint report highlighting the achingly slow pace of Superfund cleanups, pinpointing the worst toxic waste sites in the nation’s ten most populous states, and identifying which communities are paying the price for the Superfund slowdown. Read about the report and about other Member Scholars’ work on Superfund issues.
- Toxic Release Inventory. Read "Toxic Disclosure Should be Expanded, Not Scaled Back," on EPA's efforts to undercut the Toxic Release Inventory, by Clifford Rechtschaffen, published on the Center for American Progress website on December 18, 2006.
- Data Gaps. Read Closing Data Gaps (400 kb download), CPR Member Scholar John Applegate's innovative proposal for addressing the difficult problem of the significant gaps in what EPA knows about the dangers of chemicals now used in commerce. Or read the news release. (April 2006) Or read Rena Steinzor, Katherine Baer, and Matt Shudtz's white paper on the significant gaps in what EPA knows about the dangers of chemicals now on the market and in common use, gaps reflected in EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), arguably the world's most prominent toxicological database: Overcoming Environmental Data Gaps: Why What EPA Doesn't Know about Toxic Chemicals Can Hurt (CPR White Paper #510, July 2005). Or read CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor and CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz's April 2008 letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, about proposed “Integrated Risk Information System Assessment Development Procedures” that would slow the process of filling significant gaps.
- A CPR Perspective. CPR Member Scholars have authored articles on related topics, as part of the CPR Perspectives Series. These include Perspectives on Europe's REACH by Frank Ackerman and on Toxicogenomics by David Adelman.