EPA is rejecting health groups’ petition seeking a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) ban on drinking water fluoridation after finding it lacked adequate evidence of neurological risks to justify a ban, but the agency is also offering guidance on how to craft petitions to win reviews of potential bans under last year’s revised TSCA.
In a notice scheduled for publication in the Feb. 27 Federal Register, EPA argues that the Nov. 23 petition to ban drinking water fluoridation — a single use of a class of chemicals — is inconsistent with the agency’s obligation under the recently revised TSCA to conduct comprehensive reviews of specific chemicals and address risks from all uses.
EPA’s denial outlines general obligations petitioners should meet in seeking chemical restrictions under the updated version of the toxics law that took effect in June, potentially giving the groups another chance to seek the ban.
“This requirement includes addressing the full set of conditions of use for a chemical substance and thereby describing an adequate rule under TSCA section 6(a) — one that would reduce the risks of the chemical substance ‘so that the chemical substance or mixture no longer presents’ unreasonable risks under all conditions of use,” the agency says.
“Rather than comprehensively addressing the conditions of use that apply to a particular chemical substance, the petition requests EPA to take action on a single condition of use (water fluoridation) that cuts across a category of chemical substances (fluoridation chemicals),” the agency adds.
Groups including the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Food and Water Watch and the Fluoride Action Network petitioned EPA in November for a ban of the decades-old practice of adding fluoride to drinking water to reduce cavities.
Petitioners argued that fluoride in drinking water often exceeds doses repeatedly linked to IQ loss and other neurotoxic effects, and that TSCA allows for a “more targeted” ban than under federal drinking water law.
The groups do not mention that water fluoridation is a local decision, made by individual water utilities and localities. Instead, they call on EPA to use its TSCA section 6 authority to prohibit the use of fluoride as a drinking water additive because they say that use presents an unreasonable risk.
A study released last fall, “Developmental Neurotoxicity of Fluoride: A Quantitative Risk Analysis Towards Establishing A Safe Daily Dose of Fluoride For Children” concluded that “exposure of the developing brain to fluoride should be minimized.”
The authors, led by former EPA scientist William Hirzy, call for additional research, but argue that given current information “implementation of protective standards and policies seems warranted and should not be postponed while more research is done.”
In the denial, EPA argues the groups provided insufficient evidence that drinking water fluoridation poses neurological risks, and also failed to adequately counter the public health benefits of the practice that dates to the 1940s.
“The petition has not set forth a scientifically defensible basis to conclude that any persons have suffered neurotoxic harm as a result of exposure to fluoride in the U.S.,” the denial says. “EPA does not believe that the petition has presented a well-founded basis to doubt the health benefits of fluoridating drinking water.”
The denial says that the revised TSCA law created a pipeline for the agency to prioritize existing chemicals for risk evaluation, and notes the agency’s limited resources for reviewing a backlog of such substances. While groups may seek to add chemicals to the pipeline, the agency argues they must provide sufficient basis that addresses all uses.
“[T]he Agency wishes to emphasize that its denial does not preclude petitioners from obtaining further substantive administrative consideration, under TSCA section 21, of a substantively revised petition under TSCA section 21 that clearly identifies the chemical substances at issue, discusses the full conditions of use for those substances, and sets forth facts that would enable EPA to complete a risk evaluation under TSCA section 6(b) for those substances.”
*Original article online at https://insideepa.com/daily-news/epa-rejects-fluoride-ban-details-new-tsca-path-revive-request