News Recap for 2-12-21
Legal Newsline: Is enough known about ‘the ultimate mass tort?’ Scientist studying PFAS for courts says no — While there is mounting evidence that high exposures to two chemicals can cause kidney cancer, more research is needed to determine whether that link persists at low levels of exposure as well as whether PFAS causes other diseases, said Kyle Steenland, an epidemiologist at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. To reach the higher scientific standard of causality, Steenland said, researchers must perform more studies to identify disease patterns associated with exposure to the chemicals and to rule out confounding factors such as age, sex, income levels and education. All are known to have significant correlations with disease and so researchers try to stratify the data according to potential confounders and see if the connection to disease persists.
Bloomberg Law: PFAS Regulation: Business Should Plan Now for Financial Impacts — There is no one answer for every business as to how significant and on what timeline PFAS changes under the Biden administration will be on business interests. However, one significant change businesses can plan for that will have an enormous impact is PFAS regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Businesses, municipalities, and states should expect the Biden administration’s EPA to accelerate this timetable and propose a maximum contaminant level and National Primary Drinking Water Regulation soon—likely the third quarter or fourth quarter of 2021.
The Hill: EPA alleges political interference by Trump officials over toxic chemical —The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday asserted that political appointees from the Trump administration interfered with a safety assessment for a chemical linked to health issues. The agency said in a statement that it was removing from its website a toxicity assessment for a compound known as PFBS due to the alleged interference. The interference resulted in a range of values being given for PFBS’s toxicity, as opposed to just one value that was in an initial assessment from career scientists, which raised concerns that a range of numbers would allow those who use the toxicity assessments, like those participating in hazardous waste cleanup, to “cherry pick” whichever number they wanted to use.
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Residents continue push for more regulations on Sterigenics, ethylene oxide — A new, more stringent air permit that would allow Cobb County’s embattled medical equipment company Sterigenics to continue operating has done little to allay the fears of residents living nearby. Critics of the company voiced their concerns to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division Tuesday during a public hearing the agency held on Sterigenics’ request to obtain a new air quality permit. Sterigenicshas for decades been permitted to use ethylene oxide gas in sterilization processes for medical equipment at its plant off Atlanta Road near Smyrna. But the company has been under heavy public scrutiny since 2019 when its emissions of the gas was flagged in a federal report on elevated cancer risk.
Genetic Literacy Project: The glyphosate debacle: How a misleading study about the alleged risks of the weedkiller Roundup and gullible reporters helped fuel a cancer scare — As biotech giant Bayer prepares to spend $10 billion settling thousands of lawsuits alleging its weedkiller Roundup (and its active ingredient glyphosate) causes cancer, we’re forced to address a crucial question: how does a herbicide deemed safe by regulators and scientists the world over become the target of tort lawyers and environmental groups with an ideological ax to grind? There are two key factors that helped turn an innocuous chemical into a corporate scandal: the publication of low-quality studies asserting, counter to the expert consensus; and gullible media outlets that uncritically reported this research to their audiences. This combination gave lawyers and activists the academic ammunition they needed to pursue litigation and build public support for the false narrative that Monsanto/Bayer ignored evidence of glyphosate’s cancer risk to boost its bottom line.
Genetic Literacy Project: Misleading glyphosate-cancer study Part 2: ‘Symptom of a widespread problem’—Concerns about ideological activism in science research and communications — Part one of this series (linked above) detailed how the authors of what appeared to be an important paper made some highly questionable decisions in order to reach their conclusion, namely selecting certain data points and excluding others from the studies they considered. But there were still other indications of bias in the paper that provide insight into the authors’ thinking. This follow-up examines some of the other instances of bias, and addresses three crucial questions. How could this paper, flawed as it is, have passed peer review and largely escaped serious criticism in the two years following publication? What does the Zhang paper reveal about the authors’ mindset, and about standards of scholarship in the field of environmental epidemiology? And, finally, what are the implications for efforts to produce reliable science that can guide policy makers and consumers?