Tag Archives: EPA

Congressman Inslee Challenges Republicans Trying to Defund EPA

The current majority Republicans in the US House of Representatives are anti-science and anti-regulation. While much of the rest of the world is trying to deal with the increasing negative impacts of climate change caused by rising greenhouse gases, Republicans are still denying humans have anything to do with it.

Republicans in Congress currently are trying to remove the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases by proposing to pass a bill entitled the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011.”

In the US House of Representatives, the New York Times reports that the  bill, which would strip the EPA of its “power to regulate greenhouse gases“, actually “enjoys the near-unanimous support of the House Republican majority“. As such, conservative ideology seems to trump rational scientific opinion and the conclusions of the vast majority of scientists who do research on global warming.

As noted in the New York Times article:

Representative Jay Inslee, Democrat of Washington, is one of Congress’s most ardent advocates of strong action to combat global warming. Mr. Inslee brought to the hearing a two-foot-high stack of books and scientific reports, which he placed on his desk as a sort of totem of the robust science behind climate-change theory.
He used his question time largely to criticize Republicans as suffering from what he called an “allergy to science and scientists.” He said he was embarrassed that a country that sent a man to the moon and mapped the human genome could be on the verge of enacting a law that overturns a scientific finding based on the testimony of a few scientists who question the extent of human responsibility for altering the climate.
“If Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein were testifying today,” Mr. Inslee said, “the Republicans would not accept their views until all the Arctic ice has melted and hell has frozen over, whichever comes first.”
He said that much of the skepticism about global warming in Congress and among the public has been fed by a campaign of disinformation from energy interests. He likened it to the tobacco industry’s efforts to discredit the finding that smoking causes cancer. “People with enormous financial stakes attacked that science,” Mr. Inslee said.

Republican ideology unfortunately threatens to trump science and reason. The American voters need to wake up and realize this blind Republican assault on science based decision making threatens our economic future and the livability of our planet. What good does corporate profit do anyone if the planet is not habitable because short term greed triumphed over long term survival?

This is just another example of the dire threat that this country faces if Republicans take over the Senate and Presidency next year. Republicans care more for passing legislation to benefit their corporate base and pushing irrational right wing ideology than they do in finding long term solutions to real problems facing the American people and the world.

Bush’s EPA Kills Washington’s Clean Car Legislation

The Environmental Protection Agency has continued oilman Bush’s reactionary campaign against those working to reduce global warming. Wednesday, Bush’s EPA denied a waiver to California allowed under the Clean Air Act to set its own vehicle emission standards. The action thwarts efforts by 17 states, including Washington State, to set stronger fuel efficiency standards for vehicles than that of Congress. See also NY Times

Anyone who thinks Bush has had a recent change of mind or heart regarding his past efforts opposing strong actions to reduce global carbon dioxide is mistaken. George Bush is still a corporate oilman at heart; and profit, not the future of the earth is his God. For all of Bush’s professed religious righteousness, it seems he has forgotten some of his God’s admonitions to
provide wise stewardship of the earth.

Bush opposed until the bitter end the energy legislation just passed by Congress to raise fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. He and his fellow Republicans in the US Senate weakened the legislation passed by forcing removal of provisions that would have shifted some $13 billion in tax breaks from the oil industry to renewable energy programs. Also removed were provisions calling on states to institute a goal of achieving 15% of the their energy being generated by renewable energy.

In the Washington Post today Bush is quoted as saying, “The question is how to have an effective strategy. Is it more effective to let each state make a decision as to how to proceed in curbing greenhouse gases or is it more effective to have a national strategy

The fact is that we have only one state making a decision – California and that they want to implement fuel efficiency standards faster and tougher than what Congress passed. The other 16 states say they want to implement what California does. The Clean Air Act says they can do that.

Senator Barbara Boxer on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer tonight noted that the just passed energy bill mandating Federal fuel efficiency standards explicitly stated that nothing in the Act diminished the right of states under the Federal Clean Air Act to set higher state standards for air quality.

Senator Boxer said to expect that California and other states will go to Federal Court to challenge and overturn Bush’s decision. Despite the news media seeming attributing this as a decision of the EPA, the fact is that this is a Bush decision.

Senator Boxer reported that Congress will be investigating the denial of the waiver by Bush. A report in the Washington Post said the final decision by the EPA per se was contrary to the internal advise within the EPA.

As reported by the Washington Post,

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson demanding “all documents relating to the California waiver request, other than those that are available on the public record.”

Waxman told Johnson to have EPA staff preserve all records. The decision against California “appears to have ignored the evidence before the agency and the requirements of the Clean Air Act,” Waxman wrote. He asked for all the relevant documents by Jan. 23.”

If only we had a President that spent as much energy trying to solve global warming problems we face instead of trying to obstruct efforts to take action. Bush and the Republican Congress could have enacted stronger fuel efficiency standards years ago.

Americans need to realize that it was the Republicans that did not take action on this issue for years, not the Democrats. And with only a slim 51 vote majority in the US Senate this year and 60 votes needed to end a filibuster, Republicans continue to hinder needed action. Congress is not the problem – it is the Republicans in Congress and President Bush that have avoided acting earlier on global warming.

Only with a change of leadership to Democrats in the Presidency and a 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate will we move forward without so much obstruction from Republicans that are so beholden to the wishes of the corporations over the general welfare of the American people and our environment.

Is EPA Deep Sixing Their Toxic Microwave Popcorn Study?

A week ago I got a phone call from the EPA in Washington, DC. It was someone from their Office of Public Affairs responding to my Sept 5, 2007 e-mail to the Environmental Protection Agency, asking them about their study on the release of diacetyl from microwave popcorn. The study was completed last year and shown to the popcorn companies but never released to the public.

I was told by Doretta Reayes in the Office of Public Affairs on that Monday that I would receive a call from Melissa in their Research and Development Division that afternoon about the study. I never received a call from her. Instead I received another call from Doretta saying that she “did more research” and that the study had “not been published” and there was no one to talk to and that “no one can answer questions”.

When I asked when it was going to be published she didn’t know. She said there was “no date for release.” When I asked why it was not released yet she didn’t know. She suggested I contact the FDA if I was concerned about it as a food issue – the classic pass it on to someone else. When I asked if the EPA study results had been passed on to any other Federal Agency like the FDA or anyone else, she didn’t know.

Unfortunately other Federal Agencies are not responding to diacetyl very fast. The FDA has said they will look at it now based on the recently reported case of bronchiolitis obliterans reported in August. But did the EPA provide the FDA with the results of their study on the release of diacetyl from microwave popcorn? I couldn’t get an answer from the EPA. If the EPA didn’t, why didn’t they?

Other Federal Agencies are also not responding. They seem to be avoiding the issue just like the Occupational Health and Safety people have been avoiding setting workplace regulations for workers in popcorn plants who are exposed to toxic diacetyl vapors. Popcorn workers problems have been investigated since 2001 but there are still no workplace guidelines or standards.

Doretta said she could see I was concerned and that she would get back to me on Friday. I still have not heard from her.

Since the initial press reports at the end of August on the dangers of diacetyl exposure from microwave popcorn most of the major popcorn companies have announced that they are removing diacetyl from their popcorn. They have seen the study, while the public did not.

Is the EPA delaying timely release of information that could affect people’s health to give the popcorn companies time to phase out diacetyl in microwave popcorn? If so the EPA could be subject to lawsuits from people just now being diagnosed with health effects caused by consumption of microwave popcorn. Just who benefits by delay in the release of this information – certainly not the public.

It seems to me that maybe someone in Congress needs to request a copy of the study and investigate whether the EPA is deliberately withholding the timely release of results to the public. They need to determine whether or not the EPA has withheld vital public health information to protect corporate popcorn interests. They need to ask what EPA did with the results once they had them and whether they forwarded them to other agencies, like the FDA and Occupational Heath and Safety Administration, concerned with health and food safety and worker safety.

Questions for the EPA

I sent the following e-mail to the Seattle District Office of the EPA today. I’ll let you know what they write back.

To the EPA:

I understand according to recent articles in the Seattle PI that the EPA completed a study last year on the release of diacetyl from microwave popcorn. Results were supposedly made available to the popcorn industry, yet not to the public.

Diacetyl is known to cause serious health problems to workers exposed to it. I would like to know what amounts I am being exposed to by microwaving popcorn.

Where and when or how can I receive a copy of this study or see a copy of this study?
When is this study going to be released?
Why has this study not been released yet?
What concerns does this study raise regarding the safety of microwave popcorn?
Have you alerted any other Federal Agencies, Congress or the President regarding the results of this study?

Steve Zemke

I did a quick keyword search of the EPA library system and it returned nothing for the words diacetyl and microwave popcorn. Try it yourself at EPA national online library system. For comparison, typing in pcb produced 786 documents and lead 3895.

The Great Bush Toxic Popcorn Scandal – Part II

Follow Bill Clinton’s example – don’t inhale. Microwave popcorn releases toxic diacetyl vapors. This is the buttery aroma you smell when you open the bag. Don’t inhale, because the Bush Administration is continuing to cover up the scandal and is not acting to protect your health.

The New York Times today reports that a “Doctor Links a Man’s Illness to Microwave Popcorn.”

“Heated diacetyl becomes a vapor and, when inhaled over a long period of time, seems to lead the small airways in the lungs to become swollen and scarred. Sufferers can breathe in deeply, but they have difficulty exhaling. The severe form of the disease is called bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn workers’ lung,” which can be fatal.”

We wrote last week about “The Great Bush Toxic Popcorn Scandal.” This is new evidence damning the inaction of the Bush Administration in addressing a serious documented workplace hazard as well as a consumer health hazard.

Bush officials in the Environmental Protection Agency have measured the release of diacetyl from microwave popcorn but have not released the study to the public. The study was completed last year. The results were meanwhile given to the popcorn industry.

With this latest evidence and inaction we are obviously now in the throes of the “Great Bush Toxic Popcorn Cover-up“. The Bush team is obviously more intent on protecting corporate profits than alerting the public to the serious health risk of consumers being exposed to toxic diacetyl vapors.

This is the problem you get when you saturate the Federal bureaucracy, that is supposed to represent the public interest, with corporate and partisan politicians beholden to corporate interests as Bush has done. The Republican “Corporations First” policies of Bush is a disastrous one for our nation. Individual and worker concerns about health and safety are made subordinate to corporate profits.

As the Seattle PI wrote about last week and today, the Bush Administration is not acting on regulating and cleaning up the toxic workplace conditions that exist in industries like the popcorn industry. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health first investigated workers injured and dying in Midwest popcorn plants starting in 2001.

Despite serious life threatening workplace exposure to diacetyl, the Bush Administration, carrying out the conservative Republican Agenda to not regulate corporations, has not taken prudent action to protect worker safety and health. And now it appears that they are also ignoring the consumer health risk.

Consider these two statements quoted in today’s Seattle PI article.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., chairwoman of a work force protection subcommittee:

“The reported case of a consumer diagnosed with popcorn lung underscores the need for our public health agencies to take this hazard more seriously, not only for workers, but for consumers as well. While OSHA is dragging its feet over the numerous reports of workers who have died or suffered serious lung disease from exposure to diacetyl, this new case raises concerns that consumers may be at risk as well.”

As well as this comment:

Dr. David Egilman, an occupation medicine specialist, has examined and testified for many of the workers injured by diacetyl.
“People need to realize that these illness and deaths were completely preventable,” Egilman said. “They occurred because the companies who make these products hid the information on toxicity and control the regulatory process. … An emasculated government public health community that is subservient to corporate profits cannot protect us — even from popcorn”

I urge people to contact their Congressional representatives and urge action be taken to remove diacetyl form microwave popcorn, to put workplace protection in place for workers exposed to diacetyl and to ask that other foods with diacetyl in them that are heated or microwaved be investigated for possible health dangers.

The Seattle PI mentions that diacetyl is also in “potato chips, baked goods and candies, frozen food, artificial butter, cooking oils, beer, dog food and other items”

Tell Congress to take action to protect workers and consumers from the dangers of diacetyl in heated or microwaved foods. Click here to send a message to Congress.

The Great Bush Toxic Popcorn Scandal

Bet you thought the Environmental Protection Agency and other Federal Agencies worked for the public good? Wrong again. The EPA under Bush is just another Federal Agency working to protect corporate interests. This time its corporate popcorn profits.

After you read the story in the Seattle PI today you probably won’t want to eat any more microwavable popcorn. Remember the rush of hot moisture and vapor when you open the bag and how it smells “buttery”?

As headlined in the Seattle PI today, the chemical ingredient diacetyl, which is added to popcorn to give it a buttery taste, has been linked to “the sometime fatal destruction of the lungs of hundreds of workers in food production and flavoring factories.”

As the PI correspondent Andrew Schneider writes diacetyl is in thousands of consumer products including microwaved popcorn:

Despite the worker safety findings — and despite scores of jury decisions and settlements awarding millions of dollars to workers who sued after having their lungs destroyed by exposure to diacetyl — neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission have investigated. The FDA years ago declared the chemical safe for consumption. Labels on almost all products containing it call it a flavoring and only rarely do the labels mention diacetyl.
The only government investigators to examine whether consumers are at risk — whether diacetyl is released when consumers pop corn in their home microwaves, and if so, how much — is the Environmental Protection Agency. But to the frustration of many public health workers, the findings of the EPA’s study — which began in 2003 and was completed last year — have been released only to the popcorn industry

The Pi notes that ConAgra, the largest supplier of microwave popcorn in the world told the EPA in 2004 that it had found that diacetyl was released when microwave popcorn bags are opened. It told EPA that “it is imperative that the health and safety of this product be assured to the extent possible within the very near future”

Bush’s EPA seems to have complied with this corporate wish. If the public doesn’t know, then it must be safe. Even though the study was completed last year the public has not been told of the results.

And even if they are, these days with non scientists in the Bush Administration rewriting and controlling the release of scientific studies it will be hard to discern what the actual study results found. And as the PI notes, this particular study was even done with industry involvement. Unfortunately it is also a limited study, not looking at health effects , only amounts of chemicals released.

And these releases to workers have been fatal. As the PI reports further diacetyl in food manufacturing plants “been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans — irreversible obstructive lung diseases — for which lung transplants are often the only way to survive.”

Despite this seriousness, both the Bush Administration Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have declined to act. Corporate profits at any cost including human life reign supreme in the Bush Republican run Federal bureaucracy.

see additional articles:

artificial butter flavorings produced in popcorn factories linked with lung cancer

St Louis Post Dispatch – Popcorn Study showed Chemical was Toxic

Washington Post – Flavoring Suspected in Illness – Calif. Considers Banning Chemical in Microwave Popcorn

IndyStar.com – Microwave Popcorn Maker Takes Initiative

NY Times – OSHA Leaves Worker Safety in Hands of Industry