Why 28 years have passed since the EPA’s last chemical risk review


epaThis week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hit a major milestone that some people, including leaders at the agency itself, think shouldn’t be celebrated.

On Wednesday, the agency released a final risk assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent used by artists, car mechanics, dry cleaners and others. The EPA’s in-depth report, released after a two-year analysis, shows that long-term exposure to TCE can cause cancer and other health issues, and recommends that workers take serious precautions if they must use TCE.

But in its press release, the EPA acknowledged there was something wrong — not with the risk assessment itself — but with its timeline: It was the first final risk assessment for a chemical issued by the EPA since 1986.

“The American public shouldn’t have to wait 28 years between ... chemical risk assessments,” wrote Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator of chemical safety and pollution prevention, in a blog post. “As the old adage goes, you have to walk before you can run.”