July 17, 2023
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposal to strengthen requirements for the removal of lead-based paint hazards in pre-1978 buildings and child care facilities, known as abatement activities, to better protect children and communities from the harmful effects of exposure to dust generated from lead paint, advancing President Biden’s whole-of-government approach to protecting families and children from lead exposure. If finalized, this rule is estimated to reduce the lead exposures of approximately 250,000 to 500,000 children under age six per year.
Aligning with the Federal Action Plan on reducing lead exposure to children, these stronger standards would go further to protect children from the dangers of lead exposure, in support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investment to reduce lead exposure and EPA’s strategy to address the significant disparities in lead exposure along racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines.
EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe, EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff and EPA Region 2 Administrator Lisa Garcia announced the proposal alongside elected officials and community leaders in Newark, New Jersey, one of the nation’s leading cities in reducing lead exposure.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is taking a whole-of-government approach to ensuring that the most vulnerable among us — our children — are protected from exposure to lead,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe. “This proposal to safely remove lead paint along with our other efforts to deliver clean drinking water and replace lead pipes will go a long way toward protecting the health of our next generation of leaders. I am proud to stand alongside the City of Newark, New Jersey, and all our partners across the United States in our critical efforts to reduce childhood lead exposures.”
“There is no safe level of lead. Even low levels are detrimental to children’s health, and this proposal would bring us closer to eradicating lead-based paint hazards from homes and child care facilities across the U.S once and for all,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff.
“The City of Newark is honored to be selected by the EPA as the location for their important announcement of these new actions to protect Americans everywhere – and especially children – from the dangers of lead in paint,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “We moved mountains in Newark to remove lead from every water line throughout the city because we value the health and wellbeing of every resident and understand that no amount of lead exposure is acceptable. We are grateful to the EPA and the Biden Administration for strengthening regulations for lead removal we’re committed to supporting their efforts.”
If finalized, the proposed rule would strengthen EPA’s regulations under section 402 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by revising the dust-lead hazard standards (DLHS), which identify hazardous lead in dust on floors and window sills, and the dust-lead clearance levels (DLCL), the amount of lead that can remain in dust on floors, window sills and window troughs after lead removal activities.
The proposal would reduce the DLHS from 10 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2) for floors and 100 µg/ft2 for window sills to any reportable level greater than zero in recognition of the fact that there is no level of lead in dust that has been found to be safe for children. Today’s proposal would lower the DLCL from 10 µg/ft2 to 3 µg/ft2 for floors, from 100 µg/ft2 to 20 µg/ft2 for window sills, and from 400 µg/ft2 to 25 µg/ft2 for window troughs, which are the lowest post-abatement dust-lead levels that the Agency believes can be reliably and effectively achieved.
Property owners, lead-based paint professionals and government agencies use the DLHS to identify dust-lead hazards in residential and childcare facilities built before 1978. If a lead-based paint activity such as abatement is performed, EPA's Lead-Based Paint Activities Program requires individuals and firms performing the abatement to be certified and follow specific work practices. Following such an abatement, testing is then required to ensure dust lead levels are below the DLCL before an abatement can be considered complete.
Historically, EPA’s DLHS and DLCL have been set at the same levels. This action proposes to decouple the DLHS and the DLCL, which were last updated in 2019 and 2021, respectively. This is being done in accordance with a May 2021 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, which explains that DLHS must be based solely on health factors, while the DLCL must consider the additional factors of safety, effectiveness and reliability. Today’s proposal aligns the DLHS and DLCL with the best available science, further strengthening EPA’s efforts to protect children from lead hazards.
Although the federal government banned lead-based paint for residential use in 1978, it is estimated that 31 million pre-1978 houses still contain lead-based paint, and 3.8 million of them have one or more children under the age of 6 living there, creating health and developmental risks for children. Lead-contaminated dust is one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children. Lead dust commonly occurs when lead-based paint deteriorates or is disturbed. Due to normal behaviors such as crawling and hand-to-mouth activities, young children are particularly at risk of higher exposure to ingesting lead-containing dust. Lead exposure can pose a significant health and safety threat to children and can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including behavioral problems, lower IQ, slowed growth and more.
Communities of color and those of lower socioeconomic status are often at greater risk of lead exposure because deteriorated lead-based paint is more likely to be found in lower-income areas. Additionally, communities of color can also face greater risk due to the legacy of redlining, historic racial segregation in housing, and reduced access to environmentally safe and affordable housing. Eliminating lead-based p.aint and the proposal announced today reflect EPA’s commitment to advancing environmental justice.
U.S. DOL Proposes $393K in Fines After Inspection Finds Chemical Plant Endangered Workers
Less than two years after an investigation found dozens of serious safety and health violations at a Verona, Missouri chemical plant, workplace safety inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor identified 16 violations, including those that put employees at risk of exposure to toxic substances such as ethylene oxide.
After its January 2023 follow-up inspection, the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued four repeat and nine serious safety and health violations, and proposed $393,798 in penalties to BCP Ingredients Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Balchem Corp. The agency also issued a hazard alert letter for inadequate medical evaluation procedures for workers exposed to ethylene oxide. In October 2021, OSHA cited the same facility for 24 serious safety and health violations.
"Ethylene oxide is a colorless and flammable gas and unsafe exposure can cause cancer and other serious health issues," said OSHA Area Director Karena Lorek in Kansas City, Missouri. "The company's failure to address its previous violations and follow OSHA regulations is troubling. BCP needs to bring its monitoring procedures into compliance immediately and re-evaluate its engineering processes to make sure its employees are kept safe and healthy."
Investigators cited multiple OSHA violations, including the following:
- Inadequate process safety management procedures and monitoring.
- Failing to develop an emergency evacuation plan.
- Failing to train workers on actions to take in the event of a chemical release.
- Exposing respirators to ethylene oxide while in storage.
- Allowing electrical safety hazards.
Part of Balchem's Animal Nutrition and Health Division, BCP Ingredients Inc. produces choline, nutrient encapsulation, chelated minerals and functional ingredients for feed and animal supplements. The Verona facility also produces food ingredients primarily for the baking industry. Based in Montvale, New Jersey, Balchem Corp. is a leading global producer of nutrition and health products for animal and human consumption, and employs more than 1,400 people worldwide.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Federal Inspectors Find Sawmill Exposed Employee to Same Hazard that Caused a Fatality
Not yet a month on the job, a 21-year-old working at a sawmill operation site in Brashear was learning how to operate a Hurdle saw on Jan. 11, 2023, when he suffered fatal injuries after getting caught and pulled into the vertical edger blades as they spun.
His employer, Don Gibson, owner of Missouri Mats, failed to notify the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration that the fatality occurred, which delayed OSHA's investigation of the incident until Jan. 18, 2023. When investigators arrived at the work site, they issued Gibson a letter that required the company to protect employees from amputation hazards at the sawmill. The letter also directed Gibson to report to OSHA that the mill had corrected the hazard.
When OSHA inspectors returned on March 1, 2023, to continue their investigation, they discovered that Gibson failed to implement necessary controls and procedures for the sawmill and that his employees continued to operate the saw in the same condition which resulted in the death of his employee. The agency placed an imminent danger notice on the saw, which finally prompted Gibson to correct the sawmill's safety failure.
Inspectors also learned the company knew that sawmill operators let the vertical edger continue to spin while inspecting the machine, which is large enough to cut full logs, but did not correct the procedure or re-train workers on how to use the machine safely.
OSHA cited the company for two willful, 53 serious and two other than-serious safety and health violations and proposed $346,954 in penalties. OSHA also placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
While at Missouri Mats, the agency's investigators observed workers younger than 18 years old employed at the sawmill and operating heavy-powered industrial trucks and alerted the department's Wage and Hour Division. Federal law prohibits minors from working in hazardous occupations.
"After a young man — new to the job — died after suffering horrific injuries, Don Gibson and the Missouri Mats' management team continued to use the equipment involved in the fatality without taking appropriate steps to eliminate the danger and protect employees," said OSHA Regional Administrator Billie Kizer in Kansas City, Missouri. "Deadly hazards exist in the sawmill and logging industries, and it is essential that Gibson and others in the industry follow federal safety requirements."
Specifically, inspectors identified the following failures and hazards at the sawmill:
- Saw blades, pulleys, belts, woodworking machines and grinding wheels without machine guards.
- Inadequate lockout/tagout procedures to isolate energy during service and maintenance. The company also failed to establish and follow proper procedures for controlling hazardous energy.
- Exposing employees walking and working on surfaces and near unguarded holes to fall hazards.
- Failing to provide required guardrails.
- Insufficient training and evaluation of operators of powered industrial vehicles.
- Failing to maintain portable fire extinguishers and not having a worker training program on their use.
- Exposing workers to the risk of electrical hazards.
- Allowing improper use of ladders.
- Lacking a hearing conservation program.
- Failing to provide personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head and feet.
- Not labelling chemicals as required.
- Improperly storing cylinders and equipment.
- Failing to provide required safety information and training to employees.
These incidents are not the first time Gibson's failures to comply with federal workplace safety laws have put workers in jeopardy. In 2012, OSHA investigated a fatality at a logging site operated by Don Gibson, as well as a sawmill owned by Gibson in Arbela, Missouri.
Missouri Mats buys and cuts walnut, oak, maple, cottonwood and other tree species, and sells lumber products for use by various industries.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Biden-Harris Administration Starts National Phasedown of Climate-Damaging Hydrofluorocarbons
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the latest action to phase down the use of climate super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), issuing a final rule to implement a 40% reduction below historic levels from 2024 through 2028. The rule aligns with the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act’s goals to reduce the production and consumption of these climate-damaging chemicals by 85% by 2036 and help avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100.
The final rule builds on the success of the 10% phasedown step implemented for 2022 and 2023, by establishing a similar allowance methodology to provide regulatory certainty to industry and stakeholders, ensuring the most efficient implementation under the ongoing phasedown.
“This rulemaking is a critical next step in the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious plans to phase down climate super-pollutants and ensure the United States leads the way as countries around the world implement the Kigali Amendment,” said Joe Goffman, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The U.S. HFC phasedown program, bolstered by domestic innovation to develop alternative chemicals and equipment, is paving the way for the United States to tackle climate change and strengthen global competitiveness.”
“As an original co-author of the bipartisan AIM Act, I applaud this action by EPA, which moves us closer to our goal of an 85 percent reduction in HFCs by 2036,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper (Del.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “By phasing down the use of these super pollutants, we can both address climate change and support domestic manufacturing — a win-win. I commend the Biden-Harris Administration for their work to ensure that our nation remains a global leader in the fight against climate change and production of the next generation of refrigerants.”
“Phasing down hydrofluorocarbons is a critical component of our national climate action strategy,” Congressman Paul Tonko said. “That’s why I was proud to help lead the bipartisan AIM Act to seize this powerful opportunity to spur economic growth, protect consumers, and address these climate super pollutants. I applaud the Biden Administration’s latest action to keep this program on track by providing HFC producers and users the certainty they need to navigate this next stage of the phasedown. And I encourage additional steps under the law to further position U.S. manufacturers as the worldwide leaders in the clean energy economy of the future.”
“This latest allocation rule is a critical step in the implementation of the AIM Act schedule for phasing down hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants,” said AHRI President & CEO Stephen Yurek. “Our industry appreciates the work of the EPA and the timely issuance of this rule, as we prepare for the next HFC reduction step-down next January.”
The United States began this historic phasedown on January 1, 2022, with a reduction of HFC production and imports to 10% below historic baseline levels. Since then, allowances are needed to import and produce HFCs. Starting in 2024 the phasedown will be 40% below historic levels, a significant decrease in the number of available production and consumption allowances compared to previous years. HFC allowances for calendar year 2024 will be allocated by September 29, 2023. The phasedown schedule under this program is consistent with the schedule laid out in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which the United States ratified in October 2022.
In addition to setting up an allowance allocation program, the HFC Phasedown Program has established robust enforcement mechanisms to ensure a level playing field for U.S. companies complying with the phasedown requirements. Since January 2022, the Interagency Task Force on Illegal HFC Trade, co-led by EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, has prevented illegal HFC shipments equivalent to more than 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂) at the border, which is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from over 206,000 homes’ electricity use for one year.
EPA also applies administrative consequences, such as revocation and retirement of allowances, for noncompliance that can be in addition to any civil or criminal enforcement action. EPA has finalized administrative consequences retiring more than 6.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for calendar years 2022 and 2023 for companies that misreported data or imported HFCs without the requisite number of allowances.
EPA is planning two additional regulatory actions under the AIM Act in 2023. The first is a final rule placing restrictions on the use of HFCs in certain sectors to facilitate sector-based transitions to alternative chemicals, and the second is a proposed rule establishing certain requirements for the management of HFCs and HFC substitutes in equipment, such as air conditioners.
HFCs are a class of potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning, aerosols, and foam products. Their climate impact can be hundreds to thousands of times stronger than the same amount of carbon dioxide.
DOL Finds Newark Contractor Exposed Workers to Fall Hazards, Proposes $333K in Fines
A series of inspections by the U.S. Department of Labor has found a Newark-based construction contractor defying federal safety regulations by exposing employees to more than 20 violations, including potentially deadly falls, at six southern and central New Jersey work sites in early 2023.
Workplace safety and health inspections by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration identified 21 violations by Main Line Contractor Corp. in Berlin, Cape May, Lakewood, Mount Holly and Mount Laurel. Many of the violations related to the framing and sheathing company's failure to provide or require the use of protective equipment to prevent falls from elevations greater than 6 feet, the construction industry's leading cause of death.
In January 2023, OSHA opened its initial investigation in Mount Laurel under the agency's Local Emphasis Program on Falls, and followed that with five more inspections at Main Line work sites in January, February and March. OSHA discovered the company exposed employees intentionally to falls of up to 30 feet by not providing them with the required personal protective equipment or making sure employees used fall protection on site, when available.
In total, OSHA cited the company for 17 serious and four willful violations and proposed $333,052 in penalties.
"After our inspection identified violations at the Mount Laurel jobsite, the company continued to defy the law and put their employees at risk of serious debilitating injuries or worse," said OSHA Area Director Paula Dixon-Roderick in Marlton, New Jersey. "Main Line must bring their company into compliance immediately before tragedy strikes."
Incorporated in 2022, Main Line Contractor Corp. provides framing and sheathing services at residential construction sites throughout New Jersey.
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