May 22, 2023
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with Daiso California LLC that resolves violations of the law for the company’s sale of wet wipes that were not registered with EPA. Daiso will pay a $602,386 penalty to settle these violations. The company sold the wipes—Daiso Plus Wet Wipes—at a store in El Cerrito, Calif., and online on its website. Daiso primarily markets its products to Asian-American communities.
“Unregistered disinfectant or sterilizer products like Daiso Plus Wet Wipes, with labels that make false and misleading claims, can threaten human health,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “This settlement is proof of EPA’s commitment to enforce laws that protect public health, especially in communities that face environmental justice challenges.”
Before March 2022, Daiso sold Daiso Plus Wet Wipes, the labels for which made the claim that the wipes were for sterilizing kitchenware and other items. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the term “sterilizing” is a claim attributed to pesticide products with the highest level of efficacy against microorganisms. Because of these claims, Daiso Plus Wet Wipes were considered a pesticide product and should have been registered with EPA, but the company failed to do so.
The sale and distribution of unregistered products making disinfectant or sterilizer claims may pose risks to human health and the environment. If EPA has not reviewed reliable data about how the pesticide product works and what kinds of exposures may impact the user, then the risk to the consumer and the environment is unknown and use of the product is potentially unsafe. Additionally, consumers may be misled to believe a pesticide product provides public health benefits that it does not.
Applicants for pesticide registration are required to submit efficacy data to the agency to substantiate any public health claims they intend to make for their product. Before EPA can register a pesticide, the agency must determine that no unreasonable adverse effects on human health and the environment will occur when the product is used according to its label directions.
EPA Announces Latest Action to Protect Communities from Coal Ash Contamination
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the latest action to protect communities and hold polluters accountable for controlling and cleaning up the contamination created by the disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR or coal ash), which can cause serious public health risks and leak into groundwater. The Agency issued a proposed rule that would require the safe management of coal ash dumped in areas that are currently unregulated at the federal level. This includes inactive power plants with surface impoundments that are no longer being used and historical coal ash disposal areas at power plants with regulated coal ash units. Because this proposal applies to legacy contamination or inactive units that no longer support current power plant operations, it is not expected to affect current power plant operations.
Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal in power plants that, without proper management, can pollute waterways, groundwater, drinking water, and the air. Coal ash contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium, chromium, and arsenic associated with cancer and various other serious health effects. Today’s action delivers protections for underserved communities already overburdened by pollution, reflecting the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government commitment to advancing environmental justice.
“Ensuring the health and safety of all people is EPA’s top priority, and this proposed rule represents a crucial step toward safeguarding the air, groundwater, streams, and drinking water communities depend on,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Many of these communities have been disproportionately impacted by pollution for far too long. This proposal will better protect their health and our environment, and it will reflect our broader commitment to reduce pollution from the power sector in a way that ensures a reliable, affordable supply of electricity.”
Inactive coal ash surface impoundments at inactive facilities, referred to as “legacy CCR surface impoundments,” are more likely to be unlined and unmonitored, making them more prone to leaks and structural problems than units at facilities that are currently in service. These units are currently not regulated at the federal level — a gap that a federal court directed EPA to address in 2018. To address these concerns, EPA is proposing safeguards for legacy coal ash surface impoundments that largely mirror those for inactive impoundments at active facilities, including requiring the proper closure of the impoundments and remediating coal ash contamination in groundwater.
In addition, through implementation of the 2015 CCR rule, EPA found that power plants with regulated impoundments had also disposed of coal ash in areas outside of regulated units. These areas could include coal ash in surface impoundments and landfills that closed prior to the effective date of the 2015 CCR Rule, inactive CCR landfills, and other areas where coal ash is placed directly on the land. The Agency is proposing to apply certain protections in EPA’s coal ash regulations to these areas.
As EPA works to finalize the proposal, it will engage with the power sector and other groups to ensure this proposal reflects the Administration’s commitment to reduce pollution from the power sector while providing long-term regulatory certainty and operational flexibility.
EPA is collecting public comments on these proposals for 60 days through dockets in regulations.gov. EPA will also hold both in-person and virtual public hearings. For more information, visit this webpage.
Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal in coal-fired power plants that can contain contaminants like mercury, cadmium, chromium, and arsenic associated with cancer and other serious health effects. Many facilities have stored coal ash in surface impoundments, which have the potential to leak or to fail, sending coal ash and its contaminants into water sources, including surface water and groundwater. On April 17, 2015, EPA issued national minimum standards for existing and new CCR landfills, as well as existing and new CCR surface impoundments at active facilities. That final rule did not establish requirements for inactive facilities.
On August 21, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the exemption for inactive surface impoundments at inactive facilities and remanded the case to EPA for further action in accordance with the decision in Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, et al. v. EPA. In response, in October 2020, EPA requested comments and data on legacy CCR surface impoundments to assist in the development of future regulations for these CCR units. This proposed rule incorporates the information collected in that effort.
Justice Department and EPA Announce Settlement to Reduce Hazardous Air Emissions at BP Products’ Whiting Refinery in Indiana
BP Products Will Implement Injunctive Relief Valued at More Than $197 Million to Correct Deficiencies and Pay a Record-Setting Penalty of $40 Million.
The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Clean Air Act Settlement with BP Products North America Inc., (BPP), a subsidiary of BP p.l.c., requiring control technology expected to reduce benzene by an estimated seven tons per year, other hazardous air pollutants (HAP) by 28 tons per year and other volatile organic compound emissions (VOC) by 372 tons per year at its Whiting Refinery in Indiana. The United States’ complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement, alleges that BPP violated federal regulations limiting benzene in refinery wastewater streams, and HAP and VOC emissions at its Whiting Refinery, as well as the general requirement to use good air pollution control practices. As part of the settlement, BPP will install one or more permanent benzene strippers to reduce benzene in wastewater streams leading to its lakefront wastewater treatment plant.
“This settlement sends an important message to the refining industry that the United States will take decisive action against illegal benzene and VOC emissions,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Under the settlement, the refinery will implement controls that will greatly improve air quality and reduce health impacts on the overburdened communities that surround the facility.”
“This settlement will result in the reduction of hundreds of tons of harmful air pollution a year, which means cleaner, healthier air for local communities, including communities with environmental justice concerns,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This is one of several recent settlements that show that EPA and the Department of Justice are committed to improving air quality in local communities by holding industrial sources accountable for violations of emission standards under the Clean Air Act.”
“This settlement advances my office’s environmental justice initiative by providing cleaner air and reducing the negative health impacts on the low income and minority residents who live near BPP’s refinery,” said U.S. Attorney Clifford D. Johnson for the Northern District of Indiana. “My office is committed to continuing to enforce the nation’s environmental laws so that all residents of Northern Indiana can live, work and play in a cleaner, healthier environment.”
In addition to securing injunctive relief, including capital investments, estimated to exceed $197 million, the settlement obligates BPP to pay a total financial penalty of $40 million, comprised of civil penalties and stipulated penalties for violations of an earlier settlement. This is the largest civil penalty ever secured for a Clean Air Act stationary source settlement. BPP separately agreed to undertake a $5 million supplemental environmental project to reduce diesel emissions in the communities surrounding the Whiting Refinery. BPP will also install 10 air pollutant monitoring stations to monitor air quality outside of the refinery fence line. The settlement terms are included in a proposed consent decree filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.
Benzene is known to cause cancer in humans. Short-term inhalation exposure to benzene also may cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, as well as eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation, and, at high levels, unconsciousness. Long-term inhalation exposure can cause various disorders in the blood, including reduced numbers of red blood cells and anemia in occupational settings. Reproductive effects have been reported for women exposed by inhalation to high levels, and adverse effects on the developing fetus have been observed in animal tests.
VOCs, along with NOX, play a major role in the atmospheric reactions that produce ozone, which is the primary constituent of smog. People with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active can be affected when ozone levels are unhealthy. Ground-level ozone exposure is linked to a variety of short-term health problems, including lung irritation and difficulty breathing, as well as long-term problems, such as permanent lung damage from repeated exposure, aggravated asthma, reduced lung capacity and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
The Whiting Refinery is surrounded by communities with environmental justice concerns. This settlement is part of the Justice Department’s and EPA’s ongoing focus on assisting communities that have been historically marginalized and disproportionately exposed to pollution.
CDC's New Building Ventilation Guidance Calls for 5 ACH, Upgraded Filters
New CDC recommendations for improving ventilation in buildings urge owners and operators to aim for at least 5 air changes per hour (ACH) in occupied spaces and to upgrade filters to those rated MERV-13 or higher. The agency stresses the importance of good ventilation in maintaining healthy indoor environments and protecting building occupants from respiratory infections, including COVID-19.
CDC’s guidance outlines basic strategies—such as regularly changing filters in HVAC systems and ensuring that filters fit properly in the filter racks—as well as “enhanced strategies” for improving buildings’ ventilation, filtration, and air treatment systems. According to the agency, enhanced strategies are those that can help lower the concentration of viral particles in building air. In addition to delivering 5 or more ACH per hour and upgrading filters, these strategies include setting a building’s HVAC system to circulate more air when people are inside; bringing in clean outdoor air by opening windows or doors and using exhaust fans; and using air cleaners with high-efficiency filters to filter air. CDC also recommends that building owners and operators consider installing UV air treatment systems and using portable carbon dioxide monitors to help assess whether indoor air is stale or fresh. CO2 readings above 800 ppm suggest that more fresh, outdoor air may be needed in a space, the agency says.
CDC also updated another webpage on ventilation in buildings to reflect its recommendations regarding ACH and minimum efficiency reporting values for filters. Other new information that can be found on this page includes updated agency guidance on post-occupancy flushing of building air, cost considerations for ventilation strategies, and a discussion of whether do-it-yourself (DIY) air cleaners are effective at reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission indoors.
These updates accompany changes to CDC’s monitoring strategy for COVID-19 following the end of the national public health emergency on May 11. Further details can be found on CDC’s pages on improving ventilation in buildings and ventilation in buildings.
New Chapters on Ergonomics, Young Workers Added to OSHA Handbook
OSHA has updated its handbook on safety and health information for small businesses to include new chapters on ergonomics, young workers, workplace violence, and infection control plans (PDF), the agency announced in May via its QuickTakes e-newsletter. The new sections of the Small Business Safety and Health Handbook are checklists that employers can use to ensure hazards are being controlled and regulatory requirements are being met with respect to each topic. For example, the infection control checklist asks whether frequently-touched surfaces are routinely cleaned and disinfected, and the checklist for young workers directs employers to ensure that workers between 18 and 21 years of age do not drive commercial vehicles across state lines.
A checklist on heat-related illnesses, developed through an OSHA-NIOSH partnership, was added in September 2022. The handbook also provides checklists for electrical safety, fire protection, hazard communication, lockout/tagout procedures, noise exposure, personal protective equipment, and a range of other safety and health topics. Additional sections summarize the benefits of safety and health programs and outline additional resources for controlling hazards, training employees, and protecting whistleblowers.
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