Aug 06 2017

Need Faster Regulations on Dangerous Chemicals

Published by at 1:43 pm under Damngerous Chemicals

It took California twenty five years to regulate this cancer causing chemical.
Drinking water tests show 1-2-3 TCP levels much higher than considered safe in California’s Central Valley.

Twenty five years. That’s how long it has been since California water authorities first determined that 1,2,3 TCP causes cancer. With no federal regulation for this chemical, it’s been up to the state to test, determine and create regulations regarding this pesticide. On July 18, 2017, after years of debate, the State Water Resources Control Board approved a standard for this chemical in its drinking water at .007 parts per million, which is a level supported by both pesticide reform and clean water advocates. The state will  require that water systems test all of their wells for 1-2-3 TCP every month beginning January, 2018. (1,2)*

“…1-2-3 TCP, also known as 1,2,3-TRICHLOROPROPANE; 96-18-4; Trichlorohydrin; Allyl trichloride; Propane, 1-2-3-trichloro-; Glycerol trichlorohydrin is a synthetic, colorless to light yellow liquid that is soluble in polar organic solvents and only slightly soluble in water. 1-2-3-Trichloropropane is used as both a chemical intermediate and cross-linking agent in the production of polymers. 1-2-3-Trichloropropane is flammable and, when heated to decomposition, emits toxic fumes of hydrogen chloride. Exposure of humans to 1-2-3-trichloropropanevapor causes irritation of the eyes and throat. It is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. (NCI05)…”2*

In the 1970’s the Pineapple Research Institute in Honolulu started conducting experiments to control a microscopic worm called a nematode which lives in the soil and attacks the roots of plants. They tested hazardous waste from a chemical production process at Shell that they thought may kill the worms. Shell saw an opportunity to take this hazardous waste, which was used as a cleaning and degreasing solvent from their chemical plants, put it in barrels and sell it to farmers to kill this little worm. 1*

But the real worms were Shell, followed by Dow Chemical. They sold this hazardous waste from their chemical plants to farmers as a fumigant, which could be injected into the soil even though, according to a Dow scientist, it didn’t kill the nematodes at all. In a 1974 Dow memo some of the fumigant components are described as “garbage”. Still, it continued to find its way into the agricultural fields of California’s central valley for years. According to Robins, the attorney hired to represent the more than 30 communities whose water supplies are affected, neither Dow Chemical nor Shell ever listed 1,2,3-TCP on their product labels, even though it was one of several ingredients.  “…“Some of the most startling information is how clearly the companies understood from a scientific perspective the amount of garbage they were putting into these products,” says Robins, “and knowingly having farmers essentially dispose of their hazardous waste for them on farm fields throughout our state.”…”(1,2,3)*

In 1992, 1,2,3-TCP was put on California’s list of known cancer causing chemicals pursuant to the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as Proposition 65. For years, the Division of Drinking Water has received input about the need for a drinking water standard for 1,2,3-TCP from local community groups, those with affected water systems as well as environmental justice groups expressing concerns. “…The State Water Board set the development of an MCL for 1,2,3-TCP as one of its highest priorities. On February 21, 2017, the State Water Board submitted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a 1,2,3-TCP drinking water standard and associated regulations…”(1,2,3)* 

After years and years, on July 18, 2017 the State Water Board finally adopted the proposed 1,2,3-TCP regulations. It stated that “…1,2,3-TCP causes cancer in laboratory animals (US EPA, 2009) and is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen (NTP, 2014), and probably carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals (IARC, 1995)…” The proposed regulations are “…to adopt a primary drinking water standard of 0.000005 milligrams per liter for 1,2,3-TCP in drinking water, consistent with and meeting the requirements of Health and Safety Code section 116365, and supporting regulations, including setting a Detection Limit for purposes of Reporting and identifying the Best Available Technology…”3*

The State Water Resources Control Board determined that 1,2,3-TCP has been identified in approximately one hundred public water systems across California. Though these are primarily in the Central Valley, it was also found in Santa Cruz, Monterey, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego counties. (To see a map of affected areas, refer to Reference 4).To add insult to injury, many Californians aren’t aware if this chemical is in their water, because without federal EPA or state regulation, public utilities haven’t had to test for it, filter it out, or advise their customers if it’s in the water. However, “…The Fresno City Council has authorized a study to find out how to remove 12,3-TCP from the city’s water supply…” (1,4)*

“…There have not been any studies on this chemical’s effects on humans, but animal studies showed multiple tumors in multiple sites in mice and rats. “There is absolutely no question that 1-2-3 TCP is a genotoxic carcinogen,” says Robert Howd, a toxicologist who led the scientific review for OEHHA.  “The data are very clear,” Howd says. “Virtually nobody is disputing that. There’s just no controversy about this being a DNA reactive carcinogen.” Howd’s team set the public health goal at .7 parts per trillion (.0007 parts per billion)1*

In some of the cases, Shell and Dow have paid money to clean up affected groundwater, but out of the more than 3 dozen cases filed against these companies, they don’t admit any wrongdoing. Some of the rural communities affected who suing Dow and Shell only have a few hundred households, comprised mainly of farm workers. In one community, the town’s two drinking water wells which serve only 467 household, tested at 7 parts per trillion. That is ten times the public health goal! Because these communities are small and comprised of mainly farm workers, the costly process of installing expensive carbon filtration systems needed to keep the carcinogen out of people’s tap water, would raise water rates too high for the median income. That is why they are suing Dow and Shell to pay for the cleanup.  

If you should live in one of the affected areas, there are under sink filters that take out Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). But because there’s no government standard for 1-2-3 TCP, there is no guarantee it will remove it because it’s not rated for that.1*

This is one more example of how we have to utterly proactive and vigilant about what we put in our bodies, and how we can never assume that because something is legal or available to us that it is safe. Of course we can’t live in constant fear, but those affected by this water crisis feel betrayed, as we all do when we find that the regulations, government bodies, companies or the people in place to protect us don’t do their job. What to do? Filter your water, eat and drink organic as much as possible, and keep your gut healthy. It is your greatest protection.

Healthiest wishes,





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