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From February 3, 2005

Beyond Pesticides Analysis of EPA's Wood Preservative Risk Assessment Shows Serious Flaws
(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2005) On January 31, 2005, Beyond Pesticides and others sent public comments to EPA on the agency’s Preliminary Risk Assessment (PRA) for Pentachlorophenol (PCP), a wood preservative commonly used on utility poles and railroad ties. PCP and its contaminants – dioxins, furans and hexachlorobenzene – have been linked to oncogenicity, teratogenicity (causes birth defects) and fetotoxicity.

Originally expected in 2000, EPA’s PCP risk assessment, which was made public on November 30, 2005, comes five years after its previous draft – a time frame that is much too long for environmentalists concerned over the chemical’s adverse impacts to human health and the environment.

The following are just a few highlights of the serious flaws discovered by Beyond Pesticides analysis of the PCP risk assessment:

  • EPA has not, as it stated it would, incorporated a review of PCP constituents of concern, including dioxin and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) -- both of which are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by the United Nations and considered carcinogens by the National Institutes of Health.
  • In conducting its revision of the PCP risk assessment, EPA abandoned years of agency data and based its revisions totally on data provided to it by the Pentachlorophenol Task Force, a chemical industry group that has a vested economic interest in the continuing registration of PCP. EPA’s scientists pointed out a number of flaws in this study, such as insensitive of equipment and inadequate methodology and data collection.
  • In its first analysis, EPA estimated that children’s residential post-application exposure resulting from widespread use of PCP-treated utility poles poses an unacceptable cancer risk. Rather than address this risk and protect children, this risk has disappeared from the risk assessment with a simple unsubstantiated statement that this exposure does not occur.
  • EPA admits to several data gaps and missing studies in its Ecological Effects and Environmental Risk Characterization section of the risk assessment. Yet another example of EPA’s lack of commitment to properly evaluating this chemical.

Beyond Pesticides complete comments on the PCP risk assessment are available on our Watchdogging public comments webpage.