Are Disinfectant Products Safe?

August 10, 2020
In the face of a persistent global pandemic, disinfectants are more important than ever. These products sometimes rely on quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats,” to kill bacteria and viruses on surfaces. However, some scientists have started to examine these compounds for their possible toxicity in cells and animals. A new story in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, explores the safety of quat-containing disinfectants.
Quats are a family of several hundred compounds that have at least one positively charged nitrogen atom, typically linked to four alkyl or benzyl groups. These compounds kill bacteria and viruses by disrupting the structures of proteins and lipid membranes, writes special correspondent Xiaozhi Lim. Quats have been in use since the 1930s, and today they can be found in disinfecting sprays and wipes, hand soaps and hand sanitizers. They’re also used as preservatives in eye drops and as surfactants in shampoo.
In recent years, concerns have mounted regarding potential toxicity of quats. In animal and cell experiments, scientists have found links between the compounds and fertility and developmental problems, as well as disruption of other cellular processes. However, industry experts are skeptical about health risks in humans, as test doses given to animals in studies far exceed typical exposures in people. Some experts say that skin irritation is the biggest concern with the disinfectants, and that only a small amount of the compounds are actually absorbed by the body. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a unique opportunity to further explore quat safety, according to researchers.
Although hand sanitizers containing isopropanol are recommended, sanitizers that contain methanol are considered toxic. The FDA has warned consumers not to use sanitizers with methanol. See this link for details and to find sanitizers that were found to contain methanol.
Environmental Resource Center Update
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have combined our Safety and Environmental Tips of the week. This issue includes some of the latest recommendations for you to keep safe at work and at home in this evolving event.
The health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities is what matters most to all of us. To continue to serve you, our seminars have been converted to live online webcasts. You can find a list of upcoming live webcasts at this link.
If you have enrolled in a seminar in August or September, in many cases, the seminar will be held on approximately the same dates and at the same times via online webcast. We will contact you by phone or email regarding the details on how to attend the class. On-site training and consulting services are proceeding as usual. If you wish to convert these to remote services, please call your Environmental Resource Center representative or customer service at 800-537-2372.
Because many of our live and on-site training sessions have been postponed or canceled, we have staff available to assist you in coping with COVID-19 as well as your routine EHS requirements. If you have EHS staff that have been quarantined, we can provide remote assistance to help you meet your ongoing environmental and safety compliance requirements. For details, call 800-537-2372.
Enforcement Discretion for Transport of Disinfects and Package Retesting Extended
As the COVID-19 public health emergency continues, the Department of transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) indicated that the Agency is aware of the challenges that transportation companies are facing in providing personnel with necessary materials, such as hand sanitizers, that provide for protection of their health and safety and comply with government guidelines. Workplace locations like package sorting facilities, airport ramps, stations, and delivery vehicles often lack ready access to soap and water, resulting in an urgent need for sanitizing and disinfecting products.
As a result, PHMSA has extended its enforcement discretion for the transportation of any carrier transporting sanitizing and disinfecting materials on a motor vehicle for the purposes of protecting the health and safety of employees of the carrier. Transport of these products must also be in accordance with PHMSA’s April 20, 2020 Notice of Enforcement Discretion. The extended enforcement discretion will continue through October 31, 2020.
PHMSA has also extended enforcement discretion for  manufacturing of packaging designs beyond periodic retesting dates and certain gas cylinders containing Division 2.2 non-flammable gases through October 31, 2020.
Upcoming Revisions to Ohio Hazardous Waste Regulations
Ohio EPA has proposed amended, rescinded, and new Hazardous Waste Management Program rules to achieve consistency with U.S. EPA’s RCRA Subtitle C Program and increase regulatory flexibility. For example, the proposed rules allow, under certain conditions, consolidation of Very Small Quantity Generator waste at a Large Quantity Generator and episodic generation. The proposed rulemaking improves hazardous waste risk communication and ensures that emergency management requirement’s meet today’s needs.
The Generator Improvements rules include reorganization of the generator regulations, improving readability for the regulated community.
The Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals is composed of three main concepts: streamlined standards for handling hazardous waste pharmaceuticals; a prohibition on sewering hazardous waste pharmaceuticals, which is already in effect in Ohio; and, the nicotine waste listing (P075) will be amended to no longer include FDA-approved over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies, reducing the burden of managing these types of nicotine wastes.
The Safe Management of Recalled Airbags rules address the public health issue posed by recalled Takata airbag inflators still installed in vehicles. These rules expedite the removal of defective Takata airbag inflators from vehicles and direct this waste for safe and environmentally sound disposal. These rules consist of conditions that must be met to remain exempt from hazardous waste requirements.
There are several other subjects of Federal rulemaking that are addressed in this Ohio rule proposal to achieve consistency between U.S. EPA’s RCRA Subtitle C Program and the Ohio Hazardous Waste Program; see the public notice for a complete list.
Comments on the proposed rules must be received by 5:00 p.m. on August 17, 2020.
The proposed rule changes will be the subject of a virtual public hearing on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. During the virtual hearing, which will begin at 10:30 a.m., the public can submit written comments on the record about the proposed rules. If you want to participate, you must preregister in advance of the meeting.
New Study Illustrates Prevalence of Hearing Loss Among Noise-Exposed Workers in the Services Sector
New research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that a large number of noise-exposed workers within the Services industry sector, the largest sector in U.S. industry, have an elevated risk of hearing loss. The new study was recently published in the International Journal of Audiology.
Workers who are exposed to hazardous noise or chemicals that damage hearing can experience occupational hearing loss. Hazardous noise exposure is also associated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Hearing loss often co-occurs with tinnitus (‘ringing in the ears’) and is associated with depression and cognitive decline. The Mining, Construction, and Manufacturing sectors are recognized as having high percentages of workers exposed to hazardous noise, and therefore at higher risk of hearing loss. However, researchers identified sub-sectors within the Services sector that were also at higher risk for hearing loss.
The Services sector consists of a wide variety of services, including: newspaper, music and software publishing; renting and leasing; financial transactions; legal advice and representation; overseeing and managing governmental programs; security and surveillance; educational training; entertainment and recreation; accommodations and food service; machinery repairing; dry cleaning and laundry; and landscaping.
Researchers examined audiograms for 1.9 million noise-exposed workers across all industries, including audiograms for 158,436 Services workers. The main findings included:
  • The prevalence of hearing loss within Services was 17%, very close to the prevalence of all industries combined (16%).
  • However, many sub-sectors greatly exceeded the overall prevalence by large percentages (10-33% higher), and many had high risks for hearing loss.
  • Workers in Administration of Urban Planning and Community and Rural Development had the highest prevalence (50%), and workers in Solid Waste Combustors and Incinerators had more than double the risk, the highest of any sub-sector.
  • Some sub-sectors traditionally viewed as ‘low-risk’ also had higher than expected prevalences and/or risks, such as professional and technical services and schools. For example, Custom Computer Programming Services, and Elementary and Secondary Schools, had prevalences 35% and 26%, respectively.
Occupational hearing loss is preventable. For general occupational hearing loss prevention, NIOSH recommends removing or reducing noise at the source using the hierarchy of controls, and when noise cannot be reduced to safe levels, implementing an effective hearing conservation program. In the Services sector, additional research and surveillance are needed for sub-sectors for which there is low awareness of hearing hazards or a lack of hearing data. It is very important to identify the at-risk workers in these sub-sectors and protect their hearing, with the help of targeted interventions.
The study, Prevalence of Hearing Loss among Noise-exposed Workers within the Services Sector, 2006–2015, can be found here.
To find out more about NIOSH research and noise and hearing loss prevention, please visit this webpage. For more information on occupational hearing loss surveillance, including industry sector-specific statistics on hearing loss, tinnitus, noise exposure, and other information, please visit the Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance webpage.
Safely Get Your EHS Training at Home or in Your Office
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training. Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home. Webcast attendees receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
Upcoming hazardous waste and DOT hazardous materials webcasts:
Hazardous Waste Management: Annual Update – August 25, September 14, September 29 
DOT Hazardous Materials Update – August 26, September 15, September 30
PCB Manufacturer to Pay $52 Million for DC Contamination
Washington, DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced that Monsanto will pay $52 million to resolve a lawsuit over the company’s production, promotion, and sale of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that damaged the District’s natural resources and put the health of residents at risk. The settlement with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) resolves a May 2020 lawsuit which alleged that Monsanto sold PCBs for nearly 50 years, despite knowing that these chemicals would pollute waterways, kill wildlife, and cause significant health problems in humans, including cancer and liver damage. There are at least 36 bodies of water in the District with high levels of PCB contamination, including the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. OAG’s lawsuit sought to force Monsanto—which manufactured over 99% of the PCBs ever used in the U.S.—to pay for clean-up of PCB contamination in the District. This settlement, secured just two months after the lawsuit was filed, is OAG’s largest recovery to date in an environmental action.
“This settlement holds Monsanto accountable for polluting the District’s environment for decades and requires it to pay to clean up the toxic PCB contamination of our land, wildlife, and waters,” said AG Racine. “The Office of the Attorney General will not tolerate companies putting the health of our residents or natural resources at risk, nor will we allow polluters to avoid responsibility for breaking the law.”
Monsanto, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bayer AG, is an agricultural products company based in St. Louis, Missouri. Two companies that were formerly part of Monsanto—Solutia (which took over Monsanto’s chemical business) and Pharmacia (which took over Monsanto’s pharmaceutical business)—share legal responsibility for the chemicals the old Monsanto company produced, including PCBs.
PCBs are toxic chemicals that harm the environment and wildlife and cause serious health problems in humans. PCBs were widely used in products like paint, sealant, caulking, and electrical appliances before they were banned in the U.S. in 1979. PCBs from those products entered the air, water, and soil—and because they do not break down, they are still in the environment today.
OAG filed suit against Monsanto in May 2020 alleging it knowingly sold toxic products, misled consumers and regulators to maximize profits, and damaged the District’s natural resources. Bodies of water in the District with high levels of PCB contamination include the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, the Tidal Basin, the C&O Canal, and dozens of small streams and creeks. The lawsuit sought to recover damages, civil penalties, and costs of cleaning up PCB contamination in the District.
The settlement resolves OAG’s lawsuit and requires Monsanto to pay $52 million to the District. The majority of these funds will be dedicated to environmental clean-up of District waterways. A portion will be dedicated to supporting OAG’s litigation, and a portion will go to the District’s general fund.
Back to School and Back to Work Means Time for Water System Flushing
The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality (NDDEQ) reminded building administrators, owners or managers, that periods of inactivity can cause lead leaching or bacterial growth in building water systems. Proper flushing of plumbing before schools and other businesses reopen is essential to maintain water quality. Flushing water systems should be performed while the building is unoccupied and before reopening, if possible.
The NDDEQ recommends that facilitators who manage buildings with lead plumbing lines follow the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “3Ts Flushing Best Practices” document at
Plumbing maintenance procedures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control for all other buildings reopening after a prolonged shutdown are at
Please follow the appropriate protocol for flushing the plumbing in your building to prevent lead and legionella exposure.
Biofuel Fraudster Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison for Scamming Multiple Federal Agencies and Customers
The owner of a biofuel company was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by a three-year term of supervised release and ordered to pay $10,207,000 in restitution for defrauding multiple federal agencies and customers.
Following a four-week trial before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl, a federal jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania convicted David Dunham, owner of Smarter Fuel LLC in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania and co-owner of Greenworks Holdings LLC of Allentown, Pennsylvania, of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and defraud the United States; wire fraud; filing false tax documents and obstruction of justice.
The conviction arose from Dunham’s planning and executing a scheme to defraud the EPA, the IRS, the USDA, and his customers, to obtain renewable fuel credits in his “green energy” business.
“This sentence sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud and will not hesitate to prosecute those who seek to undermine support for true American-made renewable fuel,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Mr. Dunham’s crimes were longstanding and elaborate, but this did not stop the Department from ensuring that such crimes are punished and justice is done.”
“David Dunham is a thief, dressed up in ‘green energy’ clothing,” said U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “He thought he could con not just one, but several federal agencies. Eventually, his lies caught up to him and now his reward is a long stint in federal prison.”
“David Dunham used false and fraudulent pretenses to steal millions of dollars from the Government,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Thomas Fattorusso. “His loss of liberty today is the price he must pay for scamming the Government and stealing from hard working American taxpayers.”
To carry out his green energy scam, from 2010 to 2015 Dunham fraudulently applied for, received, and sold EPA “credits” for producing biofuels that he, in fact, did not produce and, in many instances, had never possessed in the first place. Dunham also sought and received millions of dollars from the IRS and the USDA based on the same falsehoods. All told, based on the repeated falsehoods he told the federal agencies, Dunham obtained nearly $50 million in fraudulent revenue. In carrying out this massive fraud, Dunham used his businesses, Smarter Fuel, which he owned, and Greenworks Holdings, which he operated with his co-defendant, Ralph Tomasso, who previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud federal programs.
The evidence at trial also showed that Dunham engaged in multiple cover-ups designed to hide his crimes from authorities. These included altering his accounting records the day before an IRS audit in 2010 and providing a USDA auditor with dozens of falsified records, which Dunham had ordered an employee to produce, during a 2012 audit.
The case was investigated by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, the IRS Criminal Investigation, and the USDA’s Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary E. Crawley and Trial Attorney Adam Cullman of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Updated HAZMAT Emergency Guidebook
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced the publication of the 2020 edition of its Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG), providing first responders with a newly revised go-to manual that offers guidance on what to do during the critical first 30 minutes of a hazmat transportation accident.
“PHMSA is proud to produce and distribute a new and improved iteration of this critical safety resource for emergency responders across the nation,” said PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott. “Hazmat incidents present a range of safety challenges and responders need to know exactly what they’re dealing with.”
The ERG contains an indexed list of dangerous goods and their associated ID numbers, general hazards they pose, and recommended safety precautions. PHMSA will distribute more than 1.8 million copies of the guidebook to firefighters, emergency medical technicians and law enforcement officers across the nation.
The ERG is available to public safety agencies in all states and territories for free through designated state emergency management coordinators’ offices. PHMSA has partnered with the National Library of Medicine to provide the ERG as a free mobile app.
Print copies of ERG2020 will be available soon from Environmental Resource Center at low cost for multiple copies. For details, click here.
7th Annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls Rescheduled for September 14-18, 2020
OSHA announced that the 7th annual National Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction has been rescheduled for September 14-18, 2020. While OSHA postponed the event earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency continues to encourage employers to promote fall safety virtually or while employing social distancing practices among small groups.
OSHA is partnering with other safety organizations in 2020 to encourage employers to provide safety demonstrations on fall protection equipment, conduct talks regarding fall-related hazards, safety policies, goals and expectations, and promote the event by using the #StandDown4Safety on social media.
"This national initiative brings much needed attention to falls, which continue to be the leading cause of fatalities in construction," said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. "Since OSHA began doing fall prevention stand-down events six years ago, nearly 10 million workers have been reached by our message that falls are preventable. These efforts have been successful in raising awareness of the recognition, evaluation, and control of fall hazards."
Extensive resources are available on OSHA’s Fall Prevention Stand-Down webpage at and are presented in various languages, including English, Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese. Resources include:
  • A brief video entitled “5 Ways to Prevent Workplace Falls,” which encourages employers to educate and train workers on fall protection equipment;
  • A series of fall prevention publications, with an emphasis on construction, and fall prevention videos;
  • OSHA's Fall Prevention Training Guide, which provides a lesson plan for employers, including several Toolbox Talks; and
  • Guidance on ladder and scaffolding safety.
Employers are also encouraged to provide feedback after their events, and obtain a personalized certificate of participation.
The national safety stand-down is part of OSHA's fall prevention campaign and was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Occupational Research Agenda, and The Center for Construction Research and Training.
New Mexico to Require Employers to Disclose Positive COVID-19 Cases to State
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) filed an emergency rule that requires employers to report positive COVID-19 cases to NMED within four hours of being notified of the case.
The emergency amendment is effective immediately and will remain in effect for no more than 120 days, unless NMED proposes and the Environmental Improvement Board adopts a permanent rule prior to the end of the 120-day period.
NMED’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau is frequently notified of positive cases after employers are notified, resulting in delayed rapid responses. To date, there have been more than 600 cases where the employer knew of a positive worker before NMED, including more than 280 instances where the employer knew of the case at least three days before NMED.
By requiring employers to report positive cases in a timely manner, the state will be able to more rapidly respond to workplaces, providing immediate guidance and support to employers and preventing the spread of COVID-19 beyond the infected employees.
“A critical element of the state’s rapid responses is timing – we need to hear as soon as possible when a positive case is identified,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “This amendment ensures that New Mexico employees are protected in the workplace and employers are held accountable. Our Occupational Health and Safety Bureau expects compliance with this emergency rule starting today.”
Violations of the emergency rule may result in NMED enforcement action. The emergency rule is available here.
New Michigan Drinking Water Standards Pave Way For Expansion of Michigan's PFAS Clean Up Efforts
The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) announced an expansion of PFAS investigations and clean-up efforts across the state in response to the state’s adoption of new standards aimed at protecting Michiganders from PFAS contamination in municipal drinking water.
Administered by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), the new regulations limit seven PFAS chemicals in municipal drinking water. The following Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) were adopted:
Specific PFAS
Drinking Water MCL
Parts per Trillion (ppt)
6 ppt
8 ppt
400,000 ppt
16 ppt
1 ppt
420 ppt
370 ppt
The new drinking water standards also update Michigan’s existing groundwater clean-up criteria of 70 ppt for PFOS and PFOA. The new groundwater standard is 8 ppt for PFOA and 16 ppt for PFOS.
“MPART has established itself as a national leader in responding to PFAS contamination,” said MPART executive director Steve Sliver. “These new PFAS limits are an important regulatory tool that will allow us to expand our mission and protect more Michiganders from these contaminants.”
The new groundwater standards for PFAS result in 38 new sites being added into MPART’s portfolio of ongoing PFAS investigations. Most of these sites are landfills or former manufacturing facilities already the subject of ongoing state investigations into other forms of contamination.
Summaries of the new sites have been posted on the MPART web site and MPART members have begun the process of contacting local officials and stakeholders about the new PFAS investigations. MPART is also planning to host a series of regional webinars in September to provide the public more information regarding next steps in these investigations.
“EGLE and the MPART taskforce have been aggressively investigating PFAS contamination and protecting Michiganders’ drinking water for several years now, so we already have some analytical data and a proven process for addressing these new sites,” Sliver said. “What the new rules provide is a roadmap for further investigation, clean-up and compliance discussions with the parties responsible for PFAS contamination.”
Known to scientists as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS are a group of potentially harmful contaminants used in thousands of applications globally including firefighting foam, food packaging and many other consumer products. These compounds also are used by industries such as tanneries, metal platers and clothing manufacturers.
To learn more about PFAS, visit the MPART website:
Crystal Geyser Water Bottler Ordered to Pay $5 Million Criminal Fine for Illegal Storage, Transportation of Arsenic-Laced Waste
The company that produces “Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water” was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay criminal fines totaling $5 million for illegally storing and transporting hazardous waste created from filtering arsenic out of spring water at its facility in Olancha, California.
United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee also ordered CG Roxane LLC to implement a compliance program within 90 days to ensure it complies with federal and state environmental laws and implement that program within 180 days of the sentencing hearing. The compliance program includes the company’s retention of a qualified and experienced third-party environmental auditor to conduct annual audits of CG Roxane’s Olancha facility.
The company pleaded guilty on January 9 to one count of unlawful storage of hazardous waste and one count of unlawful transportation of hazardous material. The financial penalty Judge Gee imposed consisted of a $2.5 million criminal fine for each count.
CG Roxane obtained water by drawing groundwater from the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains that contained naturally occurring arsenic. The company used sand filters to reduce the concentration of arsenic so the water would meet federal drinking water standards. To maintain the effectiveness of the sand filters, CG Roxane back-flushed the filters with a sodium hydroxide solution, which generated thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated wastewater.
For approximately 15 years, CG Roxane discharged the arsenic-contaminated wastewater into a manmade pond – known as “the Arsenic Pond” – at its Olancha facility along Highway 395 in Inyo County.
In March 2013, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board took a sample from the Arsenic Pond and in 2014 informed CG Roxane that the sample had an arsenic concentration that was more than eight times the hazardous waste limit, creating a risk to the area’s groundwater and wildlife. The water board referred the matter to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which took its own samples that showed the Arsenic Pond had an arsenic concentration almost five times the federal hazardous waste limit. Subsequent sampling and testing by CG Roxane and its retained laboratory confirmed a similar arsenic concentration in the Arsenic Pond.
DTSC officials met with CG Roxane representatives in April 2015, presented a list of preliminary violations, and instructed the company to arrange for the removal of the Arsenic Pond.
In May 2015, CG Roxane hired two Los Angeles-area entities to remove the hazardous waste and transport it – which was done without the proper manifest and without identifying the wastewater as a hazardous material, according to court documents. The arsenic-contaminated wastewater was ultimately transported to a Southern California facility that was not authorized to receive or treat hazardous waste. As a result, more than 23,000 gallons of the wastewater from the Arsenic Pond allegedly was discharged into a sewer without appropriate treatment.
The two companies hired to transport and treat the wastewater – United Pumping Services, Inc. and United Storm Water, Inc., both located in the City of Industry – each pleaded guilty on June 10 to four counts of negligently causing a violation of a pretreatment program requirement. On July 29, Judge Gee ordered each company to pay a $375,000 criminal fine.
The investigation in this case focused on alleged violations involving the handling, storage and transportation of CG Roxane’s wastewater, not the safety or quality of CG Roxane’s bottled water.
The investigation in this matter was conducted by the EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division and the DOT’s Office of Inspector General. These federal agencies received assistance from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Dennis Mitchell and Heather C. Gorman of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California also assisted in the investigation.
Industrial Laundry Cited for Air Emissions
A West Springfield, Mass. industrial laundry company will take steps to significantly reduce air pollution from its operations under a settlement agreement with the EPA. New England Industrial Uniform Rental Service, Inc., will also pay a penalty of $51,700 for its alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
EPA alleged that NE Uniform Service's operations resulted in emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which impair air quality. Prior to the issuance of EPA's enforcement action, the company had not applied for an air permit from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). Further, NE Uniform Service had not implemented "reasonably available control technology" (RACT) at the facility as required by the MassDEP, which would reduce emissions of VOCs.
The company launders business uniforms and industrial shop towels. Until recently, the company also laundered print towels. Print towels caused most of the facility's air emissions, since these towels are often contaminated with solvents that contain VOCs. Under the settlement, NE Uniform Service has been prohibited from laundering print towels after June 30, 2020, and will implement best management practices for the laundering of shop towels that contain oils and grease. Emissions of VOC will also be limited by its new air permit. These measures will ensure that the facility stays below a specified VOC emissions limit and allow it to meet RACT requirements without additional emission controls.
The facility is located at 355 Union Street in West Springfield, in an urban area that includes significant amounts of residential dwellings. The surrounding area also has a high percentage of minority and low-income population.
"This settlement will result in improved air quality for people living in an urban residential neighborhood of West Springfield that has experienced environmental justice concerns," said EPA Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. "Reducing VOC emissions from this industrial laundry will help local residents who live near the facility to enjoy healthier air quality."
VOCs include a variety of chemicals that may produce adverse health effects such as eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; nausea; and damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Moreover, emissions of VOCs contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, which is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and VOCs in the presence of sunlight. Ground level ozone can trigger various respiratory problems and can also harm sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.
Over the past few years, EPA has conducted numerous inspections of industrial laundry facilities across New England in an effort to address Clean Air Act violations, and EPA has taken enforcement actions with associated penalties against AmeriPride, Cintas, Clean Uniforms, Coyne, G&K, and Unifirst.
Groups Sue Trump Administration for NEPA Rule Changes
A coalition of justice and environmental groups sued the Trump administration over its regulations that would gut environmental reviews and silence community input.
The rules from the Council on Environmental Quality would eliminate environmental reviews for many projects, curtail the harmful impacts that are considered when reviews do take place, and hinder public participation. The parties filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
“We are standing up today to ensure each of us is guaranteed the right to a healthy and safe community,” said Michele Roberts, national co-coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance. “The Trump administration’s assault on democracy undermines our ability to fight egregious projects and gives industry free rein to put pipelines through our backyards or incinerators near our schools.”
The National Environmental Policy Act, signed into law 50 years ago, sets out a simple and straightforward process: The federal government must consider the environmental impacts of its major actions and then put that assessment out for public review and comment.
The rules, issued July 15, would allow federal agencies to ignore the serious environmental and health impacts of their decisions, undermining the core protections of the law. Given where polluting projects are often located, low-income communities and communities of color are the most at risk from this rollback.
Lead plaintiff Environmental Justice Health Alliance filed the case together with New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, National Audubon Society, and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). They are all represented by NRDC attorneys. The Sierra Club and New York Civil Liberties Union joined in the lawsuit. A copy of the complaint is here.
Read This if You Drink Well Water
A program to teach data literacy to Maine and New Hampshire students by analyzing data on arsenic in well water collected from their homes has found that 25 percent of samples exceed the New Hampshire maximum safety level of 5 parts per billion (ppb) and 15 percent exceed the EPA maximum safety level of 10 ppb.
The program also found that 62 percent of homeowners in the two states hadn't had their well water tested or didn't know if it had been tested despite the fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing at least once a year.
The results were recently presented to a committee of the Maine State Legislature by Jane E. Disney, Ph.D., who is the principal investigator for the program and director of research training at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor. Her testimony was delivered in support of a bill (LD 1943) to improve well water quality in Maine.
Residents of Maine and New Hampshire rely heavily on private wells for drinking water, but few have their wells tested regularly for arsenic, which leaches out of the bedrock. Arsenic has been designated by the EPA as the environmental contaminant with the biggest impact on human health.
According to the EPA, long-term exposure, even at low levels, can lead to numerous severe health problems, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and reproductive, developmental and cognitive problems, including lower IQs. Arsenic is a particular problem in New England's coastal "arsenic belt," where many wells exceed EPA limits.
The five-year, $1.2 million data literacy program, entitled "Data to Action: A Secondary School-based Citizen Science Project to Address Arsenic Contamination of Well Water," is funded through a SEPA (Science Education Partnership Award) to the MDI Biological Laboratory from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
Since the inception of the program, teachers and students from 12 Maine and six New Hampshire schools have analyzed more than 1,200 well water samples in collaboration with Dartmouth College, which conducted the tests.
"The facts that this program has uncovered are staggering," Disney testified in support of the bill, entitled "An Act to Protect Drinking Water for Low-income Maine Residents."
The bill calls for revising the maximum contaminant level for arsenic to be consistent with recent research on toxicity and suitable consumption levels, and for establishing a free testing program for low-income residents. The current maximum contaminant level in Maine is 10 ppb, which follows the standard set by the EPA.
Disney also encouraged members of the Health and Human Services Committee to expand the scope of the bill to include support for outreach, education and mitigation.
"Students are learning that their communities are at risk and are trying to address this problem in many ways, from public outreach to the filming of videos," she said. "But they cannot solve this problem on their own. They will need the help of legislators to assure that residents whose wells have elevated arsenic can get the help they need."
Disney also noted that the bill makes economic sense because the costs of treating arsenic-related disease and of providing special education services to affected children are far greater than those of testing and mitigation. The committee has since approved the bill, which will now come before the state legislature.
"The SEPA program is the most recent example of our long-standing commitment to environmental health," said Hermann Haller, M.D., MDI Biological Laboratory president. "We are gratified that this program is helping to protect our most vulnerable populations from the adverse health consequences of arsenic exposure."
The test results are being provided to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in order to help them monitor the extent of arsenic exposure and implement mitigation strategies.
The SEPA grant was awarded to the MDI Biological Laboratory in 2018 to establish a national learning model for secondary school education in data literacy while also increasing awareness about the importance of well water testing and mobilizing communities to address issues related to well water safety.
The "Data to Action" project is supported by Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant 1R25GM129796-01 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, an institute of the National Institutes of Health.
Proposed Rule on Proposition 65 Labeling of Cooked Foods
California’s Office of Environmental and Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is the lead agency that implements Proposition 65 and has the authority to promulgate and amend regulations to further the purposes of the Act. Proposition 65 prohibits a person in the course of doing business from knowingly and intentionally exposing any individual to a chemical that has been listed as known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual.
An exemption from the warning requirement is provided by the Act when the exposure for which the person is responsible can be demonstrated to fall below significant levels. Besides these statutory exemptions, in certain situations, regulatory exceptions have been adopted for specific types of exposure as specified in Article 5. Currently there are regulatory exceptions from the warning requirement for exposures to naturally occurring chemicals in food, specific concentrations of naturally occurring arsenic in rice, and for certain exposures to listed chemicals in water or air.
Recognizing the desirability of incentivizing businesses to reduce levels of these chemicals in foods, the proposed regulation would create an exception from the warning requirement for listed chemicals in food that are unavoidably created during cooking or heat processing, and that have been reduced to the lowest level currently feasible.
This proposal will further the statutory purposes of Proposition 65 by providing more certainty to businesses, incentivize them to lower the concentration levels in foods when feasible, encourage consistency and predictability and ensure that warnings will be given for the foods causing the highest levels of exposure. This will allow consumers to identify foods with significant, avoidable levels of listed chemicals created during cooking or heat processing, while mitigating against a proliferation of warnings on many foods with lower, unavoidable levels of these chemicals.
Safety Summit: Save the Date: Sept 21 – 25
At the Workplace Learning Safety Summit, you can learn how to implement the WLS safety culture development system. The journey begins when safety is more than a goal or objective, but an unwavering value. Environmental Resource Center is partnering with WLS to provide environmental compliance training during the summit on the following topics:
  • EPCRA reporting
  • SPCC Tier I plans
  • Stormwater
  • Universal Waste
Registration details will be available soon, or you can click this link to request information on registration as soon as it's available.
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Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual hazardous waste training is required for anyone who generates, accumulates, stores, transports, or treats hazardous waste. Learn how to manage your hazardous waste in accordance with the latest state and federal regulations. Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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