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#39 - New EPA Report Describes Trends: More Wastes May Be Produced But Fewer Wastes Will Be Regulate, 23-Aug-1987

A new "overview" of America's hazardous waste problems has been
released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Called "The
Hazardous Waste System," the report tries to look at "the big picture"
of hazardous waste production and regulation in the U.S. The report
finds that 96% (250 million tons) of all hazardous wastes are treated
on-site by the companies that produce the wastes; only four percent is
shipped off-site to commercial treatment plants. The vast majority of
on-site treatment consists of storage in a lagoon (to let the volatiles
become airborne), or treatment in a waste-water treatment tank (which
also volatilizes many organics). Two million tons are burned in 174 on-
site incinerators or in 14 commercial incinerators operating today.
Thirteen million tons are sent to about 430 landfills, only 60 of which
are commercial (the other 370 being operated by individual waste-
generating companies for their own use). Between 22 million and 35
million tons of wastes are deep-well injected.

Soon the EPA will require liners to be put into existing surface
impoundments (ponds, lagoons), and the agency expects many companies to
close their surface impoundments rather than add expensive liners. The
EPA thinks 100 million tons of wastes that used to go into lagoons will
soon be discharged into surface waters (rivers, lakes), or into sewage
treatment plants; both such discharges are exempt from regulation under
RCRA (the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act).

EPA also expects new restrictions on landfilling to increase the demand
for offsite commercial treatment facilities; the agency plans to push
hard to site new incinerators and new waste-processing plants.

An appendix to the report lists all the commercial hazardous waste
landfills, incinerators and deep well injection operations known to the
agency in 1985. Curiously, the report does not list the privately-
operated on-site facilities that handle 96% of the nation's hazardous
wastes.

The report says EPA will release draft regulations for ocean
incineration in October, 1987, and will issue final regulations in
October, 1988.

The report is available free from the Office of Solid Waste (WH-562A),
EPA, 401 M Street, SW, Washington, DC 20460; phone (202) 382-3000, or
(800) 424-9346.

--Peter Montague

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NO VISIBLE PROGRESS IN PREVENTING OR CURING CANCER, SAYS GAO STUDY

Most Americans aren't aware of it, but there's a battle raging around
the National Cancer Institute (NCI). President Richard Nixon declared
"war on cancer" in 1971, but there's scant evidence to show that any
substantial progress has been made in that war. The NCI stresses new
surgical techniques and new drug therapies to cure cancer, rather than
stressing cancer prevention. Their program has brought the following
results, according to the Govern ment Accounting Office (an
investigative arm of the U.S. Congress):

The U.S. cancer death rate rose from 162.2 deaths per 100,000
population in 1975 to 170.7 in 1984. If we omit lung cancer, the death
rate was 125.4 per 100,000 in 1975 and 125.1 in 1984, which is not a
large improvement.

The reported incidence of cancer (how many people were reported to have
come down with cancer) in 1975 was 330.5 per 100,000 and 351.8 in 1984.
Omitting lung cancer, the incidence rate rose from 285.3 per 100,000 in
1975 to 296.5 in 1984.

"Our cancer program is in big trouble," says Dr. John Bailar III, in
the School of Public Health at Harvard University. The National Cancer
Institute vigorously denies this assertion, but the cancer statistics
seem to speak more loudly than the agency's words. Maybe it's time to
get serious about a cancer prevention program, reducing human exposure
to some of the causes of cancer.

--Peter Montague

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Descriptor terms: cancer; nci; federal; overviews; hazardous waste;
epa; statistics; landfilling; lagoons; incineration; deep well
injection; ocean incineration; formaldehyde; occupational safety and
health; indoor air pollution; mobil homes;

EPA FINALLY AGREES FORMALDEHYDE CAN CAUSE CANCER; MANY AT RISK

The EPA in April, 1987, released a new report that concludes that the
common chemical, formaldehyde, is "probably a human carcinogen." The
agency took seven years to reach this conclusion. The data that they
published in their April report had been submitted to the agency by an
industrial laboratory, the respected Chemical Industry Institute of
Toxicology (CIIT), in 1980. The EPA "tried to bury questions about
formaldehyde," says a report in SCIENCE magazine, the voice of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The EPA estimates that 4662 workers each year will get cancer if they
work in an environment contaminated up to the limit currently allowed
by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is 3
ppm [parts per million]. In the garment industry alone, 770,000
workers, mostly women, are exposed to fairly high levels of
formaldehyde as they press formaldehyde-laden clothes to put
"staypressed" creases in chinos, jeans and other clothing.

Another population at risk from formaldehyde is average people living
in their homes and mobile homes. The EPA estimates that, at current
levels of exposure in typical air in homes, 1170 people die each year
from formaldehyde exposure in mobile homes and 630 die in conventional
homes.

--Peter Montague

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EPA'S NEW MASS BURN REGULATIONS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the
combustion of municipal solid waste "may reasonably be anticipated to
contribute to the endangerment of public health and welfare." The
agency has, therefore, published an "advance notice of EPA's intent to
propose regulation of municipal waste combustor [air] emissions..."
under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. The advance notice appears in
the FEDERAL REGISTER July 7, 1987, pgs. 25399-25408.

The advance notice contains much detail that citizens can use. For
example, pgs. 25399 through 25340 list 26 separate government
publications related to air pollution and potential health problems
associated with burning municipal waste. waste.

--Peter Montague

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Descriptor terms: incineration; msw; epa; regulations; formaldehyde;
occupational safety and health; indoor air pollution; mobile homes;