Denka challenges EPA over risk assessment of Chloroprene

Published 9:03 am Saturday, January 14, 2023

LAPLACE – Denka Performance Elastomer has filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s assessment of health risks related to chloroprene, claiming the agency has “refused to consider new, more accurate science.”

According to officials at DPE, the EPA has not designated the chemical as a “national or regional priority” for risk assessment.

“DPE and others believe it is critical the best available science is used to protect human health and the environment. The people of St. John the Baptist Parish deserve current and accurate scientific information regarding health risks in their community,” said DPE Executive Officer and Plant Manager Jorge Lavastida.

DPE’s legal challenge follows a January 9 letter from Louisiana Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy to EPA regarding the agency’s original chloroprene assessment from 2010 and states in part, “an update of the cancer risk assessment for chloroprene should be a national priority” and “would resolve a key source of uncertainty for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and Louisiana communities.”

DPE’s challenge asserts that the agency is significantly overestimating risk from chloroprene.  The company maintains that existing research on observed health outcomes in St. John the Baptist Parish, decades-long studies of workers exposed to chloroprene in plants in the United States and overseas, including studies of the health of workers at the LaPlace facility, and a physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model identified by EPA staff as a superior model are not reflected in the agency’s 2010 assessment.

The EPA and its peer reviewers requested a model of this type and worked cooperatively with DPE to develop such a model for nearly seven years. However, this model has not been incorporated into the EPA’s risk assessment. DPE is now challenging EPA’s denial of the new model in court.

Since purchasing its Neoprene production facility near Reserve in St. John the Baptist Parish in 2015, DPE has invested over $35 million in emission reduction projects that have reduced its chloroprene emissions by 85%. Furthermore, since the mid-1980s, chloroprene emissions from the site have been reduced by over 95% from approximately 500 to about 18 tons per year.

DPE continues to identify opportunities to further reduce the facility’s emissions and recently committed to implement projects that are expected to reduce chloroprene emissions by an additional 10%. The company employs more than 200 people and is the second-largest employer in St. John Parish.