Former Freedom Industries President Gary Southern and another former Freedom president and owner Dennis Farrell entered guilty pleas at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia today over their roles in the January 2014 chemical spill. Southern could face up to three years in federal prison and is scheduled to be sentenced in December. In addition to Southern and Farrell, four other former Freedom Industries former owners and senior officials have plead guilty to criminal charges and will also be sentenced in December to up to one year in prison.
The nation's federal toxic chemicals law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), has a number of significant shortcomings. Among other things, it does not generally require companies to test chemicals for possible health effects before using them in consumer products. And though the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act limits the amount of lead and bans certain chemicals known as phthalates in children's products, it doesn’t restrict the use of other toxic substances in consumer goods. To respond to this gap in addressing the use of toxic substances in consumer products, California adopted new regulations on Oct. 1 designed to create safer substitutes for hazardous ingredients in products sold in the state.
On Aug. 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a draft revised health assessment of the toxic chemical benzo(a)pyrene (BaP). This chemical is widely found in the environment and in a number of workplaces, and in its assessment, EPA declared that BaP causes cancer.