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Closing the Exposure Assessment Gap: A Case Study of Phthalates

July 20, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EDT

Closing the Exposure Assessment Gap: A Case Study of Phthalates

Exposure assessment is a core element of risk assessment, which is used as the basis for regulatory decision making on chemicals in the US. Exposure assessment systematically fails to provide realistic information to policymakers, leading to underestimates of risk and inadequate regulation.

Phthalates, a class of chemicals that affect male reproductive development among other adverse effects, provide an example of chemicals that are inadequately regulated, due in part to incomplete assessments of exposure. Phthalates are used widely in plastics, personal care products, fragrances, and other applications.

In this webinar, Dr. Bhavna Shamasunder will explain the problems with current approaches to exposure assessment, and will describe ways in which EPA could improve its approach in the short term. She will present the example of phthalates as a case study of the patchwork regulatory environment, the ways in which incomplete exposure assessments contribute to the problem, and the options for improving EPA’s approach. Her discussion of exposure assessment will draw upon and build on a recent study, Addressing Systemic Problems with Exposure Assessments to Protect the Public’s Health.

Women of color are disproportionately exposed to consumer product chemicals. Many of these chemicals are endocrine-active. Exposure is associated with hormone-mediated health conditions including uterine fibroids, preterm birth, diabetes, asthma, immunosuppression, and breast cancer. Dr. Shamasunder and Dr. Astrid Williams will discuss racial disparities in exposures to phthalates and implications for health, drawing upon the findings of the Taking Stock study on impacts of beauty products on Black and Latina women’s health.

The webinar will be moderated by Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz of Earthjustice, who will place the discussion in a framework of on-going work to address the cumulative risk of phthalates and other chemicals of high concern under the Toxic Substances Control Act. He will also discuss implications for environmental justice activities at EPA, and will highlight opportunities to take action on this issue.

This webinar is the first of two webinars cosponsored by CHE and the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE)’s Science Action Network, in which speakers will discuss the implications of a series of recent studies from PRHE on options for strengthening the chemical regulatory process. Together, these studies offer a road map through which EPA has the opportunity to improve regulation of chemicals in the short term, with existing authorities.

Featured Speakers

Dr. Bhavna Shamasunder is Associate Professor and Chair, Urban and Environmental Policy, Occidental College. Dr. Shamasunder teaches and conducts research at the intersection of environmental health and justice with a focus on inequalities in chemical exposures faced by low-income communities and communities of color who live and work in urban and/or industrial environments.


Dr. Astrid Williams is Manager for the Black Women for Wellness Environmental Justice program.  Dr. Williams has a wide range of experience in chronic disease, maternal and reproductive health. She is particularly passionate about women’s health issues. A significant portion of her work involves developing public policies that address community-level health and social issues using evidence-based practices. Throughout her career as an administrator and leader in public health, Dr. Williams has coordinated numerous programs. She holds a Doctorate of Public Health and Master of Public Health in Health Promotion and Education from Loma Linda University School of Public Health.

Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz is a supervising senior attorney in the Toxic Exposure & Health Program at Earthjustice, based out of Earthjustice’s Northeast office in New York. His work focuses largely on the regulation of toxic chemicals and pesticides under federal and state law, including the Toxic Substances Control Act and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Earthjustice’s Toxic Exposure & Health Program uses the power of the law to ensure that all people have safe workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools; have access to safe drinking water and food; and live in homes that are free of hazardous chemicals. The program works to ensure that regulators acknowledge and redress the inequitable burdens imposed on Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) through the manufacturing, use, and disposal of toxic chemicals.

More Information: https://www.healthandenvironment.org/webinars/96696

Register: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_zM7hP8zKR_W_tK2-t6jQbw#/registration


July 20, 2023
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EDT
Event Category:


Collaborative on Health and the Environment
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