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Inspired by Indiana parent, EPA aims to ban another cancer-causing chemical

Emma Grace Findley (left) with her mother Kari Rhinehart (right).
Courtesy Of Kari Rhinehart
Emma Grace Findley (left) with her mother Kari Rhinehart (right). Emma passed away from a rare brain tumor in 2014.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to ban one of the chemicals thought to be responsible for rare cancers in Franklin and Martinsville. TCE is used in cleaning products, degreasers, brake cleaners and tire repair sealants.

The EPA said exposure to the chemical has been known to cause cancer as well as harm the brain and reproductive system — and there are many safer alternatives available.

Kari Rhinehart has fought to ban TCE since her daughter Emma died from a rare brain tumor in Franklin nearly a decade ago. Rhinehart said she recently got a phone call from someone at the EPA’s chemical safety office saying her activism helped to prompt the ban.

“It felt validating and it reminds me of how inspiring Emma's life was and how it continues to inspire people," she said.

But Rhinehart said the cleanup in Franklin is not over — it could take several years before TCE and other chemicals fully break down in the groundwater.

Chris Nidel is an environmental attorney who represents and is currently representing Franklin residents in a lawsuit involving chemical contamination. He said the EPA needs to go a step further to ensure communities already polluted with TCE get cleaned up so residents can no longer get exposed.

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Nidel said it’s good to see that the Biden administration is putting more effort into preventing cancer rather than just treatment.

“I think that's something that's been sorely lacking in all of our cancer and environmental policy is basically counting bodies rather than trying to prevent people from getting sick," Nidel said.

If the EPA goes through with the ban, the agency said most uses of TCE would be phased out within a year. The phase out would take longer for uses like refrigerants and battery separators for electric vehicles.

The EPA will accept public comments on the proposed ban for 45 days. The agency has also proposed phasing out the use of another cancer-causing chemical found in Franklin and Martinsville, PCE.

The Indiana Manufacturers Association declined to comment.

Rebecca is IPB's energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele

Copyright 2023 IPB News.