Saturday, November 21, 2009

Daryl Ditz Testimony at Congressional Hearing on TSCA Chemical Control

This is a continuation of my series taking a closer look at the November 17, 2009 Congressional hearings on "Prioritizing Chemicals for Safety Determination." Earlier I gave an overall summary. Today I look at the testimony of Daryl Ditz, a Senior Policy Advisor for the Center for International Environmental Law.

Ditz started by saying that "despite its aspirational title, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has failed to assess, let alone guarantee, the safety of the great majority of chemicals in use today." He further suggested that "TSCA stymies action by EPA and other agencies, perpetuates a reliance on dangerous substances, leaves businesses in the dark, and undermines U.S. competitiveness." Needless to say, Mr. Ditz believes the time is right to modernize TSCA.

He offered three recommendations for fixing TSCA.

1) To expedite action, Ditz said that "Congress should authorize EPA to promptly identify and phase out non-essential uses of a set of high-priority chemicals." He believes that "a slow, cumbersome safety determination process for these high-priority chemicals is neither necessary nor appropriate." He identifies these as the "worst-of-the-worst," defined primarily as those chemicals that exhibit PBT properties, i.e., Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic. Many PBT chemicals have already been identified and are characterized by remaining largely unchanged in the environment or people's bodies for long periods of time, biomagnify up the food chain (e.g., concentrations get higher as you move from plant to animal to higher order animal), and show high toxicity. Ditz believes that the old "unreasonable risk" standard in TSCA has actually prevented EPA from taking action on chemicals it knows need to be regulated.

2) Congress should "authorize EPA to prioritize the order in which all chemicals, new as well as existing, are assessed against a health-based standard." Ditz said that industry should be required to prove the safety of their chemicals (rather than the current system in which EPA must demonstrate lack of safety). He mentioned that the 2008 Kid Safe Chemical Act (which was never passed) would have prioritized chemicals for further review, but that prioritization shouldn't be used to exclude them from review, just determine the order they are reviewed. He noted that the previous administration's ChAMP initiative was "misguided" in that in trying to sort through nearly 7000 chemicals it "wrongly labeled 'low risk'" many chemicals on the basis of inadequate and unreliable data. Ditz felt the process advocated by the American Chemistry Council in its recently released "principles for TSCA modernization" would "repeat this mistake by subjecting only a fraction of existing chemicals," often based on limited data, to a safety determination and "letting the majority of chemicals sidestep credible evaluation."

3) Congress should ensure that "up-to-date, comprehensive information is available on all chemicals, to protect the health and safety of Americans and foster confidence in the market." Ditz noted repeatedly that the quantity and quality of data available in which to do these prioritizations was severely limited for most chemicals. He said that "U.S. policy should require chemical manufacturers to develop, submit and periodically update data on the potential hazards, exposures, and uses of chemicals they manufacture or import." He insisted that minimum data requirements are needed because major data gaps limit the ability to make informed assessments.

Finally, Mr. Ditz seconded the need for CDC and other organizations to conduct biomonitoring as "an important check on human exposures in the real world." He also believes that the ongoing efforts in Europe (REACH) and Canada (Chemical Categorization Program) can be used to help inform the evaluation of chemicals in the United States.

Tomorrow I will take a look at the testimony of William J. Greggs, a consultant for the Consumer Specialty Products Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the Soap and Detergent Association (and formerly with Procter & Gamble).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eric Sampson Testimony at Congressional Hearing on Chemical Control

Yesterday I gave a summary of the testimony of EPA Assistant Administrator Steve Owens from the November 17, 2009 Congressional hearings on "Prioritizing Chemicals for Safety Determination." Earlier I gave an overall summary. Today I continue with the series as I take a closer look at the testimony of Eric Sampson, who is Director of the Division of Laboratory Sciences in the National Center for Environmental Health with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which we all know as the CDC.

Sampson emphasized the value of biomonitoring in prioritization efforts. He described the current CDC biomonitoring programs and how they may be expanded. For those who don't know, biomonitoring refers to the taking of samples from humans, usually blood and urine samples, and analyzing them for a variety of chemicals. Sampson notes that biomonitoring, unlike measures of environmental samples like air, soil, water and food, tells the actual amount of chemical from all sources that gets into people. He did say that biomonitoring is pretty far ahead of the science of interpreting what they see, but is still valuable for a variety of human health purposes such as "identifying relative levels of exposure in the population, particularly in children and other vulnerable groups," as well as "setting priorities for research into the health effects of chemicals."

He gave an overview of several ongoing biomonitoring efforts, including the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is a snapshot study repeated several times since the 1970s and then every two years since 1999. The Fourth National Exposure Report is due out by the end of this year. CDC also does targeted biomonitoring surveys in partnership with states, other federal agencies, academic institutions, and international organizations. One important collaboration is the National Children's Study, which is "designed to follow 100,000 children from conception to ae 21.

They key point of Dr. Sampson's testimony is that biomonitoring data by the CDC and other organizations can be an important tool in prioritizing chemicals for further review. Several studies have already shown that hundreds of chemicals are routinely found in the blood (including cord blood), breast milk, and urine, and that these findings can help identify those chemicals of greatest concern for review. He also notes that past biomonitoring has helped regulators "monitor the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce exposures," as was demonstrated by tracking lead concentrations in blood as lead-based gasoline additives were phased out.

It should be noted that the Kid Safe Chemical Act of 2008, some version of which is expected to be reintroduced in this session of Congress, included a greater emphasis on biomonitoring. Whether it is in the new version remains to be seen as California's attempt to institute a biomonitoring program have been stymied by the economic downturn.

Tomorrow I'll take a closer look at the testimony of Daryl Ditz, Senior Policy Adviser at the Center for International Law, who urged Congress to focus first on "the worst of the worst" chemicals.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Steve Owens testimony at Congressional Hearings on TSCA Chemical Control

Yesterday I gave an overall summary of the November 17, 2009 Congressional hearings regarding TSCA chemical control modernization in the House. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, chaired by Illinois Representative Bobby Rush, listened to a series of witnesses on the subject of "Prioritizing Chemicals for Safety Determination." See yesterday for a brief review of each testimony.

Today I take a closer look at the testimony of Steve Owens, who is the new Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. OPPTS would have the major role for EPA in any new version of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Owens made a point of reminding the Representatives that TSCA, which was enacted in 1976, is the only major environmental statute that has not been reauthorized. In addition, the TSCA Inventory was created by simply grandfathering all the existing chemicals at the time - about 63,000 of them - onto a list with the intent of reviewing them for safety considerations at some later date. After 33 years, only about 200 have been required by EPA to have any safety testing done, and "only five of these existing chemicals have been regulated under TSCA's ban authority."

Owens also noted that "today, advances in toxicology and analytical chemistry are revealing new pathways of exposure." In particular he mentioned "subtle and troubling effects of many chemicals on hormone systems, human reproduction, intellectual development and cognition, particularly in young children." He added that it was "clear that in order for EPA to properly do its job of protecting human health and the environment, TSCA must be updated and strengthened. EPA needs the tools to do the job the public expects."

He reiterated the principles introduced by Administrator Lisa Jackson in late September, which I've summarized previously.

Owens then talked about "a number of steps that EPA will be taking over the coming months to put in place a multi-pronged approach to strengthen EPA's efforts to manage industrial chemicals." He noted that the ChAMP program was reviewed and determined to be "too focused on categorizing thousands of chemicals, which would take years." He said the reviews also showed that "most of the evaluation was based on limited and incomplete test and exposure data." In short, ChAMP was a lot of effort and not much value.

Instead they are starting up an "enhanced chemical management program," which will "require that companies submit information to fill the remaining gaps in basic health and safety data on HPV chemicals." EPA also plans to "make the reporting to chemical use information more transparent, more current, more useful, and more useable by the public." In short, Owens said that Administrator Jackson directed his office "in the interim to utilize our current authority under TSCA to the fullest extent possible, including Section 6 authority to label, restrict, or ban a chemical, to ensure that we do everything we can to protect the American people from dangerous chemicals."

EPA is currently "evaluating an initial set of chemicals based on available hazard, exposure and use information." Factors used to prioritize this initial set include:

1) use in consumer products (because people may have regular exposure to them even though they usually are not of particular hazard)

2) presence in human blood (e.g., chemicals found in recent biomonitoring studies by the CDC and advocacy groups)

3) persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic characteristics (i.e., PBT chemicals, which my remain in humans or the environment for a long time without breaking down, plus are toxic)

4) toxicity (for obvious reasons)

5) production volume (the voluntary HPV Challenge programs and the EU's new mandatory REACH program also focused on chemicals made in the highest volumes)

Once prioritized, EPA plans to complete and make public a series of "action plans" that will "outline the risks that use of these chemicals may present and what steps we may take to address those concerns."

EPA would then engage with stakeholders (both manufacturers, users, and the public) to prioritize additional chemicals for evaluation. Owens noted that EPA plans to make new action plans available to the public every four months.

According to EPA's web site, they are currently evaluating an initial set of chemicals for action plan development, including:

* Benzidine dyes and pigments
* Bisphenol A (BPA)
* Penta, octa, and decabromodiphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in products
* Perfluorinated chemicals
* Phthalates
* Short-chain chlorinated paraffins

Four of these will have action plans released in December.

And so it begins. TSCA reform is in the works and all stakeholders agree that the way the US manages chemicals needs to be modernized. I'll continue to provide updates and commentary as the process moves forward.

Tomorrow I'll talk more about what Eric Sampson at the CDC had to say about the value of biomonitoring in prioritization efforts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Summary of Congressional Hearings on TSCA Chemical Control

As I noted yesterday, the House held a hearing on November 17th, 2009 to discuss prioritization of chemicals for control in the United States. This is part of the process for introducing a reform (or "modernization") of TSCA, the prevailing chemical control law for the last 33 years.

Here's a quick summary of the main points from each speaker's testimony. I will do more in-depth reviews of each in the following days.

Steve Owens, Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, indicated that EPA does not have sufficient authority to reevaluate existing chemicals that were grandfathered into the Inventory at the time of its creation. He explained that EPA will prioritize chemicals based on their presence in human blood, whether they are PBTs, their toxicity, and their volume of production. Mr. Owens also mentioned EPA’s plan to issue “action plans” for a set of chemicals every four months, starting in December.

I'll talk more about Steve Owens' testimony tomorrow.

Eric Sampson, Director of the Division of Laboratory Sciences in the National Center for Environmental Health with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emphasized the value of biomonitoring in prioritization efforts.

Daryl Ditz, a Senior Policy Advisor for the Center for International Environmental Law, proposed three ways to fix TSCA, beginning with giving EPA the authority to effectively regulate “the worst of the worst” chemicals.

William J. Greggs, a consultant for the Consumer Specialty Products Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the Soap and Detergent Association (and formerly with Procter & Gamble), stated that prioritization of chemicals should be based on hazard and exposure.

Beth Bosley, a consultant for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, suggested to the Congresspersons that TSCA should be amended in a way that does not eliminate jobs or useful chemicals.

More analysis will follow in the coming days. Past articles related to TSCA can be found here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

US and China Announce Clean Energy Cooperation to Combat Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Today in Beijing, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a package of measures "to strengthen cooperation between the United States and China on clean energy."

According to President Obama,

I want to reaffirm the fact that the American people are interested in stronger relations with the people of China, and that the more that we can encourage people-to-people exchanges that are consistent with the discussions that we're having at the government level, the more that China and the United States will be able to work cooperatively on a whole range of issues -- both economic issues, security issues, and global issues that are in the interest not just of our two nations but the entire world.

The two Presidents announced a series of major areas of cooperation:

The U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center will facilitate joint research and development of clean energy technologies by teams of scientists and engineers from the United States and China, as well as serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country.

The U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative will include joint standards development, demonstration projects in more than a dozen cities, technical roadmapping and public education projects, all aimed at eventual deployment of electric vehicles to reduce oil dependence.

The U.S. China Energy Efficiency Action Plan will allow the two countries to work together to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, industrial facilities, and consumer appliances, culminating with an annual U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Forum, rotating between the two countries.

The U.S. China Renewable Energy Partnership will facilitate development of roadmaps for wide-spread renewable energy deployment. A new Advanced Grid Working Group made up of American and Chinese developers and strategists will help plan for grid modernization in both countries, and a new U.S.-China Renewable Energy Forum will be held annually, rotating between the two countries.

A 21st Century Coal Initiative, for which the two Presidents pledged to promote cooperation on cleaner uses of coal, will include large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects.

A Shale Gas Initiative, will allow the U.S. and China to use experience gained in the United States to assess China’s shale gas potential, promote environmentally-sustainable development of shale gas resources, conduct joint technical studies to accelerate development of shale gas resources in China, and promote shale gas investment in China through the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum, study tours, and workshops.

The U.S. China Energy Cooperation Program will leverage private sector resources for project development work in China across a broad array of clean energy projects, to the benefit of both nations.

More available on the White House blog.

Congress to Hold Hearings TODAY on "Prioritizing Chemicals for Safety Determination"

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing today, Tuesday, November 17, 2009 entitled, "Prioritizing Chemicals for Safety Determination," the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will examine the options for prioritizing chemicals for safety determinations in the event that the Committee amends the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).


Steve Owens, Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, Environmental Protection Agency

Eric Sampson, Director, Division of Laboratory Sciences, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Daryl Ditz, Senior Policy Advisor, Center for International Environmental Law

William J. Greggs, Consultant, Consumer Specialty Products Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the Soap and Detergent Association

Beth Bosley, Consultant, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates

WHEN: 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 17

WHERE: 2322 Rayburn House Office Building

The subcommittee, which is chaired by Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, is in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce chaired by California Rep. Henry Waxman. This is a follow up to hearings held earlier in the year on finding ways to modernize the 33 year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

I will have a summary after the hearing.