Friday, June 11, 2010

So how is TSCA related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil leak?

Apparently the NGO coalition called Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is planning to continue its very high profile, very high activity advocacy for TSCA reform. Last week they held a webinar on TSCA reform and yesterday they did a conference call with the press to "announce a proposal and to help reporters make the connection between Corexit, the worrisome chemical dispersant being used to clean up the Gulf oil spill, and our nation’s failing system for regulating such chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control act of 1976 (TSCA)."

SCHF claims that "[w]hat’s going on in the Gulf is not an isolated incident — it’s a very dramatic, very public example of our nation’s broken system for managing chemicals." They go on to say

In their attempt to reassure Americans that Corexit was no more dangerous than common household products, chemical manufacturer Nalco unwittingly highlighted the fact that, because our laws are so weak, it’s entirely possible that our household products are quite dangerous! The reality is, our laws don’t require companies to show household products are safe before they arrive under our kitchen sinks, any more than they have to prove chemical dispersants are safe before they get dumped into our oceans. Hardly reassuring.

The group released a comparison chart showing the provisions of TSCA as it currently stands and how the Senate and House bills could "fix the problem." They go further and recommend what they believe are necessary additions to the current Safe Chemical Act proposals that would have required dispersants to demonstrate safety BEFORE being used in emergency situations like the Deepwater Horizon disaster (indicated in red in the chart).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Needs of Downstream Users Critical to Safe Chemicals Act Developments

"The impact of chemicals on business is felt well beyond the factories where chemicals are manufactured or processed into other substances and mixtures," said Bob Sussman at last week's Business and NGO Forum on Safer Chemicals Policy Reform. Sussman, who is a senior policy counsel to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, went further and noted that "companies at the end of the value chain" have a unique position because they serve "a critical interface where the public comes into contact with chemical-containing products." As such, these downstream users (DUs) must play an active role in helping to define the developing Safe Chemicals Act (or Toxic Substances Safety Act in the House).

The forum was designed to do just that. Sponsors included the NGO Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, the Business-NGO Working Group, and the American Sustainable Business Council. Points of discussion included a widespread agreement on the need for transparency, harmonization with other chemicals programs, and an emphasis on encouraging development of safer alternatives. Unlike some of the chemical trade associations, members of the Business-NGO Working Group strongly support a minimum data set on chemicals to be generated within five years. In short, they want to see data on all chemicals, not just a select few, so that there is enough information on potential alternatives to make sure they aren't just as bad as the ones that are being replaced. That can't be done unless there are data on everything.

According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, there is an expectation that votes on the House's Toxic Substances Safety Act could begin some time this month. Some even suggest that a floor vote could happen before the summer is up. Still, it seems rather unlikely that any bill will be passed by both the House and Senate this year given the paucity of actual legislation days left and the critical (and often contentious) mid-term elections on every legislators mind.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Petrochemical Manufacturers and Refiners Comment on TSCA Chemical Reform Bills

Specialty chemical manufacturer and downstream user positions on the proposed TSCA reform bills introduced on April 15th were discussed in previous posts. Today the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association weighs in on the topic. NPRA represents virtually all US refiners and petrochemical manufacturers, whose members "supply consumers with a wide variety of products and services that are used daily in homes and businesses."

Like others, NPRA is concerned that the House discussion draft "significantly broadens the scope of TSCA by substantially changing the definition of 'substance' and 'mixture' to include practically any manufactured or processed good." And that makes the proposed law totally unworkable in a practical sense. NPRA is also concerned that most actions could actually be taken by EPA without the current provisions of "public notice and comment," which they say results in a lack of transparency. The draft also eliminates most opportunities for judicial review, thus potentially allowing arbitrary and unchallengeable decisions by EPA.

NPRA also feels that while there has been much emphasis on green chemistry and innovation, the "draft legislation imposes barriers to innovation that will inhibit all chemistry, including green chemistry policy and goals." They offer as an example the minimum data set requirement, which they feel will "raise the barrier of entry into the marketplace for new products as there will be a large cost imposed on companies to conduct the required testing and gather the required information for a single product." They claim that there is "an inversely proportional relationship between barriers of entry and the number of products introduced into any given market." They note that the minimum data set requirement in Europe has allowed the introduction of only 4000 new chemicals while the US introduced 18,000 in the same period.

As with the other trade associations, NPRA talks about the issues they see with prioritization, imminent hazard provisions, lack of preemption of state regulations, fees, what they see as unnecessary the emphasis on giving PBT chemicals special attention.

I'll look closer at key issues that pop up in most of the comments in future posts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

EU Takes Steps to Reduce Animal Experimentation

Two new steps have been taken in Europe to reduce the number of animals used in scientific testing.

In the first, the Council of the European Commission adopted what is called its "first-reading position" on a draft directive for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. Under the provisions of the directive, member states would be required to pass legislation that ensures (among other things):

- experiments with animals are replaced, wherever possible, by an alternative method that is scientifically satisfactory,

- the number of animals used in projects is reduced to a minimum without compromising the quality of the results, and

- the degree of pain and suffering caused to animals is limited to the minimum.

In a second move, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) issued a "practical guide" on how to avoid unnecessary testing on animals in support of REACH registrations. ECHA anticipates that there will be between 25,000 and 75,000 registrations before the November 30, 2010 deadline. The vast majority of these will not require additional animal testing, and in fact, any animal testing specified in Annexes IX and X of REACH are required to be proposed for ECHA review only at this time. In addition, many companies are working together in consortia to create data packages that all companies can share, thus reducing all kinds of testing. The practical guide gives specific steps that companies can take to fill data gaps with non-animal data, for example QSARs, read-across, in vitro studies, the use of categories, and weight-of-evidence when literature data are available.

Lessons learned under the REACH program will likely be transferred to the new US chemical control law currently under development.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Downstream User Groups Comment on Upcoming House TSCA Chemical Reform Bill

As the House readies its formal introduction of their version of the TSCA reform bill, called the Toxic Substances Safety Act, various stakeholders are offering their views on what it should include. Or more accurately perhaps, what it shouldn't include. Friday I talked about what SOCMA thinks in representing their mostly smaller specialty chemical manufacturers. Today are downstream user organizations such as the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA), the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), and the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA, soon to become the American Cleaning Institute).

Like other industry trade associations, these downstream user (DU) groups see the need for TSCA modernization. But they are also concerned about the burden this may put on DUs. One of their primary concerns with the discussion draft seems to be the language that would expand TSCA to cover all chemical substances, mixtures, and articles (things made from substances and mixtures). As written, they say, "every single change to a mixture and article would constitute a 'new use' and require notification and approval by EPA." Given that consumer product manufacturers routinely "substitute new ingredients, use alternate material suppliers, switch among color shades and scents, and tweak formulations to rebalance existing ingredients in different proportions," such language could become a nightmare for downstream users. Which is one of the reasons that I think the mixture and article provisions will likely be dropped from the final bill and dealt with separately.

The DUs have many other concerns as well, and some of which overlap the major and specialty manufacturers' complaints like, e.g., questions about the minimum data set, priority setting, safety standards, CBI, etc. I'll look at each of these in more depth in future posts.