Friday, July 23, 2010

House Finally Introduces H.R. 5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010

Finally. After releasing a "discussion draft" in April to coincide with Frank Lautenberg's Chemical Safety Act introduction in the Senate, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) yesterday formally introduced H.R. 5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010.

According to Waxman and Rush, "the legislation would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 to ensure that the public and the environment are protected from risks resulting from chemical exposure."

Key provisions of the Toxics Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 include:

* Establishes a framework to ensure that all chemical substances to which the American people are exposed will be reviewed for safety and restricted where necessary to protect public health and the environment.

* Requires the chemical industry to develop and provide to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) essential data, and improves EPA’s authority to compel testing where necessary.

* Ensures that non-confidential information submitted to EPA is shared with the public and that critical confidential information is shared among regulators, with states, and with workers in the chemical industry.

* Establishes an expedited process for EPA to reduce exposure to chemical substances that are known to be persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.

* Creates incentives and a review process for safer alternatives to existing chemicals, promoting innovation and investment in green chemistry.

* Creates a workforce education and training program in green chemistry, promoting and ensuring long-term viability of American jobs.

* Encourages the reduction of the use of animals in chemical testing.

* Allows EPA to exempt chemicals already known to be safe from requirements of the Act.

* Promotes research to advance understanding of children’s vulnerability to the harms of chemicals.

* Directs EPA to address community exposures to toxic chemicals in certain “hot spot” locations.

* Requires EPA to engage in international efforts to control dangerous chemicals.

* Ensures that EPA actions are transparent, open to public comment, and subject to judicial review, without unreasonable procedural burdens.

* Gives EPA the resources needed to carry out this Act.

I'll have more after reviewing the 166-page document.  The big question is how much of the input from the various stakeholders meetings since the discussion draft have made it into the final bill.  And now that it has finally been introduced on the virtual eve of the August recesses and upcoming mid-term elections, what will become of it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

European Trade Group Updates Chemical Authorization Priority List

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) last week updated its "Priority List" of chemical substances of very high concern. The trade union organization is pushing to have most of the chemicals in its list to require authorization under REACH.

According to their press release, the "Trade Union List version 2.0 includes 334 substances or group of substances ordered by priority, this represents 29 new entries compared to the first version published in March 2009. Most of these substances are identified as causative agents for recognised occupational diseases in the EU countries." So far the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has only identified 38 substances as candidates for authorization. ETUC wants to see this process sped up.

The ETUC is convinced that including the union-listed chemicals in the Authorisation List would cut the incidence of chemical-related occupational diseases and the attendant costs for the community, workers and industry itself. It will also be a strong incentive for companies to innovate and replace them by safer alternatives.

The ETUC list can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

US Agencies Work Together to Develop Chemical Screening Methods

One of the big questions regarding the new TSCA reform discussions is how exactly will companies meet any data obligations imposed by the new law. In the past any "data" request was expected to be filled by animal testing, but the animal welfare advocates and a realization of the limitations of animal testing have led many to look for alternative testing techniques.

The Tox21 collaboration merges the resources (research, funding and testing tools) of several US agencies "to develop ways to more effectively predict how chemicals will affect human health and the environment." The agencies include the EPA, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) National Toxicology Program (NTP), the National Institute of Health (NIH) Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC), and most recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Through the collaboration the agencies hope to develop methods to screen all chemicals for risk quickly, efficiently, and in most cases without the use of animal testing. About 2,000 chemicals "have already been screened against dozens of biological targets," with hopes of getting that number up to five times that much by the end of this year. Eventually all 85,000+ chemicals on the market will have had at least an initial screening, which will help prioritize any chemicals of concern for more closer analysis.

A major component of the Tox21 collaboration is development of rapid and automated methods, which is the focus of a testing program called ToxCast. Many of these methods use sensitive cell culture and even genomic markers to screen for toxicity rather than going directly to standard animal testing. The idea is "high-throughput," i.e., screening a lot of chemicals fast so that those that are clearly not toxic can be put aside, those that are clearly very toxic can be prioritized, and those that are somewhere in the middle can get more targeted testing to address the specific questions raised.

Monday, July 19, 2010

National Research Council releases Climate Stabilization Targets report

As promised last week, the National Research Council of the US National Academy of Sciences has released a new report where they state that "emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have ushered in a new epoch where human activities will largely determine the evolution of Earth's climate." In short, human activity is causing climate change, and we need to do something about it.

The full (243 page) report, called "Climate Stabilization Targets; Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts Over Decades to Millenia" can be downloaded for free on the National Academy Press web site.

The NRC is concerned that "because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is long lived, it can effectively lock the Earth and future generations into a range of impacts, some of which could become very severe."

According to the report, "important policy decisions can be informed by recent advances in climate science that quantify the relationships between increases in carbon dioxide and global warming, related climate changes, and resulting impacts, such as changes in streamflow, wildfires, crop productivity, extreme hot summers, and sea level rise." The report takes the tack that "one way to inform these choices is to consider the projected climate changes and impacts that would occur if greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were stabilized at a particular concentration level." The report tries to do just that using data from the literature. NRC intends the report to be "a useful resource for scientists, educators and policy makers, among others."