Friday, November 12, 2010

ChemCon Americas Conference Debates REACH, TSCA Reform, GHS

This past week has been the ChemCon Americas conference in Philadelphia, where mostly industry representatives, regulatory experts, and scientists get together to discuss important issues affecting the chemical industry.  And this week was no exception.  Hot topics included the scramble to make the November 30th REACH deadline, the confusion over how various countries are implementing (or not implementing) GHS, and the uncertainty over what may or may not happen with TSCA reform in the United States.

Representatives from EPA continued to make the case that the 34-year old Toxic Substances Control Act just does not give them the authority to efficiently review tens of thousands of existing chemicals grandfathered onto the TSCA Inventory (for later review). With the chairmanships of the House set to switch from the Democratic Waxman and Rush to "Republicans to be named later," there still seems to be the belief that some form of TSCA reform will happen in the next Congress.  Meanwhile, a lawyer representing industry interests reminded attendees that the individual states are pressing forward with their own versions of reform, perhaps presenting industry with an even more complicated patchwork of regulations to monitor.

REACH also received attention.  A representative from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) encouraged companies to keep on pushing to meet the fast approaching deadline.  Tens of thousands of registrations have been received and many more are expected in the mad rush during the next two weeks.  Oh, and then there is the CLP - Europe's version of the Globally Harmonized System for classification and labeling, for which companies must notify all of their chemicals by January 3rd (even those not scheduled for REACH registration until 2013 or 2018).  And let's not forget Turkey. And China and Japan. And New Zealand and Australia.  And cosmetics?

No wonder everyone looks a little knackered.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Canada Lists 4 Chemicals to its Schedule 1 List of Toxic Substances

While the US struggles with what to do to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Europe has been busy with the first registration phase of it's Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) program and Canada is well into its Chemical Management Plan evaluating their Inventory of existing chemicals.  As part of that process Canada recently proposed to add four additional chemicals its Schedule 1 "list of toxic substances" under CEPA (the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999).   

The four substances are:

Vanadium pentoxide: A naturally occurring substance in the environment, "used primarily in Canada in the manufacture of ferrovanadium and as a catalyst in the production of sulphuric acid." According to Environment Canada, "vanadium pentoxide is released to air, to water and to land, mainly through combustion of fossil fuels and wood fuels from industrial activities."  It "was identified as a high priority for assessment because of its classification as a carcinogen by national and international agencies."

Potassium bromate: A man-made substance "used primarily in Canada in industrial and commercial applications," including "as an oxidizing reagent in laboratories, in the dying of textiles, and in permanent wave neutralizing solutions in the cosmetics industry."  While it appears there is limited current reporting of use in Canada, and no reported consumer uses, the substance was listed "based principally on the weight-of-evidence assessment or classification from international or other national agencies..., the critical effect of carcinogenicity," as well as reports of genotoxicity and "a variety of non-cancer effects."

TGOPE: A thankfully brief acronym for a long chemical name, TGOPE "is a man-made component of epoxy resin used as an adhesive or binding agent" used primarily "in the manufacture of paints, coatings designed for industrial use and certain consumer epoxy-patch adhesives." Exposure is expected to be minimal because it is it seems to have limited current manufacture in Canada (but is imported) and has limited consumer uses (mostly epoxy adhesives).  Health effects assessments have not been identified, but "in vitro experiments and weight-of-evidence assessment or classification from several other that TGOPE may cause cancer."

Methyl eugenol: Mainly "a naturally occurring organic substance in the essential oils of several plant species," used primarily "as flavour ingredients in food and beverages and as fragrance ingredients and emollients in personal care, cosmetics and other household products." According to the Canadian assessment, "the substance may also be produced synthetically."  Exposure is "mainly from its naturally occurring presence in food and beverages with smaller contributions from the use of personal care products and citronella-based personal insect repellents."  Canada has determined "that methyl eugenol may cause cancer," and may also "be genotoxic in a range of experimental studies...Therefore, it cannot be precluded that the substance may have interacted with the genetic material."

More information on these four substances can be found here.  In addition to these four listed, there were 13 substances from "Batch 9" that were not found to meet the criteria for listing.  These can be seen here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

White House Names Two Nanotechnology Scientists as 2009 Presidential Early Career Award Winners

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has named two scientists from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory as 2009 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) winners.  According to Argonne National Labs, the PECASE awards are "the nation’s highest honor for researchers in the beginning stages of their independent research careers."  The two are materials scientist Dillon Fong and nanoscientist Elena Shevchenko, who "were selected by the for their contributions to meeting America’s scientific and technological missions and the country’s economic, energy, health and security needs."

Shevchenko heads "the NanoBio Interfaces Group in Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials." Nanoparticles (also called nanoscale materials or simply nanomaterials) "are small assemblies of particular materials that have special properties."  According to Argonne National Labs, "Shevchenko’s work specifically examined how nanoparticles self-organize to form more complicated materials."

Fong "works in Argonne’s Materials Science Division, where he investigates the formation and structure of complex oxide thin films." In his research, he asks "questions like how these thin film crystals grow, and how much of this growth can we control?" And "do these materials behave when they are only a few nanometers thick?"

Read more about their achievements at the links and in the Argonne press release.  Both scientists will receive their awards later this year at the White House.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

American Cleaning Institute Finds Fault with California "Safer Products" Regulations

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI; formerly the Soap and Detergent Association) has filed comments to the California Department of Toxic Substances stating that the new regulations are "bureaucratic, punitive, and adversarial."  In their press release, ACI states:
California’s proposed regulations for “safer consumer product alternatives” are bureaucratic in the extreme, resource intensive for California government and the regulated community, punitive and adversarial, according to the American Cleaning Institute. 
ACI's detailed comments (93 pages, including attachments) urge the California DTSC to work with stakeholders to address proposals in need of "significant revision" as the current proposal would not accomplish "the goals
of the state’s Green Chemistry Initiative."  ACI complained about many parts of the proposed regulations, including their overly broad scope, a "flawed" chemical prioritization process, onerous reporting requirements, and what they see as "disincentives" to the development of safer consumer productes.

The full ACI comments can be read here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

ECHA Makes Available QSAR Toolbox 2.0 to Facilitate Chemical Assessments

ECHA and OECD are making available an assessment software that they call "The Toolbox."  It is intended to that the toolbox "tools" will be used by "governments, chemical industry and other stakeholders in filling gaps in (eco)toxicity data needed for assessing the hazards of chemicals."  The Toolbox incorporates information and tools from various sources into a logical workflow, including a crucial element -  grouping chemicals into chemical categories.

The fundamental features of the Toolbox are:
  1. Identification of relevant structural characteristics and potential mechanism or mode of action of a target chemical.
  2. Identification of other chemicals that have the same structural characteristics and/or mechanism or mode of action.
  3. Use of existing experimental data to fill the data gap(s).
According to OECD, "the goal of Phase 2 development is to ensure that the category approach to filling data gaps works uniformly for all discrete organic chemicals and for all regulatory endpoints."  It is a two year work plan which began in the 4th Quarter of 2008.  "The work plan has five thematic areas namely Information Technology, Chassis Development and Additional Functionalities, Database Compilation, (Q)SAR Library and Expert System Compilation, and Training. The implementation of the features is divided between two versions."

This Version 2.0 was released in October 2010 and Version 3.0 is planned for release in October 2012.

More information and a place to download the toolbox can be found here.