Saturday, January 29, 2011

Update on Korea REACH Chemical Control Law

Two weeks ago I reported that South Korea was expected to release a REACH-like chemical chemical control law.  Now the Korean Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has issued a news release indicating that MOE, in cooperation with six other ministries, has "set a master plan for chemicals management."

The master plan, which "will be implemented until 2020," intends to minimize harm to human health and the environment by managing chemicals "in an advanced way."  The plan contains "five strategies and 15 core action plans with the aim of securing more than 80% of information on harm and hazard of chemicals and reducing carcinogen of group 1 by 32% by 2020."  The main contents of the master plan include:

In order to secure scientific information on chemicals, hazard assessment item will be increased from 9 to 13 and Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) will be expanded.

A system will be made to prevent and respond to chemical accident and terrorism and small and medium sized companies will be received support for emission reduction.

Mercury, nanomaterials and POPs, subject to international control, will be managed in a more enhanced way and participation by citizens in making policies will be expanded.

The announcement and additional information on the core policies can be found here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Poll by Cleaning Products Organization Shows People Like Antibacterial Soaps

Questions have been raised about the use of antibacterial soaps, but a new poll released by the American Cleaning Institute (formerly the Soap and Detergent Association), finds that "the vast majority of Americans uses antibacterial soap and finds it to be a useful tool to prevent the spread of germs."  In fact, according to the survey conducted by Fabrizio, Ward and Associates, about "two-thirds of Americans would be “angry” at any government attempts to ban the products."

According to ACI, among the key findings of the poll:
  • Nearly three-quarters of American consumers (74%) use antibacterial soap (56% use it regularly), finding it a very useful tool to prevent the spread of germs at home, in health care settings, schools, restaurants, child care centers, and public restrooms 
  • 75% of moms with children in the household would be “angry” if the government took antibacterial soap off the market
  • Overall, two-thirds of consumers would be upset if the government took antibacterial soap off the market
  • 84% of adults do not have any health or environmental concerns about antibacterial soap
  • By an eight-to-one margin, consumers would rather have the choice to buy antibacterial soap over removing it from the market based on alleged health and environment concerns

The poll results can be seen in this presentation.

The American Cleaning Institute represents "producers of household, industrial, and institutional cleaning products, their ingredients and finished packaging; oleochemical producers; and chemical distributors to the cleaning product industry."  Their web site is:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

EPA to Issue Test Rules for Remaining Unsponsored HPV Chemicals

Recently the USEPA published a final test rule requiring testing on 19 High Production Volume chemicals.  These were chemicals that were not sponsored by chemical manufacturers during the voluntary HPV Challenge program.  Since no one claimed them they came to be known as "orphan" chemicals.  And now EPA is planning to get the rest of them into the orphanage this year for testing.

At least that is the plan.

The reality is a bit less ambitious.  This second final test rule, which was published in the Federal Register only a week or so ago, was proposed way back in July of 2008...2-1/2 years ago.  The first final test rule was published in 2006 after having been proposed in the year 2000!  A third proposed rule was published almost a year ago and EPA hopes to get it final "sometime this year."  A fourth proposed rule is in the works.  The likelihood of the fourth rule going final this year is, well, not.

Even then this will cover only about 100 of the orphan chemicals from the 10-year long (plus 5-year overdue) HPV Challenge program.  There are several hundred other chemicals that are high production volume, that is, produced at over 1 million pounds per year, that are not even on EPA's radar to be proposed for testing.  And then there are the thousands of chemicals grandfathered onto the TSCA Inventory that have not been fully tested.  The orphan chemical question is one of the reasons put forth for why TSCA reform is so desperately needed.

All of this plays into the ongoing debate about what, or even if, will happen with TSCA reform this year.  The bills introduced last year are dead and new bills, should anyone in the House try to introduce one, will most likely have a different flavor than those from the last Congress.  A different flavor may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view, but the real question is whether there will be any flavor.  Industry says they want a federal law so they don't have to deal with a patchwork of state laws.  Environmental and health advocacy groups (NGOs) clearly want there to be TSCA reform.  Which would suggest that the path forward is clear.

But then.  This is Congress.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ECHA Updates List of Registered Substances Under REACH

The REACH regulation in Europe reached its first milestone this past November 30th with the registration of thousands of high volume (>1000 tonnes per year) and high concern (substances of very high concern) chemicals.  This week ECHA made its most recent update to the database containing the information on those registered substances.

You can access the database here.

The list consists of two parts.  The top part allows you to search for chemicals by name, CAS number or EC number.  It will tell you whether the data dossier has been disseminated, i.e., been made public on the ECHA web site.  Unfortunately most of the chemicals registered have not yet had their data dossiers disseminated online.

The bottom part of the page allows you to download the list in either XLS or CSV format.  For most people the XLS format (i.e., Excel spreadsheet) is the most useful.  Here you can scan the list or search for names, CAS numbers and other identifiers, and if the chemical is on the list it will indicate whether the registration was Full (full dossier), or an onsite or transported isolated intermediate (which requires only a reduced data dossier submission).  Here again, unfortunately, not all of the registered substances have been listed.  ECHA will continue to update the list, and the dissemination of data dossiers, as fast as they can process the thousands of dossiers received.

Once the dossiers are online you will be able to view the robust summary data for all of the endpoints, including "information on the substances which companies manufacture or import, their hazardous properties, their classification and labelling and how to use the substances safely, for example."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Obama State of the Union Expected to Call for Clean Energy Development

Tonight in the US President Obama gives his annual State-of-the-Union address (SOTU, for short).  Among many other topics (the SOTU tends to be a laundry list of generally unattainable desires), Obama is expected to note ongoing efforts to reframe the energy debate toward cleaner, greener technologies.  Given the continuing lagging jobs picture (job growth always lags economic recovery), he is expected to focus the discussion on how clean energy will help grow jobs.

While this has been a key plank in his platform from the beginning, it takes on new emphasis now that last year's cap-and-trade bills reached a precipice and promptly leaped off.  With the change in the make-up of Congress and promises to try to block EPA's greenhouse gas regulations, Obama will need to show how a shift to CO2-reduction technologies is good both for the environment and for job creation.  Specifically he will try to demonstrate that moving away from a fossil fuel-dependent energy system will result in increased competitiveness on the global marketplace.  This last point is critical as countries like China are investing in the development of wind and solar energy, both in terms of technology advancement and as a source of job creation.  China may be working hard to corner the fossil fuel markets now, but it is working even harder to position itself for the new world energy leadership it desires.  Obama will try to show that the short-sighted disagreements between members of Congress is actually holding back American ingenuity and giving a boost to our international competitors like China.

Also, in a nod to the new instant information era, the President will address questions posed to him by the American populace via YouTube or Twitter.  Questions must be received by midnight tonight and Obama will answer the top-rated ones on Thursday at 2:30 pm EST.  Questions should be submitted at:, or by using the hashtag #askobama on Twitter.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Let the Hearings Begin! Congress to Grill Obama Advisers on Regulatory Review Executive Order

President Obama issued an Executive Order (EO) on January 18th requiring all federal agencies to review existing regulations for the possibility of modifying or repealing them.  The idea is to determine "whether any such regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed so as to make the agency's regulatory program more effective or less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives." The EO applies to all agencies, but is being looked at especially with respect to the USEPA by Republican committee chairs in the House.

For example, Fred Upton, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Commitee has called for Cass Sunstein to testify at a hearing to be held on Wednesday (January 26). Sunstein is Obama's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, part of the White House's Office of Management and Budget.  While the focus of the hearing is supposed to be on the EO, it is likely that committee members will use the stage to also voice their opposition to EPA's recent rules under the Clean Air Act.

Based on public pronouncements by the incoming Republican majority in the House, we can expect to see hearings this year focused on reducing EPA's ability to publish rules and issue regulations.  Regulations addressing greenhouse gas emissions are particularly targeted in light of the previous Congress' inability to pass any climate change legislation and the unlikelihood of such legislation even being introduced in the current Congress.