Saturday, February 19, 2011

EPA Administrator Jackson Makes Trip to Africa (Kenya and Ethiopia)

The following is the text of an EPA press release dated February 18, 2011.


On Friday, February 18, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will travel to Kenya and Ethiopia to engage in bilateral and multilateral meetings aimed at building relationships with key African counterparts and other environmental leaders. The trip will include attending the 26th United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Governing Council Meeting and Ministerial Environment Forum, where Jackson and other U.S. representatives will outline the global scope of shared environmental, health and economic challenges and opportunities.
Jackson’s meetings in Kenya and Ethiopia will highlight important issues in children’s environmental health, good environmental governance and emerging green technology and innovations.
Jackson’s stops in Ethiopia and Kenya will include meetings and events focused on electronic waste, enforcement and compliance, indoor air quality, and clean fuels. While in Kenya, she will be hosted by U.S. Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger and will lead the U.S. delegation to the UNEP meetings, where the group will continue the precedent set by the U.S. during UNEP’s 2009 meeting by actively engaging international partners in bringing awareness to shared environmental, health and economic challenges. In 2009, the U.S. signaled its commitment to take on a leadership role in working with 140 other countries on a binding international agreement on mercury. At the UNEP meeting, Jackson and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner will sign the first ever Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations, furthering the U.S. commitment to more effective collaboration to promote global environmental sustainability. She also will join with the director general of the country’s National Environmental Management Authority to speak on environmental initiatives and will participate in a roundtable with the East Africa Enforcement Network.
In Ethiopia, Jackson will be hosted by U.S. Ambassador Donald Booth and will meet with U.S. Ambassador to the African Union Michael Battle. She will represent U.S. interests in bilateral meetings with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and leaders from Ethiopia’s Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson will also speak with students from Addis Ababa University about opportunities for women to take leadership roles in addressing environmental issues facing Ethiopia. In addition, she will receive a site-briefing and tour an e-waste de-manufacturing facility to highlight improved e-waste management and affirm EPA’s commitment to supporting innovation in the management of electronic waste.
These meetings will focus on EPA’s recently launched international priorities and aims to strengthen U.S. relationships with environmental counterparts in the Kenya, Ethiopia and other African nations.

More information on EPA’s international priorities and efforts:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lautenberg Confirmed as Senate Subcommittee Chair - Reaffirms Commitment to TSCA Chemical Reform

It's official.  Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey has been confirmed as the continuing Chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health.  EPW Committee Chair Barbara Boxer of California made the announcement earlier this week.  Lautenberg has been the force behind repeated attempts over the last 5 years to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  According to his office's press release, Lautenberg noted:

“Our Subcommittee will work to identify solutions for the environmental health challenges facing both our families and our businesses.” Communities in New Jersey and across the country want to clean up contaminated sites to protect public health and boost local economies, and parents want assurances that the products they buy for their families are free of toxic chemicals.  I am optimistic that our panel will work together to find common ground and enact reforms that improve our environmental health while strengthening the American economy.”

The subcommittee held a hearing earlier this month and ranking member James Inhofe promised to work with Lautenberg to find a path forward for the 34-year old law.  All parties agree that some "modernization" of TSCA is needed, though once you get below the general principles there is still quite a bit of differences of opinion on the details.

More information on Lautenberg's priorties and the jurisdiction of the subcommittee can be found here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Set of Chemical Substances Ready to be Phased Out (aka banned) by Europe's REACH

The first six chemical substances to be given the hangman's noose, er, put on the REACH authorization list, have been announced by the European Commission.  These "substances of very high concern" had been put onto a "candidate list" for comment, but as of today have been moved to the authorisation list itself, which is known as Annex XIV under Europe's REACH regulation

The six substances are:
  • musk xylene
  • MDA
  • DEHP
  • BBP
  • DBP
[Okay, I realize the short forms and initials won't be recognizable to some; you can see full names in the press release here.]

Now that these six are in Annex XIV they "cannot be placed on the market or used unless authorisation has been granted for a specific use."  Obviously they are already on the market so for each substance there is a "sunset date" after which they can no longer be manufactured or imported in Europe unless an authorization application is filed and accepted.  Sunset dates for these six chemicals are in 2014 or 2015.  So manufacturers need to be developing an authorization application, which must include substantial health and safety data, information on the uses, a socioeconomic analysis to demonstrate why the societal benefit for keeping them on the market, and the specific uses that will be supported.  Only those uses that are deemed to be of sufficient need and can be controlled will be approved for continued use, and then only for a specified time frame (e.g., 5 years) to allow development of alternatives.

And the company applying for the authorization is responsible for identifying an alternative or providing a plan for how they will develop one.  Of course, competing companies may already have alternatives that can easily slip into the void but that couldn't compete with the usually lower cost, but more hazardous, chemical that already dominated market share.

Keep in mind that these are just the first six chemicals to be put on Annex XIV.  There are many more already on the candidate list, with more to be added periodically.  Manufacturers of chemicals that are "substances of very high concern" should be working to either find alternatives or to argue why they should not be put on the authorization (i.e., to be banned) list.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Endocrine Disruptor Chemical Bill Introduced in House by Ed Markey

Actually, its a reintroduction of a bill he introduced in the last Congress.  Last year it was H.R. 5210 and was glued into another bill that passed in the House, but a companion bill never made it out of Senate committee.  So Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts is trying again in the House.  The idea is to update EPA's current Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program.

The new bill, H.R. 553, is called the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Enhancement Act and it would amend the existing regulatory authority, the Safe Drinking Water Act, by:
  • requiring EPA to test non-pesticide chemicals that may be found in drinking water and develop a plan and timetable to identify chemicals to be tested;
  • requiring EPA to periodically review the current state of the science to determine if testing protocols should be revised; and 
  • allow EPA to accelerate the testing of suspected endocrine disruptors and create a petition process that would allow the public to suggest chemicals for accelerated testing.
One problem with the current program (in addition to the fact that it is a decade behind schedule) is that it relies on Tier I studies being done to prioritize those chemicals needing Tier II testing.  Which makes sense except for the fact that EPA doesn't actually know what the Tier II tests will consist of yet.  So one complaint is that you can't possibly know how to prioritize if you don't know what you are prioritizing for!  Still, last November the Agency published a list of 134 "second list" chemicals, 106 of which are found in drinking water.  This is on top of the 67 "first list" chemicals identified in the spring of 2009.

The current bill has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce chaired by Republican Fred Upton of Michigan.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

EPA Holds Conference on the "Next Generation" of Chemical Risk Assessment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding "a two-day conference to discuss the Next Generation (NexGen) of Risk Assessment."  The conference starts today and runs through 1 pm ET tomorrow in Washington DC.  According to the EPA announcement:
"NexGen is a program that aims to create an inexpensive, faster system for chemical risk assessment by incorporating new knowledge about molecular biology. EPA scientists are using molecular biology, the study of how cells function, to help them interpret the risk to Americans’ health from exposure to chemicals in our air, water and soils. Through NexGen, EPA is collaborating with federal and state agencies to help people understand risks posed by chemicals in our environment so they can make more informed decisions about their health."
More information on the conference call be found here.

More information on NextGen can be found here

WHAT: Advancing the Next Generation of Risk Assessment: Public Dialogue Conference

WHEN: Tuesday, February 15, 8 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and Wednesday, February 16, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

WHERE: Embassy Suites Convention Center; 900 10th Street N.W., Washington, D.C

Monday, February 14, 2011

Clorox Takes Another Step in its Path to Transparency

Nearly two years ago I did a story on this blog about how cleaning product companies were "coming clean," and listing the ingredients in such Windex and Formula 409.  Now one of those companies, The Clorox Company, is taking another step toward transparency in chemical labeling.  Last week the company issued a press release announcing that "it is now disclosing the following additional information about its products through its Ingredients Inside program:"
  • Specific identity of preservatives and dyes in all U.S. and Canadian cleaning, disinfecting and laundry products. This information expands upon the listing of active ingredients, which has been provided to consumers over the last two years.
  • Palette of fragrance ingredients - listed in numerical and alphabetical order - used in all U.S. and Canadian cleaning, disinfecting and laundry products. Clorox is also including a link to a PDF file that includes each fragrance ingredient's CAS Registry Number, the unique numerical identifier assigned by the Chemical Abstracts Service to every chemical available in open scientific literature, as well as the fragrance chemical names, provided by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
Besides the well known household staple, Clorox bleach, The Clorox Company also makes "Pine-Sol® cleaners, Poett® home care products, Fresh Step® cat litter, Kingsford® charcoal, Hidden Valley® and K C Masterpiece® dressings and sauces, Brita® water-filtration products, Glad® bags and wraps and containers, and Burt's Bees® natural personal care products."

Revealing their chemical ingredients is a big deal given that "nearly 90 percent of Clorox Company brands hold the No. 1 or No. 2 market share positions in their categories."  That means these market leaders will likely have a large influence (aka peer pressure) on other cleaning product companies to reveal their ingredients in order to compete for the "green market" business.

More information about the program can be found on Clorox's "Ingredients Inside" page.