Friday, May 20, 2011

European and Australian Chemical Agencies Agree to Cooperate on Chemical Safety

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the Australian Government's National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to "enhance co-operation" in an effort to "improve chemical safety."  The MOU will allow the two agencies to share expertise on technical matters on, among other things, "the hazards and emerging risks of chemical substances, risk management tools, scientific collaboration and information exchange."

This isn't the first cooperative arrangement for ECHA.   They signed a "statement of intent" with the USEPA last December in which the two agencies agreed to "share data, cooperate with each other on chemical reviews, and even exchange staff."

According to ECHA:

One of the anticipated areas of collaboration will be exchange of information. For example, the Memorandum of Understanding will promote the exchange of non-confidential information on hazards, uses and identity of chemical substances between ECHA and NICNAS. The agencies will also be sharing information on ways to more efficiently address chemicals of concern.

The full MOU can be downloaded as a PDF file here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

NGOs to Deliver Petition to White House Today to Call for Leadership on Chemicals

A coalition of NGOs and advocates for health and environmental safety are delivering a petition today to the White House calling for President Obama to implement last years findings by the President’s Cancer Panel.  Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is a coalition of more than 100 organizations and "represents more than 11 million individuals and includes parents, health professionals, advocates for people with learning and developmental disabilities, reproductive health advocates, environmentalists and businesses from across the nation."  The petition has been signed by more than 70,000 people according to the group, and calls for strengthening of both the "failed" 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the "ineffective" 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FDCA).  According to the petition:

Every minute, at least one American will die from cancer. What is particularly frightening about this statistic is that, contrary to general assumption, many of these cancers could have been prevented.

The petition urges "the President to 'most strongly use the power of your office' to eliminate human exposure to cancer-causing chemicals."  It goes on to say:

By setting the course for a national cancer prevention strategy that includes eliminating the use of cancer-causing chemicals, the President can reverse decades of failed policies that have allowed those chemicals to contaminate our lives and endanger our health.

The petition can be viewed on the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families web site.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

EPA Launches Online ECHO Database to Help Public Find Clean Drinking Water

The USEPA has launched a new searchable online database to help the public determine if their community meets federal clean drinking water standards.  The database, called ECHO, was developed by EPA along with state governments and "allows users to find inspection, violation, enforcement action, informal enforcement action, and penalty information about facilities for the past three years."

ECHO focuses on facility compliance and EPA/state enforcement of environmental regulations. Though the data included within ECHO have been in the public domain through Freedom of Information Act requests and mainframe computer subscription, the information was not available in a searchable Web format. ECHO makes it much easier for the public to obtain these data records on the Internet. 

Facilities regulated under the following environmental statutes are included in the ECHO database:
  • Clean Air Act (CAA) Stationary Source Program, 
  • Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Elimination Discharge System (NPDES), 
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and 
  • Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

The interface integrates the data from a variety of EPA databases.  ECHO includes "a snapshot of a facility’s environmental record, showing dates and types of violations, as well as the state or federal government’s response."  

Access to the ECHO database and more information can be found here.

More information about the data that are included can be found here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

ECHA Says Vast Majority of Intermediate Registrations Under REACH Do NOT Meet Requirements

In a rather stunning announcement, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has issued a news release saying that the vast majority - 86% of the over 400 registration dossiers for intermediates screened - "seem not to contain sufficient information to demonstrate that these conditions are fulfilled."  Intermediates are substances that are manufactured for use in manufacturing other substances (and meet the definitions stipulated by REACH Article 3(15)), and that are manufactured and/or used under "strictly controlled conditions."  As intermediates they benefit significantly from reduced data requirements for registration.

ECHA is encouraging registrants of intermediates "to proactively reassess and, where necessary, update their registration dossiers."  If ECHA concludes that the dossier provided based on the intermediate requirements is insufficient, they may require "that a standard dossier be prepared instead."  Standard dossier data requirements will depend on the tonnage band of the production, but generally will include significantly more data - and more expensive data - then the intermediates dossier.

In order to demonstrate that a substance’s use fulfils the criteria of an isolated intermediate, a registrant should provide information on the identity of the transformation products resulting from the use of the substance and/or information on the manufacturing processes related to the registered substances. The registration dossier for an intermediate shall also include sufficiently detailed information on the risk management measures describing how strictly controlled conditions are ensured, including a description of the technical means used to rigorously contain the substance. This will enable ECHA to verify the intermediate status. 

ECHA says that it has "already communicated with registrants of a number of intermediate dossiers on missing or doubtful information, by inviting them to update the dossiers."  But they also are encouraging other registrants to reassess their dossiers and document that they are taking steps to provide any needed updates so that "that documentation can then be shown to inspectors on demand."

The ECHA announcement can be read here.