Friday, July 22, 2011

Updated QSAR Tools Made Available to Assess Chemicals

Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationships (QSAR) are computer based tools that allow the estimation of chemical properties and toxicity based on a chemical's structure rather than from doing animal testing.  QSARS, and their more qualitative cousins, SARs, are commonly used as screening tools to determine whether animal testing is needed.  They are routinely used by the USEPA to assess premanufacture notice (PMN) submissions for new chemicals, which generally have very little actual testing data included.  With the advent of REACH, the EU has also shifted to a greater acceptance of SARs and QSARs in lieu of actual laboratory testing.

To this end the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has made various QSAR tools developed by industry and governments available to companies registering chemicals under the REACH chemical registration law that went into force in 2007.  ECHA has now released an updated, Version 2.2, of the "OECD QSAR Toolbox" for "grouping chemicals into categories" and "to fill data gaps by read-across, trend analysis and to assess the (eco)toxicity hazards of chemicals."  The goal is to provide data for decision-making while reducing costs and unnecessary vertebrate animal testing.  According to ECHA, users of the QSAR Toolbox can:
  • Identify analogues for a chemical, retrieve experimental results available for those analogues and fill data gaps by read-across or trend analysis;
  • Categorise large inventories of chemicals according to mechanisms or modes of action;
  • Fill data gaps for any chemical by using the library of (Q)SAR models;
  • Evaluate the robustness of a potential analogue for read-across;
  • Evaluate the appropriateness of a (Q)SAR model for filling a data gap for a particular target chemical;
  • Build (Q)SAR models.
More information on the OECD QSAR Toolbox can be found here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Senators Lautenberg and Inhofe Staffs Hold Stakeholder Meetings on Safe Chemicals Act of 2011

Way back in April Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced his newest iteration of TSCA reform called the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.  Last year the Democratic-controlled House took the lead in holding stakeholder meetings to fine tune the 2010 versions of the bill.  With the House controlled by Republicans this year it is left to the 87 year old Lautenberg to initiate stakeholder meetings in the Senate in an attempt to give TSCA reform at least some semblance of movement during the current Congressional term.  Since Republican Senator Inhofe had previously volunteered to work in a bipartisan manner with the Democratic Lautenberg, their staffs have begun meeting with various stakeholders to discuss key issues in the debate.

In June there were separate meetings between staffers and industry and environmental/health advocacy groups (NGOs).  Those meetings primarily dealt with the differing opinions on what should be the "safety standard."  It's unclear at this stage whose viewpoint would win out, but in the past industry has made it clear that the previously proposed standard was unworkable.  At least one more stakeholder meeting with industry representatives was held last week, this time to discuss a prioritization scheme.  A separate meeting with NGOs was due to occur, but it is unclear if it has yet happened.  NGOs had previously pushed to have minimum data sets required for all chemicals, in line with the production volume based tiered requirements currently being compiled by REACH registrants.  This is a fundamental point of difference between the two main groups of stakeholders.

Additional meetings on other key elements of Lautenberg's bill are expected to occur in coming weeks.

Whether a TSCA reform bill can even be taken up for floor discussion in this current Congress is a question mark, though it is safe to say that the likelihood is exceedingly small.  The current contentious environment and uncompromising attitudes of many in the House make passage of any TSCA reform law nearly impossible.  Which means that the EPA must work under the current 35-year old law, the same law that all stakeholders have said is in dire need of modernization.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

China Lists Hazardous Chemicals

China has now posted its first list of "hazardous chemicals for priority management" as party of their efforts to update their chemical health and safety management program.  This first list contains 60 chemicals and was released by SAWS, China's State Administration of Work Safety, in late June 2011.

The list can be viewed here in Chinese only.

Chemicals listed for priority management include common substances like benzene, methanol, chlorine, and ammonium hydroxide, as well as methyl hydrazine, acrylic acid, hexachloropentadiene, and methyl tert butyl ether (MTBE).  There are also some substances and mixtures that are listed based on their classification as flammable gases or liquids, pyrophoric liquids or solids, or substances that emit flammable gases when in contact with water.

For chemicals on the list, SAWS will engage in prioritized inspections of facilities that manufacture, store or use the chemicals.  Companies will also be required to prepare emergency response plans to deal with spills and accidents involving chemicals on the list.

Additional lists are expected in the future.