Friday, September 30, 2011

EPA Will Identify Priority Chemicals by Thanksgiving (or so)

EPA will identify chemicals to be prioritized sometime this fall as it tries to move forward under the old TSCA as Congress makes no progress on developing a new TSCA.  To do so EPA will take into consideration feedback they received from a variety of stakeholders in two recent outreach attempts related to their proposed prioritization process. 

EPA introduced its proposed prioritization scheme and "discussion guide" back in August.  They then had a webinar on September 7th to give an overview of the proposed scheme and to invite feedback.  Finally, EPA also invited the public to share their thoughts in an online discussion forum.  That discussion forum closed on September 14th.

All comments received from stakeholders are now being assimilated and reviewed by EPA staff, who are working to identify chemicals to be prioritized for review.  In general the feedback was very constructive and included both concerns for the data sources being proposed as well as suggestions for other data sources to include in the evaluation. Other stakeholders cautioned that the use of production volume as a surrogate for exposure could lead to chemicals with very low risk being prioritized while chemicals of low production volume by high exposure potential, and thus risk, might be left out.  Some stakeholders suggested the addition of additional health effects such as endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity and skin or respiratory sensitization be used early in the prioritization process, while others cautioned that the process could get bogged down in the minutia if too many factors were included in the first step.

More information on the EPA chemical prioritization can be found on the discussion forum web site and EPA's existing chemicals "Identifying priority chemicals for review" page.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ECHA Goes to Commission on REACH Testing Proposal

How many Member State Competent Authorities does it take to make a decision on REACH testing proposals?  Apparently more than they have.  The Member State Committee (MSC) at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) "could not find unanimous agreement based on scientific and technical arguments on a draft decision for a testing proposal."

Let's go to the Commission!  For the first time ECHA will employ Article 51(7) of the REACH Regulation and refer a case to the European Commission for decision making.

This non-decision by the MSC took place last week.  Not that they were stymied on all decisions.  They did agree on the draft decisions "for all five compliance checks" they were charged with reviewing.  And they did come to unanimous agreement on two of the four draft decisions on "testing proposal examinations." But two testing proposals were particularly tricky.  For one, the MSC refined the proposal during the meeting and expect to agree in writing shortly. 

The final testing proposal reached stalemate, hence the referral to the Commission.  The proposal:

"concerns a testing proposal examination where the registrant has proposed to perform a two-generation reproductive toxicity test in accordance with the EU test method B.35. This information would be necessary to fill the data gap regarding reproductive toxicity for the substance that is produced in quantities of over 1000 tonnes per annum.  Some MSC members preferred to ask the registrant to use the recently adopted OECD test guideline 443, the extended one-generation reproductive toxicity study (EOGRTS). Others wanted to maintain the present requirement of performing a two-generation study."

No information on when (or if) the Commission will make its decision.

More on what the Member States Committee does can be found on their web page here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

REACH Chemical Regulation Group Offers Advice and Recommendations

The Director's Contact Group (DCG) has issued a report on the "Achievements, Lessons Learned and Recommendations" garnered from its supporting role for last year's first REACH registration deadline.  The DCB was formed to deal with a wide range of issues related to REACH chemical regulation - 28 different issues in all.  And now the DCG has been renewed until the end of September 2013 so that it can address any issues that might arise with the next registration deadline, which is May 30, 2013.

The DCG report gives a summary of its achievements, and presents many of the lessons learned from the experience.  All of this sets the stage for recommendations that hopefully will ease the burden for companies preparing for the 2013 (and 2018) registration deadlines.  An annex of the report gives short summaries of the 28 issues addressed by the group to date.

Issues that are expected to be priority for the next deadline include:

  • Organizational issues within SIEFs, the Substance Information Exchange Forums, that had mixed reviews during the first round of registrations,
  • Guidance on how to deal with situations in which the companies have merged or spun off units during the registration period (which is especially important for the many small and medium size entities that are expected to be part of the second round),
  • Guidance on communication within the supply chain, again a difficult issue for small and medium sized companies with less resources
  • Updating of information technology tools like IUCLID, REACH-IT, and guidance documents
One thing that the DCG and ECHA agree on is that companies planning to register chemicals by May 2013 should "Act Now!"  Members say that industry cannot prepare early enough, and many (but not all) companies are heeding that advise. 

The DCG report can be downloaded as a PDF here.

More information on REACH can be found on the ECHA web site.

Monday, September 26, 2011

NSF Announces Steps to Improve Participation of Women in STEM Science Careers

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is announcing steps that will "make it easier for women to pursue careers in engineering and the sciences," according to an Op-Ed by Valerie Jarrett and Tina Tchen in yesterday's Washington Post.  They note that "women working in science, technology, engineering and math [STEM] careers earn 33 percent more than those in other occupations, and these 'STEM' skills will become even more important in high-growth, high-tech fields such as health-care technology and advanced manufacturing."

Jarrett and Tchen note that circumstances often work against women:

As with women throughout the workforce, however, women in STEM jobs are often expected to establish themselves professionally at the same time they are starting families. This forces women to choose between their careers and their responsibilities at home. Understandably, many of our most promising young scientists and engineers drop out of the pipeline. 

Ways that NSF is looking to make it easier for women in STEM careers include:
  • Working with women researchers who need to delay the start of a funded project for a family-related reason,
  • Options to add the lost time if female researchers interrupt research to have a baby,
  • Support for research into the effectiveness of flexible workplace policies.
 For a more in-depth discussion, see the Washington Post article by Jarrett and Tchen

More information is on the National Science Foundation web site.