Thursday, March 1, 2012

EPA Releases Chemical Work Plan - Names Chemicals for Risk Assessment

EPA has "developed a work plan that identifies existing chemicals for risk assessment over the next several years."  Today they "posted the methodology for developing this work plan, the work plan chemicals identified using the methodology, and seven chemicals for risk assessment development in 2012." EPA also posted an "existing chemicals program strategy," that "includes risk assessment and risk reduction, data collection and screening, and public access to chemical data and information."

We'll examine the strategy and work plans in more detail over the coming days, but here's a quick synopsis. Last September EPA announced that it would seek to identify existing chemicals for risk assessment under TSCA since the TSCA reform legislation was likely not to be seriously discussed in Congress for some time.  In a two-step process, EPA identified criteria for prioritizing chemicals based on their hazards, likelihood for exposure, and persistence/bioaccumulation. Scores for each segment are compiled from a variety of sources (to be discussed in future posts), categorized into high, moderate or low ranks, and given an overall score ranging from 1 (low) to 3 (high).  Chemicals receiving high scores in all or most of the segments get higher priority for assessment.

Since EPA resources are limited, and likely to get even more limited due to pending budget cuts, they have designated only seven chemicals for the 2012 work plan.  Another 76 chemicals have been designated for future year work plans.  

More details will come in future posts.  The seven chemicals listed for 2012 will be subject to EPA risk assessments.  They are:
  • Antimony & Antimony Compounds
  • 1,2,3,6,7,8-Hexahydro-3,6,6,7,8,8-hexamethylcyclopentag]-2-benzopyran (HHCB)
  • Long-chain chlorinated paraffins (C18-20)
  • Medium-chain chlorinated paraffins (C14-17)
  • Methylene chloride
  • N-Methylpyrrolidone
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ECHA Proposes to List 13 Chemicals as Substances of Very High Concern Under REACH

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has proposed to add 13 additional chemicals to their candidate list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC).  Each of the chemicals "is classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction."  Stakeholders and other interested parties are urged to comment on the proposed listings.  Besides toxicity, "information on the uses of the substances is invited."

The public consultation "will be open for 45 days and will end on 12 April 2012."  After the consultation period, ECHA will consider all comments and then make final decisions on including the substances on the candidate list.  Eventually these substances could be included on the REACH Annex XIV Authorisation List. If that happens then companies will have to apply for authorisation, that is, apply to have their substance remain on the market, usually only for specific controllable uses, limited volumes, and for a limited period of time while substitutes are developed.

More information and the list of chemicals can be found on the ECHA web site.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review – A Contract with the Earth by Newt Gingrich and Terry L. Maple

This is a rather odd book to review. On the one hand former Speaker Newt Gingrich teams up with the CEO of the Palm Beach Zoo to argue for a “Contract with the Earth” in which all of us, without partisanship, become stewards of the environment. Published in 2007, they note that “as a nation” we must remove our addiction to oil: “By weaning industrial societies from their dependence on fossil fuels, the world would be a far better place.” They implore both parties to take the environment seriously, pleading that “surely our energy problems rise to the level of a presidential crusade.”
Later they quote a coalition of corporate CEOs that together represent an Energy Security Leadership Council:

“America’s oil dependence threatens the prosperity and safety of the nation. Continued policy paralysis is unacceptable precisely because we can take action to improve our energy security. Many challenges lie ahead, but we have no doubt that efforts of the American people will meet with success.”

That was during the Bush administration.

Which gets us to the other hand. While the book argues forcefully for bipartisan (or more accurately, non-partisan) action to deal with climate change, pollution, protection of endangered species, biodiversity, and other environmental values, it is also rife with political innuendo and denialism. Given Gingrich’s recent statements that contradict the profoundly persuasive arguments in this book, it’s unclear whether the self-contradictions are a result of the differing views of the two authors or of the lead author’s political pandering induced by a run for the White House.

Ignoring that aspect for the moment, the book does offer some compelling ideas for how to rid ourselves of our oil addiction and invest in the development of renewable energy. They quote Espy and Winston’s book Green to Gold, in that “smart companies seize competitive advantage through strategic management of environmental challenges.” In other words, smart innovative companies can make a buck and save the planet too! Gingrich and Maple advocate an entrepreneurial approach to dealing with climate change, quoting the Republicans for Environmental Protection:

“America is ready to meet the challenges posed by global warming. America has the best scientists. America’s businesses lead the world in developing and marketing innovative technologies that transform lives. All that remains is leadership that will channel the unrivaled power and creativity of markets toward developing the solutions we need soon to protect our atmosphere, strengthen American economy, and bring clean prosperity to the world’s developing nations.”

As I read those final words it struck me – perhaps Newt Gingrich should go back and read his own book.

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