Friday, October 1, 2010

EPA Celebrates 20th Anniversary of the Pollution Protection Act

You read about it in the papers, right?  Probably not.  In any case the USEPA celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 last week during, not surprisingly, National Pollution Prevention Week.  The goal of the Act, affectionately called P2 (for Pollution prevention) "is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream."

Doesn't sound too sexy, but P2 has "served as the foundation for efforts that have significantly reduced pollution at its source -- helping to protect children and families from the risks of exposure to pollutants, as well as reducing the amount of pollutants released into the environment."  So last week the EPA reminded people of the "the success of EPA programs such as Energy Star, WaterSense, EPEAT and DfE, which have collectively helped save billions of dollars, preserve precious resources, reduce waste and the use of toxic chemicals, and protect public and environmental health."

By the way, the "DfE" in the above paragraph stands for "Design for the Environment," and is just one of the programs in which EPA has been working with manufacturers, formulators, and downstream users to find better, more environmentally friendly ways to accomplish the same goals.  I'll do a program review of DfE at some point in the future.

As President Obama notes in his P2 message,
“Together, we can work to create a cleaner, safer world for our children and grandchildren to inherit.”
More information P2 can be found on the EPA web site.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Department of Interior issues policy on scientific integrity

The US Department of the Interior, led by Secretary Ken Salazar, has finally issued a new policy to ensure scientific integrity.  According to the "Secretary's Order," the policy is designed to "guide and ensure the integrity of science and scientific products developed and used by the [DOI] in decision making and in the creation of policy related to the conservation and responsible development of our Nation's natural resources, protecting our heritage, and honoring native cultures and tribal communities."

The policy is in line with President Obama's call last year for all agencies and departments to establish a means by which they could ensure scientific integrity.  One of the main rationales for calling for policies was the numerous accusations of suppression or manipulation of scientific data in previous administrations, most notably those regarding protection of endangered species and climate change.

While the Union of Concerned Scientists praises the DOI policy as "a great first step," the watchdog organization OMB Watch suggests it doesn't go far enough.  As the representative from UCS says,
“While this is a great framework, the real work begins now. Without specifics and a timeline, these principles will end up as just another good idea. There are many details the plan must address, including deadlines for releasing information and disclosing meetings with special interests. Interior must move quickly to put flesh on these bones."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

ECHA to use its "discretionary right" to support REACH chemical registrants that can't meet the November 30th deadline

Well, within limits.  As the November 30, 2010 deadline rapidly approaches, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is anticipating that at least some (or perhaps many) companies will be unable to complete their REACH registration packages for REACH by the time.  In a September 27th press release, ECHA says:
Companies facing exceptional situations that are likely to prevent them from registering on time should inform ECHA well ahead of the deadline of 30 November 2010.
However, this support will only be available in "exceptional cases," specifically under five scenarios:

  • Difficulties to provide data required in Annex VII and Annex VIII in due time or difficulties for importers of mixtures to obtain compositional and analytical data of the substances in the mixture from their suppliers (Issue No. 10)
  • Impossibility of transferring pre-registrations or submitting a late pre-registration due to legal entity changes (Issue No. 15)
  • Failure by the lead registrant to submit a fully REACH compliant dossier (Issue No. 20)
  • Downstream users are obliged to become importers, as a substance is not registered by any EU based supplier (Issue No. 21)
  • Registrants need to accommodate new/updated guidance and hence have difficulties to provide data in Annex VII and Annex VIII in due time (Issue No. 10)   

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

51 investor organizations sign letter urging Congress to act on TSCA safe chemicals reform

Normally we hear about environmental and health advocacy groups supporting safe chemical legislation.  Yesterday 51 organizations focused on managing billions of dollars in assets endorsed the recent Safe Chemicals Act (introduced in the Senate) and the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act (introduced in the House).

They argue that taking action to ensure the safety of chemicals is not only good for business, it is essential for business because“exposures to toxic chemicals produce a tremendous drag on the U.S. economy, contributing to health problems throughout supply chains.” 

They go on to note that:

"chemical exposures have been linked by scientists to various forms of cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reproductive health and fertility problems, and asthma. Savings in health care costs from reducing exposures vary among studies, but routinely add up to billions of dollars annually. Exposures lower worker productivity and raise corporate health care costs. These can burden corporate performance and reduce investor returns."
The investors further encourage action, and the goal “should be to move American business swiftly away from 20th Century chemistry, with its legacy of Superfund sites, impaired human health, and damaged ecosystems, to green 21st Century chemistry that will better serve the long term well-being of business, humanity, and Planet Earth.”

The press release can be seen at the Investor Environmental Health Network web site.

Monday, September 27, 2010

OECD issues report on the safety of nanotechnology

As I have reported in the past, there is a lot of interest by various regulatory and government bodies in trying to come up with the best way to ensure the safety of nanoscale materials in the market place.  The newest is a report issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The report is available as a PDF document here.

Specifically the document "provides information on current/planned activities related to the safety of manufactured nanomaterials in OECD member and non-member countries that attended at the 7th meeting of OECD’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (Paris France, 7-9 July 2010)."  It also includes "written reports on relevant current activities in other International Organisations such as the ISO and the WHO."

The WHO (not the rock group) is the World Health Organization.  ISO is the International Organization for Standardization. Also contributing is the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO; governments and scientists just love acronyms).

OECD's activities on nanotechnology are coordinated through "The Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials," which "brings together more than 100 experts from governments and other stakeholders"

According to the OECD report "The Working Party is implementing its work through specific projects to further develop appropriate methods and strategies to help ensure human health and environmental safety:

• OECD Database on Manufactured Nanomaterials to Inform and Analyse EHS Research Activities;

• Safety Testing of a Representative Set of Manufactured Nanomaterials;

• Manufactured Nanomaterials and Test Guidelines;

• Co-operation on Voluntary Schemes and Regulatory Programmes;

• Co-operation on Risk Assessment;

• The role of Alternative Methods in Nanotoxicology;

• Exposure Measurement and Exposure Mitigation; and

• Co-operation on Environmentally Sustainable Use of Nanotechnology

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Europe Adopts First Chemicals for its Authorization List under REACH

We now have our first list of chemicals added to Annex XIV for possible Authorization.  This past week the EU’s REACH Committee adopted a list of six substances the European Chemical's Agency (ECHA) has proposed as substances of very high concern.

The six listed in Annex XIV are:

  • 5-tert-butyl-2,4,6-trinitro-m-xylene (also known as musk xylene)
  • 4,4’ – diaminodiphenylmethane (MDA)
  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD)
  • Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP)
  • Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
All six were previously listed on ECHA's "candidate list," which is the first step in the REACH Authorization process.  Following the opportunity for stakeholders to comment, the chemicals now are formerly added to Annex XIV of REACH. 

And here is where things get really interesting.  Now that these six (and many more in the future) are in Annex XIV, they are now considered to be on the chopping block.  These six chemicals will be banned after a designated time period unless manufacturers make formal application for "authorization."  Authorization means they could be allowed to continue certain uses of the substance, but only under strictly controlled conditions for a finite period of time to allow the development or discovery of a substitute substance.  Meanwhile the stigma of being listed will likely cause downstream users to search for alternative formulations for their products, so the incentives for finding replacements are based both on regulatory deadlines and market economics.