EPA publishes Alternatives Assessments for DecaBDE and BPA in thermal paper.

EPA has released final Alternatives Assessment Reports for DecaBDE and bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal paper. The assessments were developed under the agency’s Design for Environment (DfE) program to characterize the environmental and human health hazards for the substances and their alternatives, and are intended to inform substitution decisions.

DecaBDE is a flame retardant belonging to the class of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and has been used in a wide range of products from textiles to building materials. EPA has been concerned that DecaBDE and related chemicals may be persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to humans and the environment. The Alternatives Assessment released yesterday is part of the agency’s action plan for PBDEs, which encourages industry to voluntarily phase out the manufacture and import of these chemicals. The Alternatives Assessment Report [PDF] profiles 29 alternative flame retardants with varying hazard profiles, including substances that have been use for decades as well as others that are relatively new to the market.

BPA is widely used as a developer in thermal paper, as in the case of cash register receipts. The chemical is common in manufacturing polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins; thermal paper represents a smaller percentage of overall BPA use, but EPA is concerned that “use of BPA in thermal paper could increase cumulative human exposures and direct and indirect environmental releases of BPA.” The Alternatives Assessment Report, also part of an EPA action plan, profiles 19 potential chemical alternatives evaluated for human health effects, ecotoxicity, and environmental fate. The report did not identify a clearly safer alternative to BPA, as “most alternatives have Moderate or High hazard designations for human health or aquatic toxicity endpoints.”

BPA in thermal paper has recently come under increased scrutiny in Europe as well. Last week, France submitted a dossier to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) proposing to restrict the use of the substance; in August, France proposed reclassifying BPA from a category 2 reprotoxicant to category 1B.

Senators introduce chemical spill and water protection bill after West Virginia leak.

On Monday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced a bill to prevent future chemical spills like the one that recently contaminated the Elk River and the drinking water for 300,000 West Virginians. The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014 (S. 1961), cosponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), provides a framework for overseeing chemical storage facilities and equipping states and public water companies to respond to spills and other emergencies. The bill amends the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) by adding a new Part G, “Protection of Surface Water from Contamination by Chemical Storage Facilities.”

According to a press release from Sen. Manchin’s office, the Act is premised on four key principles:

1. Requiring regular state inspections of above-ground chemical storage facilities,
2. Requiring industry to develop state-approved emergency response plans that meet at least minimum guidelines established in this bill, 
3. Allowing states to recoup costs incurred from responding to emergencies, and 
4. Ensuring drinking water systems have the tools and information to respond to emergencies.

The Act applies to chemical storage facilities for which the EPA or delegated state authority has determined “that a release of the chemical from the facility poses a risk of harm to a public water system.” It establishes state programs under SDWA to oversee and inspect the facilities, building on existing water protection plans. The bill sets federal minimum standards for chemical facilities regarding construction, leak detection and spill requirements, emergency response plans, and notification to EPA, state officials, and public water systems of stored chemicals. Inspections would be required on a regular basis, either every three of five years, depending on drinking water protection plans. The Act also ensures that EPA or the states can recover costs from facility owners and operators for emergency response activities.

The bill does not tackle the current framework’s deficit of health hazard information for the over 60,000 chemicals “grandfathered” in by the passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – a gap which has received significant public criticism in the wake of the Elk River spill. There has been no indication whether the TSCA reform bills currently pending in the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee might be amended in response to the West Virginia spill.

The text of the legislation [PDF] and a one-page fact sheet [PDF] are available on Sen. Manchin’s website. The bill has been referred to the Senate EPW Committee; the Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife has scheduled a hearing for February 4 entitled, “Examination of the Safety and Security of Drinking Water Supplies Following the Central West Virginia Drinking Water Crisis.”

Member states, ECHA agree to improve substance evaluation interactions.

Member states, the European Commission, and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) have agreed on recommendations for improving communications under the REACH Community Rolling Action Plan (Corap). Last month, we reported on the presentation and endorsement of a working group paper recommending the improvement of interactions during the REACH substance evaluation process. Earlier this week, ECHA released the paper [PDF], which is aimed at evaluating member states and intended to “give guidance for a common approach and create a level playing field.”

The nonbinding recommendations encourage evaluating member states to contact the lead registrant in the first instance. Registrants should be proactive, “speak with one voice” in communications, and send consolidated comments on draft decisions on behalf of all registrants.

The recommendations are not meant to be exhaustive, since interactions will vary by evaluation, and instead focus on the “informal interaction” between evaluators and registrants during the current evaluation year. The experience gained from first year of evaluations informed the recommendations, which will be revised as necessary based on further experiences. The paper is intended to complement the previously published leaflet, “Substance evaluation under REACH – Tips for registrants and downstream users” [PDF].

Nearly 50 chemicals added to EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List.

EPA Assistant Administrator Jim Jones took to the agency’s blog today to promote new additions to the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL), part of EPA’s Design for Environment (DfE) program. EPA has just added nearly 50 chemicals – including 40 fragrances – to the SCIL, which now totals 650 “safer” chemicals. SCIL chemicals are evaluated by third-party profilers to determine whether they meet the program’s protective criteria across a broad range of potential toxicological effects, ranging from carcinogens to asthmagens to chemicals on authoritative lists of chemicals of concern.

DfE is a voluntary labeling program which currently recognizes 2,500 products, such as household cleaners and firefighting foam, for high performance, cost effectiveness, and use of the safest chemical ingredients. The SCIL component of the DfE program is arranged by functional use class and is aimed at helping product manufacturers identify safer chemical ingredients, formulate safer products, and make it easier for products to earn the DfE label.

Members of California’s second Green Ribbon Science Panel announced.

Yesterday, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced the appointment of 15 members to the newly reconstituted Green Ribbon Science Panel. The appointments include reappointed members from the first panel as well as new members. Panel members include experts on public and environmental health as well as chemicals policy, law, and engineering, and are drawn from academia, NGOs, industry, and government. As we previously discussed, the Panel advises DTSC on green chemistry and chemicals policy issues, including implementation of the Safer Consumer Products regulations.

A Green Ribbon Science Panel Webinar Meeting will be held January 29, 2014. More information from DTSC will be posted online in the near future.

ECHA finds that 70 percent of REACH registration dossiers are noncompliant.

After evaluating over 1,000 substance registration dossiers in the over-100 tonne per year band, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) found that almost 70 percent of the dossiers were noncompliant. Yesterday, ECHA announced the results of its compliance checks of 1,130 dossiers, comprising 5.7 percent of the registration dossiers over 100 tonnes submitted for the first REACH registration deadline in 2010. REACH requires the agency to check compliance for at least 5 percent of each tonnage band.

The agency identified two main causes for noncompliance: information deficiencies regarding the substance’s identification and composition; and missing data in chemical safety reports or insufficient justification for not submitting required studies.

ECHA’s Executive Director, Geert Dancet, described the completion of the compliance check as an “important milestone which helps all registrants to better understand their legal requirements.” Dancet also pointed out that the high noncompliance rate was not surprising since ECHA had targeted the compliance check on dossiers that had been electronically pre-screened for having “apparent shortcomings.”

ECHA has issued decisions as a result of the compliance check to registrants, who are required to submit the requested information. EU member states are responsible for enforcement of these decisions. ChemicalWatch notes that ECHA has declined to reveal either the companies or substances associated with the noncompliant dossiers, to the chagrin of certain NGO critics.

DTSC releases strategic plan.

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) plans to focus on improving departmental operations while addressing health and safety issues through a variety of new and continuing initiatives to reduce hazardous waste and toxic substances. In late December, DTSC released its Strategic Plan for 2014-2018: Fixing the Foundation – Building a Path Forward, [PDF] which lays out approaches and specific objectives for five broad goals: Cleanup, Hazardous Waste Management, Safer Consumer Products, Support Services, and Public Engagement.

DTSC’s approach to achieving its Hazardous Waste Management objectives includes holding businesses accountable for costs associated with regulation and cleanup, maximizing enforcement reach, and improving data quality and transparency. Notably, the plan calls for reforming the agency’s hazardous waste fee system by making fees “fairer” and in line with the goals of source reduction, recycling, polluter-pays principle, and in-state management. Following an external review of the agency’s permit program, DTSC plans to work on ensuring that permits are protective, timely, and enforceable, and also that enforcement is effective, efficient, and consistent. The agency hopes to improve public confidence in this area through a range of different efforts, including making the “enforcement program’s information and processes more accessible to the public” and launching an IT system that “improves the availability and accuracy of hazardous waste tracking data” for both the agency and the public. Other Hazardous Waste Management objectives include: working with Cal/EPA to train and evaluate local authorities responsible for enforcing hazardous waste laws at the local level; expanding DTSC’s capacity to respond to natural disasters and chemical emergencies; and assessing the classification of metal shredder waste.

The agency’s approach to its newly-launched Safer Consumer Products (SCP) program includes: changing how products are designed and manufactured; avoiding product redesigns that result in “regrettable substitutes”; holding manufacturers responsible for the life cycle impacts of their products; and increasing public access to data on chemicals in consumer products while protecting trade secret information. First among its objectives for the SCP program is the adoption of the initial list of Priority Products and development of guidance documents for Alternatives Analysis. DTSC also plans to develop a data system to support implementation of the SCP regulations and provide information tools for manufacturers and consumers on chemical hazard traits and exposures.

More information on DTSC’s “Fixing the Foundation” initiative is available in Director Debbie Raphael’s online message.

Changes for TSCA CBI claims on the horizon.

According to the OMB’s regulatory agenda, EPA is planning to issue a proposed rule on confidential business information (CBI) claims under TSCA.  The proposed rule, which is expected to be released in spring 2014, would require companies making CBI claims to reassert and re-substantiate those claims on a periodic basis. EPA’s intent in proposing the new regulation is to increase transparency and the availability of environmental and health effects information for existing chemicals in the marketplace.

Details about the proposed rule are not yet available, but ChemicalWatch identified two critical issues that will need to be addressed: (1) whether CBI claims will be evaluated immediately and (2) whether individual chemicals must be disclosed. According to ChemicalWatch, stakeholders expect that CBI claims would stand for five years before review and renewal is required.

The future of CBI claims may be further complicated by current legislative efforts to reform TSCA. The Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), the TSCA modernization bill currently before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, contains complex CBI provisions which have been criticized by NGOs as overly burdensome for EPA’s resources.

It is also unclear how the new CBI rule would affect EPA’s voluntary CBI Declassification Challenge. In December, Bloomberg discussed the state of the CBI Declassification Challenge with Jim Jones, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention. Through this initiative, EPA has determined that over half of the 22,000 CBI claims the agency had thought were submitted by chemical companies were in fact never made. The inflated number was due to a newly identified problem in EPA’s tracking system. Of the remaining claims, 909 cases have been declassified, 3,349 claims have been assessed as valid, and EPA is still investigating the last 7,000 claims.

European Commission orders study of polymers for possible REACH registration requirements.

Polymers are currently exempt from REACH registration requirements, but recent actions taken by the European Commission (EC or the Commission) suggest that polymers might face a heavier regulatory burden in the future. Today, ChemicalWatch reported that the Commission has awarded a contract to study whether and how polymers should be subject to REACH registration requirements. The contract was awarded to Bio-Intelligence, a consultancy, in December 2013, and the study is expected to be completed by October 2014.

Article 138(2) of REACH empowers the Commission to present legislative proposals for selecting polymers for registration after finding a practicable solution and publishing a report on the matter. This report must cover risks posed by polymers in comparison with other substances; and the need, if any, to register certain types of polymers, taking into account factors including competitiveness and innovation as well as human health and the environment.

Last year’s REACH Review concluded that there was insufficient information to conclude whether certain types of polymers should be registered. In 2012, the consultancy RPA conducted another study for the EC on registration requirements for polymers. Taken together, the studies may for the basis for a new proposal on registering certain polymers.

Verdant to sponsor 2014 GlobalChem Conference.

Verdant is proud to announce our sponsorship of the upcoming American Chemistry Council and Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates GlobalChem Conference and Exhibition in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference will be held March 3-5, 2014 and will cover topics important to the chemical regulations field, ranging from TSCA modernization to California’s Safer Consumer Products program to updates on REACH registration.

Verdant’s Managing Principal, Philip Moffat, said:  “This is one of the premier chemical regulatory conferences in the United States.  We’re proud of our partnership with ACC, SOCMA, and the other conference sponsors.”

We will post more information about Verdant’s participation in the conference as it approaches.