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10 posts from February 2005

February 28, 2005

HPV Chemicals

HPV CHEMICALS: The EPA's chemical regulation program will soon receive a torrent of physical and environmental data on hundreds of substances. This inflow of information about the basic physical properties, toxicity, and persistence of hundreds of compounds is not unexpected -- and the agency wants it. Chemical makers are submitting the data voluntarily so that EPA has a way to assess the relative safety of thousands of high-production-volume (HPV) substances that are manufactured or imported in the U.S. at volumes of at least 1 million lb per year. EPA is faced with the task of putting these myriad submissions in some sort of logical order before it begins reviewing them. The agency's goal is to first assess the data on chemicals that might pose a health or environmental hazard, then review the information on lower priority substances later. In preparation for the slew of HPV submissions, the agency turned to an advisory group for suggestions on handling the data. In mid-February, after many months of deliberations, the National Pollution Prevention & Toxics Advisory Committee (NPPTAC) recommended a way for EPA to prioritize submissions for assessment. In its recommendations, NPPTAC set a goal for the agency to finish assessing the 1,400 chemicals due next year in the domestic HPV Challenge Program in four years. Chemicals flagged for attention first -- because of possible toxicity or environmental persistence -- would go through the assessment within the first two of those four years. NPPTAC recommended a detailed plan that would allow EPA to sort submissions on HPV chemicals into three classes. Chemicals with data indicating toxicity or persistence in the environment would be placed in the highest priority class and would be the first group assessed by EPA. Chemicals with information suggesting low toxicity or persistence would go into a second class for later review, while those with extremely low or no toxicity and persistence would be reviewed last. Chemical & Engineering News, 02/28/05, pp. 42-43.

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February 23, 2005

Perfluorooctanoic Acid

INDUSTRY TO CUT USE OF PFOA DERIVATIVE: The fluoropolymer industry agreed February 9th to cut the amount of a potentially toxic chemical in some of its products significantly by 2006, as part of a broad EPA push to reduce environmental exposure. The Society of the Plastics Industry announced at an EPA hearing in Washington that the industry will cut levels of the chemical, a derivative of perfluorooctanoic acid, by 90% from 2000 levels. The agreement covers aqueous fluoropolymer dispersions -- fluoropolymers sold in a water-based material that makes it easier to coat products needing a tough outer barrier, from nonstick frying pans to roofs of airports to military and aerospace applications, said Don Duncan, president of Washington-based SPI. EPA is cracking down on PFOA because it mysteriously has shown up in low levels in the blood of large segments of the U.S. population, and some studies indicate links to cancer and other health problems. But whether it is harmful to the general public is a subject for debate -- a preliminary EPA review last month was inconclusive. As part of the February 9th agreement, Duncan said the fluoropolymer resin industry has developed technology to reduce the amount of ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO), a derivative of PFOA, in resins used in the dispersion process. It will work to get the new low-APFO resin widely distributed to the fluoropolymer processing industry, he said. Duncan predicts that the low-APFO resins will not cost more and will be widely used, but noted that many companies using the resins will need to get them re-qualified with their customers, since they are often used in high-performance applications with strict manufacturing controls. Plastics News, 02/14/05, p. 5.

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February 22, 2005

Updating MSDSs

UPDATING MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEETS: Twenty years ago, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration began requiring companies that manufacture or market hazardous chemicals to prepare and issue material safety data sheets (MSDSs). While most users find that the now ubiquitous safety sheets provide essential information and are mostly helpful, many of these users also question the quality and quantity of that information. For example, if you purchase deionized water for your lab, it might come with an MSDS, even though water is not considered a hazardous chemical. One study of 10 water MSDSs found a wide array of unusual information on them, such as the solubility of water in water; a recommendation to use protective gloves when handling; and advice to store the liquid in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area. For first aid when getting deionized water in the eyes, one sheet recommends, "Obtain medical attention in all cases." Another suggests, "Irrigate with water." Although most chemists reviewing an MSDS for deionized water would ignore the nonsensical information, the safety sheets could be confusing to nontechnical users, such as emergency first responders or production workers in firms that simply follow chemical recipes to formulate their products. More seriously, poorly prepared MSDSs with inaccurate or contradictory information on hazardous chemicals have been cited as a contributing factor in several fatal U.S. chemical industry accidents. In its response to mounting criticism, OSHA has undertaken several measures that are expected to improve the safety sheets. In the works are a new training program on how to prepare MSDSs properly and the creation of a quality-control mechanism. Separately, a "globally harmonized" hazard communication system with a safety sheet similar to an MSDS is being sponsored by the United Nations. OSHA has indicated that oversight of MSDSs would be complicated and cumbersome and thus not practical. One problem is that there are 650,000 different chemicals in more than 3 million workplaces in the U.S., including farms, automobile repair shops, small chemical production facilities, and sprawling petrochemical complexes. In 2004, the agency carried out nearly 40,000 workplace inspections and issued more than 7,300 citations for violations of the Hazard Communication Standard, although the focus of the citations was in general not MSDS accuracy or content. Another complicating issue is that chemical hazard communication in the U.S. is convoluted, with OSHA covering workplaces, the Department of Transportation regulating shipping, the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulating consumer products, and the Environmental Protection Agency covering pesticides. Each agency operates under different statutory mandates and has adopted different approaches to hazard communication requirements. Individual states also enforce compliance with their own standards, which must be at least as stringent as Federal standards. States carry out more inspections than the Federal government, however. Chemical & Engineering News, 02/07/05, pp. 24-26.

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EPA science advisers will examine the computer software the agency uses to determine the potential risks of new chemicals that may be released into the environment. EPA employs the software, called the Estimation Programs Interface Suite, as it reviews premanufacture notices for new commercial chemicals. The software uses chemical structure to predict a substance's physical and chemical properties and environmental fate. In addition, the agency uses the software to estimate physical, chemical, and environmental properties of compounds already in commerce. The agency's Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics has asked the EPA Science Advisory Board to examine the supporting science, functionality, and appropriate use of the software. Last week, the board announced it was seeking nominations for a panel to review the software.

More information on the panel and the type of expertise sought in its members is available at http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-SAB/2005/January/Day-31/sab1716.htm.
Chemical & Engineering News, 02/07/05, p. 23.

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February 21, 2005


Bringing a new molecule to market is risky. When the regulatory hurdle of premanufacture notice (PMN) is figured in, the challenge can be enough to put small batch manufacturers off the task entirely -- a potentially fatal response in today's highly competitive, global market. The Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers \ Association has addressed the problem by developing PMNPro, a consulting service designed to affordably shepherd manufacturers through the PMN process. At last month's Informex 2005 trade show, SOCMA announced that the program is now fully operational.

Further, it has been expanded, by partnership with the Japan Technical Information Center, to provide assistance with registration in several Asian countries, including Japan, Korea and China. Chemical Market Reporter. 02/07/05, p. 8.

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February 20, 2005

Bishenol A

BISPHENOL A SAFETY CHALLENGED: There is consensus among the scientific research community that bisphenol A (BPA), the raw material for polycarbonate (PC), may be an endocrine-disrupting chemical that could be particularly damaging to human embryos and young children, says Frederick S. vom Saal, professor of biology at the University ofVomsaal  Missouri (Colombia, MO). The number of research papers published by scientists in journals such as Nature indicating a link between low-dose exposure to BPA and defects in prenatal and young babies has increased from "a handful a few years ago, to more than 90 today," vom Saal says. Vom Saal made his comments last week in London, where he met with opinion-makers to express his concerns about potential health problems associated with BPA at legally permitted exposure levels. The chemical industry says BPA is safe and that BPA levels in PC products such as bottles for feeding babies and food packaging, are not hazardous to humans. "BPA has been safely used for over 40 years and is one of the most extensively studied substances," the American Plastics Council says. See also http://endocrinedisruptors.missouri.edu/vomsaal/vomsaal.html. Chemical Week, 02/02/05, p. 7; Chemistry & Industry (London), 7 February 2005, p. 7.

For another view on BPA, please click on to www.bisphenol-a.org

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February 19, 2005

Plastics Recycling

BOTTLE RECYCLING REPORT: The recycling rate for plastic bottles held steady at 21% in 2003, with a rise in the high density polyethylene recycling rate Recycle2 masking a decline in the rate for PET bottles, according to a new report from the American Plastics Council. The report shows a continuation of the same trends that have dogged the bottle recycling market, while overall recycling volume remained stable, the rate is not gaining any ground, and in the largest market, for PET bottles, it slid back a little bit, APC said. APC's report said consumers appreciate recycling but are increasingly apathetic, and it blamed the growth of on-the-go packaging such as 20-ounce soft drink containers and the use of more plastic, particularly PET, in containers that typically are not recycled but could be, such as edible oil and ketchup bottles. An environmental group involved with beverage container recycling, however, said APC's analysis puts too much emphasis on personal habits, and it criticized the report for not discussing government policies that could boost plastic recycling, such as bottle bills. Consumers need to be given financial incentives to recycle, and they need more convenient opportunities for recycling away from home, said Jennifer Gitlitz, a senior research associate with the Container Recycling Institute, also in Arlington. Bottle bills have a much higher recycling rate than the programs that APC touts because they offer financial incentives to people, she said. APC opposes bottle bills, arguing that they are costly and that its customers in the beverage industry also oppose them. Plastics News, 02/07/05, p. 4.

February 18, 2005


The EPA has taken a database on chemical properties off its Web site in response to a letter by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Washington) that says much of the agency's online information has erroneous and inconsistent information that costs companies tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary cleanups costs.

The agency has taken down the Soil and Transport Fate database on how chemicals react in and move through soil, which is used to determine cleanup standards or to craft legal settlements, among other uses. Industry representatives say the database was apparently so problematic that it may have been removed permanently. Chamber of Commerce president Bill Kovacs asked EPA last year to correct "erroneous physical and chemical property information contained in EPA databases that EPA disseminates and makes publicly accessible." The chamber says the erroneous information in 15 databases leads to "widely varying, and hence unreliable or ambiguous, determinations of human health risk impacts." Kovacs says the incorrect and inconsistent information is in violation of the Data Quality Act, which requires information used and disseminated by Federal agencies be objective, transparent, and reproducible.

ACC says it supports the chamber's request to have EPA correct the data, but that it did not mean to encourage the removal of the data. ACC's intent was "to improve EPA's databases, not necessarily to get them to take them down," says ACC assistant general counsel Jamie Conrad. "In that connection, we're disappointed EPA did not use [the Chamber of Commerce's] request as an opportunity to launch a more thorough-going revision of their various databases, working with organizations like the American Institute of Chemical Engineers," Conrad say.
Chemical Week, 02/09/05, p. 29.

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February 17, 2005


 Halogenated organic compounds can accumulate in animal tissues, in some cases with potentially toxic consequences. Some of these, such as the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) used as flame retardants, have industrial origins. The origins of some classes of bioaccumulating compounds, such as methoxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers (MeO-BDEs), have been uncertain.

Now, researchers have extracted more than 10 kilograms of blubber from a fatally stranded True's beaked whale, and isolated MeO-BDEs at 99% purity for radiocarbon analysis, which reliably distinguishes carbon of ancient and recent origin. The carbon content of MeO-BDEs was overwhelmingly recent, indicative of a natural rather than industrial origin for these compounds.
Science, Vol. 307, No. 5711, 11 February 2005,
pp. 917-920; Chemical & Engineering News, 02/14/05, p. 34.

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Regulatory Update (www.regup.plastics.com) is a commercial newsletter summarizing regulatory and legislative developments in the health, safety and environmental field for the Plastics Industry.  Material is gathered from the Federal Register and weekly business and technical magazines.  The subscription price is $29.95 per year although two FREE weeks are granted upon registration.  Regulatory Update is updated daily.  This blog, which will include "snippets" from Regulatory Update is also FREE.


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