Tag Archives: chemicals of concern

State Chemical Regulation: Green Chemistry, Chemical Bans and Other Efforts to Limit Chemical Exposures.

There is growing trend in US states to create legislation regulating chemicals in consumer products.  This is a good thing for green chemistry in that these regulations and bans can act as drivers for green chemistry innovation. But what about the so-called “Green Chemistry” laws in various states?  Obviously banning or restricting chemicals is not actually doing green chemistry (no one is making molecules here, they are banning them. Chemistry is making molecules.). So what kind of laws are out there that actually do enable, support, or assist the development of Green Chemistry? Here is a hint: check out Michigan and Minnesota (but beware of California’s example).

State Chemical Regulation: Green Chemistry, Chemical Bans and Other Efforts to Limit Chemical Exposures.

by: Stephen C. Jones, Greenberg Traurig, LLP – Philadelphia Office

April 15, 2011 (Previously published on April 12, 2011)

To the consternation of many manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, states increasingly are taking steps to regulate chemicals contained in consumer and personal care products. The consumer and personal care products industry has made it known that it would prefer consistent, comprehensive federal regulation, rather than having to comply with a mixed-bag of varying state and local requirements. However, according to Healthy States, a November 2010 report prepared by the advocacy group Safer States, in the last decade both the number of states adopting chemical regulation laws, and the number of laws they have adopted, have tripled. MIKE BELLIVEAU, SAFER STATES, HEALTHY STATES: PROTECTING FAMILIES FROM TOXIC CHEMICALS WHILE CONGRESS LAGS BEHIND 6 (2010) [hereinafter HEALTHY STATES], available at http://www.saferstates.com. According to the study, 18 states passed 71 new chemical safety laws during that period. Id. All indications are that this trend will continue.

Read the full article at Martindale.com

ORD Chief Sees Need For EPA To Craft Green Chemistry ‘Design’ Guidance.

Bridget DiCosmo InsideEPA.com. Originally Posted: Mar. 14

2011 EPA’s research chief Paul Anastas is calling for the agency to begin crafting a guidance for how to design benign industrial chemicals and chemical processes, and establish metrics and criteria for both design and assessment of what specific chemical properties should be considered in reducing a substance’s ability to manifest hazard.

Anastas told the Society of Toxicology’s (SOT) 2011 annual meeting in Washington, DC, March 8 that the agency should set as a goal development of a set of design parameters that establish criteria about the properties of new chemicals that render it intrinsically less hazardous than comparable substances currently in the marketplace. “The goal is to develop a set of design rules that can inform and be useful — just inform and be useful — for molecular design and reduced hazard,” Anastas said, during the meeting. Anastas’ presentation to SOT, “Molecular Design for Reduced Hazard,” floated a set of “design protocol” criteria for modifying chemical properties in new chemicals that could potentially pose hazard that should be considered within such a framework, such as reduced bioavailability of a chemical, or its ability to reach the system of an organism.

“One of the grand challenges of molecular design is thinking about this in a systemic way,” Anastas said. The need to transition ORD’s current risk assessment paradigm into a more systemic and sustainable approach has been a long-standing priority of Anastas’ at the agency, culminating recently in the development of a newly integrated research program, Chemical Safety for Sustainability, which includes green chemistry in its planned research agenda

The approach Anastas is suggesting appears to be different from that currently used by the agency’s toxics office, which uses a set of alternatives assessment criteria, including bioaccumulation potential of substances, to qualify products for its Design for Environment (DfE) labeling program. But for the most part that methodology is based on specific toxicity endpoints, like carcinogenicity, rather than using chemical properties to evaluate the mechanistic potential of a chemical to cause adverse effects.

Anastas said that the pharmaceuticals industry considers a general, uniform set of criteria meant to circumvent hazard in its drug manufacturing processes, saying the industry approach “couldn’t be more different from the vast majority of industrial chemicals in design purposes.”

Anastas’ remarks also take the agency some way toward adopting a definition of green chemistry — an approach some environmentalists and public health advocates have previously called for EPA to adopt in order to limit chemicals’ toxicity.

Read the entire story at Inside EPA.com

BPA: What’s the alternative?

Posted by Evan Beach at Nov 12, 2010 03:30 PM | Permalink

Science News and other outlets reporting on BPA-free receipts identify for the first time a substitute chemical being used by one of the largest manufacturers of thermal paper. It has been referred to incorrectly in blogs as “bisphenol sulfonate” or “diphenyl sulfone,” but it is actually a chemical known as bisphenol S (Update, 11/15/10: 4,4′-sulfonylbisphenol). As the name indicates, it is structurally very similar to bisphenol A (BPA). And although it has not been studied as much as BPA, preliminary studies show that it shares hormone-mimicking properties as well.

In 2005, a group of Japanese scientists compared BPA and 19 other related compounds for their ability to mimic the female hormone estrogen. They tested the effects on human cells and found that bisphenol S was slightly less potent than BPA, but not by much: bisphenol S was active at 1.1 micromolar concentration, BPA at 0.63 micromolar. One micromolar is roughly equivalent to a packet of sugar in 3,000 gallons of water.

Other researchers have found that bisphenol S is much less biodegradable than BPA. In their study of eight bisphenol compounds, bisphenol S was the most persistent.

While much more is known about the effects of BPA – particularly at ultra-low doses – the existing data on bisphenol S suggests the substitution should be made with caution. Hormone-mimicking behavior and environmental persistence are intrinsic hazards that should be avoided. As the Science News story mentions, an assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program may shine more light on the matter.

Which companies are banishing BPA in food packaging?

By SIEL JU

Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

Our government may not have done much to ban or regulate the use of BPA in our food packaging, but apparently, some companies are taking the initiative to banish BPA.

These companies aren’t just the mom-and-pop home kitchen jam shops or smaller eco-friendly food companies. Biggies like Hain Celestial, ConAgra, and H.J. Heinz all got A’s for their leadership in getting BPA out of their packaging.

Who awarded these grades? That would be Green Century Capital Management, an investment advisory firm that administrates the Green Century Funds, a family of environmentally responsible mutual funds. Green Century recently released a report, Seeking Safer Packaging (www.greencentury.com/bpareport2010.pdf), that grades companies on their BPA-related actions and initiatives.

But before you open that can of Chef Boyardee (owned by ConAgra), be aware that an A grade doesn’t mean the company’s products are BPA-free. To get an A, companies only need to have started phasing BPA out of SOME of their packaging while also committing to a concrete timeline for phasing out all the BPA.

Do you think Green Century graded on a curve? Perhaps the A’s were generous, but keep in mind that most of the companies Green Century graded were total flunkies. Coca-Cola, Del Monte, Kraft, Unilever, Kroger, Safeway, Supervalu and Wal-Mart all scored F’s. According to Green Century’s report, “Most of these companies are exploring substitutes for BPA to some degree but do not commit to phasing out the chemical, are not funding the exploration of substitutes, and fail to sufficiently disclose information about how they are addressing consumer concern on the issue.”

Somewhat surprising may be Whole Foods’ D+ grade for its private label brand – the same grade as less green-tinted companies Kellogg and Dean’s Foods. However, that D+ still put Whole Foods in the top spot among retailers! The report says Whole Foods has “good transparency” on its BPA policies – “but has not demonstrated that it is actively testing any BPA-free options for its private-label cans despite a commitment to eliminate the chemical from packaging.”

I have my Roth IRA with Green Century – though ashamed to admit I haven’t contributed any green to it in years! I am, however, proud that this BPA report doesn’t worry me as much as it would have several years ago – because I’ve since pretty much phased out canned food from my life.

And Green Century: As an account holder, I’d like to request that you look into another BPA issue next: BPA on cash register receipts.

If you’re wondering about the methodology behind the grading system, there’s an explanation on page 13 from the link above, if you’re interested.

Siel Ju is a Hollywood socialite with a Ph.D., who blogs about health, beauty and life at www.mnn.com/featured-blogs/greenliving.

Related Content

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/11/08/1914829/which-companies-are-banishing.html#ixzz14tp6e6sW

TOX21 Pools Government Agencies’ Resources to Test Chemicals for Toxicity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has joined the Tox21 collaboration, which leverages federal agency resources, including research, funding and testing tools, to develop models for more effective chemical risk assessments. The FDA is expected to provide additional expertise and chemical safety information to improve current chemical testing methods.

The collaboration, established in 2008, includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the National Institute of Health Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) and now the FDA.

EPA says 2,000 chemicals have already been screened against dozens of biological targets. The group is targeting 10,000 chemicals screened by the end of the year.

FDA will collaborate with other Tox21 members to prioritize chemicals that need more extensive toxicological evaluation, and develop models that can better predict human response to chemicals.

EPA contributes to Tox21 through the ToxCast program and by providing chemicals and additional automated tests to NCGC. ToxCast currently includes 500 chemical screening tests that have assessed more 300 environmental chemicals.

A major part of the Tox21 partnership is the robotic screening and informatics platform at NCGC that uses fast, automated tests to screen thousands of chemicals a day for toxicological activity in cells, says EPA.

In April, the EPA launched its Web-based chemicals database, ToxRefDB, which allows anyone to search and download thousands of toxicity testing results on hundreds of chemicals. This latest announcement is part of the EPA’s policy to increase the transparency of chemical information.

Removing fluorines from chemicals = greener CFCs?

Removing stubborn fluorines detoxifies CFCs.

Jun 17, 2010

Douvris, C, CM Nagaraja, C-H Chen, BM Foxman and OV Ozerov. 2010. Hydrodefluorination and other hydrodehalogenation of aliphatic carbon-halogen bonds using silylium catalysis. Journal of the American Chemical Society 132(13):4946-4953.

Synopsis by Adelina Voutchkova
A new method for removing fluorines from fluorinated chemicals offers a promising method to detoxify some types of organohalogen pollutants, such as CFCs.

ShareThis

A new method to take the fluorine atoms off of fluorinated chemicals may be a promising way to detoxify them, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The new method would selectively remove fluorines from chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a class of compounds notorious for causing global warming. Removal of fluorines is considered highly challenging as fluorine atoms are known to bind very strongly to a molecule’s carbon framework.

The method could be more broadly applied to other organofluorines, including perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) such as PFOA and PFOS. PFOA is a chemical used in nonstick cookware and PFOS was used in anti-stain fabrics and water resistant coatings. They do not biodegrade and can only be partially recycled, therefore, defluorination to polyethylene (nylon) would be one strategy to avoid accumulation of PFCs.

Many organofluorine compounds have been banned or removed from manufacturing or industrial use due to their severe potential hazard. CFCs, for instance, were taken out of refrigerants because they can destroy the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Some others that were phased out include polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD) and dibenzofurans (PCDF). The compunds contaminate the environment and contribute to global problems. CFCs and some of their chemical cousins that replaced them have tremendous global warming potentials. So much so they have been called “super-greenhouse gases.”

In addition, harmful derivatives of these chemicals can persist in the environment where they travel through food chains and accumulate in animals and people. The health effects associated with the compounds are varied but include cancer, reproductive problems and developmental changes.

Removal of fluorines from chemicals – a process called defluorination – has been generally viewed as a way to neutralize existing over stocks of these chemicals.

Researchers from Texas A&M and Brandeis University developed the chemical defluorination technique. They used silicon and boron-containing solids to efficiently defluorinate CFCs under mild conditions.

Although this is an advancement, the technology has some significant drawbacks. The process requires large amounts of a sacrificial chemical to abstract the fluorine. The disposal of this by-product would itself be problematic, and there is no evidence it can be recycled. In addition, the report indicates that tetrafluoromethane, the smallest fluorinated chemical and commonly used in refrigerants, resists defluorination under research conditions.

Future endeavours will undoubtedly be aimed towards developing defluorination processes that overcome these drawbacks.

Few people know their name, but these chemicals have become EPA priority.

Few people know their name, but these chemicals have become EPA priority

from Environmental Health Sciences

An obscure family of chemicals – important to the metalworking industry but virtually unknown to the public – is suddenly the subject of scrutiny from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The chemicals, called short-chain chlorinated paraffins, persist in the environment, accumulate in human breast milk, can kill small aquatic creatures and travel to remote regions of the globe. Since their introduction in the 1930s, they have received little attention from U.S. authorities. But now the EPA, in an unprecedented move, has placed the compounds, known as SCCPs, on a short list of worrisome chemicals that the agency may regulate because of the risks they pose to wildlife and the environment.

ShareThis

2010-0517metalworks
crabchick/flickr
Metal-working companies often use chlorinated paraffins as lubricants and coolants.

By Ferris Jabr

An obscure family of chemicals – important to the metalworking industry but virtually unknown to the public – is suddenly the subject of scrutiny from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The chemicals, called short-chain chlorinated paraffins, persist in the environment, accumulate in human breast milk, can kill small aquatic creatures and travel to remote regions of the globe.

Since their introduction in the 1930s, chlorinated paraffins have received little attention from U.S. authorities. But now the EPA, in an unprecedented move, has placed the compounds, known as SCCPs, on a short list of worrisome chemicals that the agency may regulate because of the risks they pose to wildlife and the environment.

“We find SCCPs worldwide,” said Tala Henry, acting deputy director of the EPA’s National Program Chemicals Division. “We’ve found them in animals in the Arctic and we have measured them in human tissues in several places around the globe.”

Despite evidence of widespread exposure, few scientists are actively studying the prevalence, toxicity and ecological impact of SCCPs. In contrast, other chemicals that persist in the environment – such as DDT and dioxins – have received far more attention from researchers.

“There is minimal awareness of these compounds,” said Gregg Tomy, an environmental chemist at the University of Manitoba in Canada. “It’s certainly not a chemical that’s on people’s radar screens.”

Chlorinated paraffins are a complex group of manmade compounds, primarily used as coolants and lubricants in metal forming and cutting. They also are used as plasticizers and flame retardants in rubber, paints, adhesives, sealants and plastics. The family of chemicals is organized into short, medium and long-chain paraffins, based on the length of their carbon backbones.

About 150 million pounds of chlorinated paraffins are used annually in the United States, according to the EPA. Ohio-based Dover Chemical Corp., the sole manufacturer of SCCPs in the United States, did not respond to requests for an interview.

“There is minimal awareness of these compounds. It’s certainly not a chemical that’s on people’s radar screens.”
-Gregg Tomy, University of Manitoba
Although Europe has restricted use of SCCPs, their manufacture is growing in China and possibly in India, raising concerns that worldwide exposure levels for people and wildlife might be increasing.

China’s production of the chemicals has increased 30-fold in fewer than 20 years.

“We are pretty worried at the moment,” said Jacob Boer, head of the department of chemistry and biology of the Institute for Environmental Studies at the Vrije Universiteit (VU University) in Amsterdam. “The increase of chlorinated paraffin production in China is exponential.”

In an unprecedented use of the 1976 Toxic Control Substances Act, the EPA in December placed short-chain chlorinated paraffins on a list of four chemicals that may pose unreasonable risks to health and the environment. In its action plan, the EPA announced its intentions to investigate and manage those risks, possibly restricting or banning future use of SCCPs in the United States.

It is the first time that the EPA has investigated the compounds, which are already regulated in Europe and under review in Canada.

2010-0517inuit
sweart/flickr
Traces of the chemicals are found in the breast milk of Inuit women in Arctic Canada.

Scientists have found the chemicals in the air, on land, in foods, in wastewater and in river and ocean sediments in North America, Asia, Europe and the Arctic, according to a report by a United Nations review committee for the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty that restricts toxic compounds.

“You find them pretty much wherever you go to look for them,” said Tomy, who found significant concentrations in sediments around the Great Lakes region.

SCCPs are accumulating in the fat tissues of freshwater fish such as trout and carp in North America and Europe, marine mammals including Beluga whales, ringed seals and walruses in the Canadian Arctic, land animals including rabbit, moose and reindeer in Sweden, and birds and seabird eggs in the United Kingdom.

Furthermore, certain SCCPs may biomagnify – meaning their concentration increases as they move through food chains, according to a 2008 field study on Lake Ontario trout.

Researchers have also measured SCCPs in human livers, kidneys, fat tissue and breast milk, according to the EPA action plan. Traces were found in 21 out of 25 samples of breast milk from women in London and Lancaster in a 2006 study in the United Kingdom. They also were measured in breast milk from Inuit women in Arctic Canada in a 1997 study by Tomy and colleagues.

“We are pretty worried at the moment. The increase of chlorinated paraffin production in China is exponential.”
-Jacob Boer, Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
However, since so few scientists are studying the toxicity of SCCPs and their impact on health and the environment, the consequences of the widespread exposure remain unclear.

SCCPs are highly toxic to small aquatic invertebrates and plants that fish and other animals feed on, so the chemicals may endanger aquatic ecosystems. But toxicity to humans and other mammals has been more difficult to determine.

“Whether these compounds are now challenging organisms, I can’t say for certain,” said Tomy. “But because they are so persistent, we can expect them to continue to accumulate. At some point there is going to be serious cause for concern.”

2010-0517daphnia
chosetec/flickr
Chlorinated paraffins are highly toxic to Daphnia, tiny crustaceans in aquatic ecosystems.

Laboratory tests show that SCCPs are highly toxic to Daphnia, tiny aquatic crustaceans known as water fleas that are important food sources in lakes, streams and other ecosystems, according to a 2000 European Union risk assessment.

To fish, the compounds are less acutely toxic, but chronic exposure damages them. Rainbow trout fed SCCPs in their food developed severe liver tumors, according to a study by Canadian researchers.

The concentrations that caused the fish tumors “were at levels that have been reported in invertebrates and fish from contaminated sites in the Great Lakes. However, the exposure concentrations were likely much greater in these experiments compared with the environment and require further study,” according to the 1999 study, whose senior author was Derek Muir, one of the world’s leading experts on persistent pollutants in fish and wildlife. Requests to interview Muir were denied by Environment Canada.

Other studies have found that SCCPs can cause slight egg shell thinning in mallard ducks and can damage the livers of otters.

Although there are no human studies on their effects, SCCPs can cause cancer in laboratory rats and mice, specifically damaging the liver, thyroid and kidney. Still, the EPA’s action plan and the UN report note that the mechanisms by which these cancers were induced in rodents are not relevant to human health.

For people who do not work in the metal industry, a primary route of exposure to the chemicals is food, according to the EPA action plan.

Researchers in 2002 measured SCCPs in cow’s milk and butter from Europe. They also have been found in many different foods in Japan, including grains, sugar, sweets and snacks, vegetables, fruit, fish, meats and milk. The concentrations were particularly high in shellfish, meat and fats, such as margarines and oils, according to the 2005 study in Japan.

How the chemicals got in the environment is not well understood. “We can confidently say there has been exposure, but exactly how they got there is a difficult question,” said Henry of the EPA.

Although there are no human studies on the effects of the chemicals, SCCPs can cause cancer in laboratory rats and mice, specifically damaging the liver, thyroid and kidney. Possible routes include accidental spills, runoff from disposal, and effluents of sewage treatment plants, states the EPA action plan. “SCCPs can be released during production, transportation, storage, and industrial use,” Tomy said.

The chemicals also might leach out of commercial plastic and rubber products in which they are used as flame retardants and plasticizers, he said. Once in the environment, SCCPs – which do not dissolve in water – bind to sediments and to tiny aquatic organisms, working their way up food chains.

According to Tomy, the inherent complexity of chlorinated paraffins makes it difficult for scientists to identify and analyze them.

“There are only a few labs in the world, and you can count them on one hand, that are actively working in this area because of the complexity,” Tomy said. “This makes PCBs [polychlorinated biphenyls] and PBDEs [polybrominated diphenyl ethers] seem like a walk in the park in terms of detection and quantification.”

“They are difficult to characterize,” Henry agreed. “There’s a difference in interpretation about what a short-chain chlorinated paraffin is.”

2010-0517beluga
Bright Star/flickr
Beluga whales are among the species contaminated with chlorinated paraffins.

The result is that the EPA knows far less about SCCPs than other chemicals such as DDT that persist in the environment and accumulate in people and wildlife. “Compared with other persistent chemicals, there’s the least amount of toxicity and exposure data,” Henry said.

Nevertheless, several authorities already have regulated them. Their use and marketing are restricted in Europe. Both Health Canada and Environment Canada have deemed all chlorinated paraffins “toxic” under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999. Requests to interview Environment Canada scientists who have studied SCCPs were denied.

According to their new action plan, the EPA will consider using the Toxic Substances Control Act to “ban or restrict the manufacture, import, processing or distribution in commerce, export, and use of SCCPs” based on evidence about their environmental and health effects.

Although the EPA says it wants to move quickly to address the risks posed by SCCPs, the agency does not know when it will reach any regulatory decisions.

Under the federal toxics law, the EPA maintains an inventory of over 80,000 chemicals authorized for use in the United States. If a company wants to produce or use a chemical not found on that inventory, they must receive EPA approval by submitting a premanufacture notice that describes its environmental effects.

According to the EPA, some U.S. companies are using chlorinated paraffins that do not appear on the inventory. Tala said the EPA’s first step is to find out why.

Robert Fensterheim, executive director of the Chlorinated Paraffins Industry Association and President of RegNet Environmental Services, said he is not particularly concerned about the potential outcomes of the EPA’s action plan.

The EPA says it wants to move quickly to address the risks posed by SCCPs, but there is no timeframe for any regulatory decisions.“The effects on industry are not going to be broad scale,” Fensterheim said. “Given the limited amount that is produced and used, our assumption is that most people using the product already have responsible management in place. They won’t need to do anything they’re not already doing.”

Fensterheim disputes the EPA’s estimate that 150 million pounds are used annually in the United States. The demand, he said, is closer to 50 or 60 million pounds per year and decreasing.

“This is not a high volume chemical,” he said. “It’s been declining in its production value for quite some time.” The reason for the disagreement may be due to difficulty in defining exactly what a short-chain chlorinated paraffin is.

Manufacture and use of SCCPs have decreased in Canada, Europe and the United States but production is increasing at a rapid rate in China.

“If that production would have to be limited, it would be a major problem for the China metal industry,” said Boer of Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit. The increased production rate could also aggravate the ecological risks of the chemicals, he said.

201--0517arctic
wili_hybrid/flickr.
Chlorinated paraffins are transported worldwide, winding up in the Arctic.

The production of chlorinated paraffins in China soared from 20,000 tons in 1990 to over 600,000 tons in 2007, according to a 2009 presentation by Jiang Gui-bin of the State Key Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology in Beijing, China. If this rate continues, production in China alone could soon surpass the entire historic, worldwide usage of PCBs, which remain a contaminant of global concern even though they were banned 32 years ago. Total worldwide PCB production was 1.3 million tons.

India also may be increasing its production of SCCPs, Boer said.

Although SCCPs are specifically defined as having a carbon backbone between 10 and 13 atoms long, there is still plenty of room for disagreement about which industrial products contain which chlorinated paraffins. The TSCA inventory, for example, does not distinguish between chlorinated paraffins of different carbon chain lengths.

Fensterheim said the companies believe the chemicals they use are already covered by the TSCA inventory, but the EPA disagrees.

Despite the inherent difficulties in studying the complex chemicals, Tomy said researchers need to keep monitoring their environmental levels and the toxicity to people and wildlife.

“I would like to believe in the coming years you are going to see more research,” he said.