Tag Archives: EPA

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EPA cancels $20-million green chemistry grant program, gives no explanation

In an announcement that stunned scientists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cancelled grant applications for what was supposed to be a $20-million, four-year green chemistry program. The mysterious cancellation comes less than three weeks before the deadline for the proposals. The grants, which were supposed to fund four new centers, would have been a major new source of funding for green chemistry, a field that seeks to design environmentally friendly chemicals and processes that can replace toxic substances. The requests for proposals may be reissued, the EPA said. But the program’s sudden halt and uncertain future — and lack of explanation — have left scientists disheartened. “My reaction is shock that it happened and total dismay that what appeared to be a novel program was cancelled without warning or explanation,” said Eric Beckman, a chemical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh.

2012-0410greenchemistry2
Joshua Vaughn/flickr
Green chemistry’s aim is to design environmentally friendly chemicals and processes that can replace toxic substances currently in use.

By Brett Israel
Senior Editor and Staff Writer
Environmental Health News
April 10, 2012
In an announcement that stunned scientists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cancelled grant applications for what was supposed to be a $20-million, four-year green chemistry program.

The mysterious cancellation, announced on Friday, came less than three weeks before the April 25 deadline for the grant proposals.

The federal grants, which were supposed to fund four new academic centers, would have been a major new source of funding for green chemistry, a field that seeks to design environmentally friendly chemicals and processes that can replace toxic substances.

The requests for proposals may be reissued, the EPA said Monday. But the program’s sudden halt and uncertain future – and lack of explanation – have left scientists disheartened. Lab researchers had worked for months on their proposals and scientists now fear their hard work will be wasted.

“My reaction is shock that it happened and total dismay that what appeared to be a novel program was cancelled without warning or explanation,” said Eric Beckman, a chemical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh who was working on a proposal.

Terry Collins, a green chemist at Carnegie Mellon University and a pioneer in the field, said the announcement “stunned me.” Collins was on a team of green chemists and other environmental scientists that had been working for months to put together a funding proposal. West Coast institutions, including University of California, Berkeley, also were developing a proposal.

Beckman said he’d never seen such a thing happen before – a government agency pulling the plug on a request for proposals so close to its deadline – in his more than 20 years in academia.

Eric Beckman, a University of Pittsburgh chemical engineer, said he’d never seen such a thing happen before – a government agency pulling the plug on a request for proposals so close to its deadline – in his more than 20 years in academia.The $20 million in funding would be “one of the most significant sources of dedicated support for green chemistry so it is a blow to the community that the call for applications was cancelled without explanation,” said Evan Beach, a green chemist at Yale University. “Everybody was in the home stretch on writing. The preparations took several months.”

The EPA offered no reason for the last-minute cancellation.

 “Given the new and emerging research areas…EPA determined that it was necessary to further explore these research areas and also consider changes to its usual review process,” Kelly Widener, assistant director for research communications at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research, said in an email response to Environmental Health News.
Widener, who declined to elaborate, said the EPA anticipates re-issuing its requests for proposals in June or July.
Green chemistry, according to the EPA, is “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances…across the life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, and use.”
The new program – to create Centers for Material Life Cycle Safety and Centers for Sustainable Molecular Design – was announced in late December as a part of the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program.
The green chemistry centers were to draw together scientists from wide-ranging disciplines, including engineering, chemistry, social science and physics, to develop “improved methods for the design of next generation chemicals,” the EPA said when it announced the available funding.
“This holistic approach to design, which considers all the stages of a material’s life cycle, provides an opportunity to produce materials which minimize, and preferably eliminate, any associated potential environmental and human health impacts that may occur during the life cycle,” the original request for proposals said
That funding for such a promising area of science was halted without explanation at the last minute has many researchers scratching their heads.
“For the EPA to treat so wastefully the field that holds most of the keys to a good future for the relationships between chemical products and processes and the environment and health is mystifying to say the least,” Collins said. Read more science at Environmental Health News.

US EPA 2013 Budget and Chemicals Issues.

Elizabeth Grossman has published a new piece in Chemical Watch, entitled “Chemicals fare well in US EPA’s 2013 budget proposals“, which reviews the proposed 2013 US EPA budget on chemicals-related issues.

Specifically related to green chemistry, she finds that,

“The budget allots $13.9m for chemical information collection, management and transparency; $14.9m for screening and assessing chemical risks; and $24.6m for reducing chemical risks. EPA says that in 2013 “the toxics programme will maintain its ‘zero tolerance’ goal in preventing the introduction of unsafe new chemicals into commerce” but notes that thousands of chemicals already in commerce remain unassessed.

The budget’s science and research priorities include an increase of $4.1m in funding for “sustainable molecular design of chemicals” to develop inherently safer processes and products. The budget also requests $20.9m for the EPA’s Pollution Prevention Program which encourages the use of “greener” chemicals, technologies, processes and products, among them the Design for Environment, Environmental Preferable Purchasing, Green Chemistry and Green Engineering programmes.”

For the full piece please go here.

See the EPA Budget webpage

 

EPA Research Chief Paul Anastas Announces Plan To Step Down.

InsideEPA.com

Posted: January 5, 2012

EPA’s research chief, Paul Anastas, who has led the agency’s controversial chemical risk assessment program, is leaving the agency next month.

Anastas, the assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development (ORD) and agency science advisor, announced his plans in email to all ORD staff Jan. 5. Anastas will be returning to Yale University, where he is on leave from his position as a professor of green chemistry.

“With deeply mixed emotions, I am writing to inform you that I will be stepping down from my position . . . in mid-February in order to return to my colleagues and students at Yale University and — most importantly — to my wonderful family in New Haven, Connecticut,” Anastas writes.

Anastas is the second high-level EPA official to leave the agency in the past few months. Late last year, EPA toxics chief Steve Owens left the agency for a position in the private sector. While Anastas did not announce who will assume his EPA responsibilities, informed sources have suggested that Ramona Trovato, ORD associate assistant administrator, may serve as the office’s acting assistant administrator.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told EPA staff in an email that the agency will announce a “formal transition” in the coming weeks. “In the meantime, I assure you that science will remain the cornerstone of all of our Agency’s efforts and EPA scientists will continue to set the standard for cutting edge research and study — work that will yield a healthier, cleaner environment for all Americans,” she wrote Jan. 5.

Many observers have been expecting Anastas to leave, though late last year he denied any plans to depart. “I have no plans to leave. I am honored to be working with the people of ORD and am enjoying it immensely,” Anastas told Inside EPA Nov. 21. “Like all Presidential appointees, I serve at the pleasure of the President.”

But in the Jan. 5 email, Anastas writes, “While after mid-February, I will no longer be serving in an official capacity, I will continue to be part of the broader pursuit of sustainability through my work and research at Yale University. I have said before that while I can’t always guarantee the win, I will always guarantee the fight. I have fought beside you in taking the necessary steps to protect the health and environment of the American public.” Read more…

 

 

U.S. EPA to fund “Centers for Molecular Design”.

Funding Opportunities

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

Centers for Sustainable Molecular Design

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Funding Opportunity Number: EPA-G2012-STAR-C1

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.509

Solicitation Opening Date: December 27, 2011
Solicitation Closing Date: April 25, 2012, 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time

Eligibility Contact: James Gentry (gentry.james@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8093
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224
Technical Contacts: Nora Savage (savage.nora@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8104
José Zambrana (zambrana.jose@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8057

Table of Contents:
SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
Synopsis of Program
Award Information
Eligibility Information
Application Materials
Agency Contacts
I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION
A. Introduction
B. Background
C. Authority and Regulations
D. Specific Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes
E. References
F. Special Requirements
II. AWARD INFORMATION
III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION
A. Eligible Applicants
B. Cost Sharing
C. Other
IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION
A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
B. Content and Form of Application Submission
C. Submission Dates and Times
D. Funding Restrictions
E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION
A. Peer Review
B. Programmatic Review
C. Funding Decisions
VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION
A. Award Notices
B. Disputes
C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Access Standard STAR Forms (Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page)
View research awarded under previous solicitations (Funding Opportunities: Archive Page)

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

Synopsis of Program:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications for an interdisciplinary center focusing on the sustainable molecular design of chemicals.  The aim of the center will be to develop a set of parameters and strategies that will establish design criteria regarding the properties of chemicals that will lead to the development of intrinsically less hazardous substances when compared to those currently used in society.  These newly acquired criteria and design principles will direct researchers towards the generation of novel chemicals that will minimize, and preferably eliminate, associated potential environmental and human health impacts that may occur during the life cycle of that chemical. The advent of these novel chemicals and their respective discovery of correlations between a chemical’s inherent properties and their adverse impacts require the development of improved methods for the design of next generation chemicals.

The Center will explore methods, establish knowledge bases, and develop guidance for eliminating and avoiding those attributes or properties of a chemical that most significantly influence their potential impacts. It is also anticipated the guidance for improved design and understanding of inherent chemical properties resulting from research supported under this Request for Applications (RFA) will enable continual improvements in the quality of life without detrimental impairment of public health or the ecosystem. Furthermore, the developed guidance and capability to reduce a substance’s ability to manifest hazard will result in substances which are in direct accordance with the principles of sustainability.

Note:  The term “chemicals” broadly refers to any and all types of materials, including individual chemicals, compounds or mixtures of compounds, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and nanomaterials.

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards: Up to approximately two (2) awards
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $10 million total for all awards
Potential Funding per Award: Up to a total of $5 million, including direct and indirect costs, with a maximum duration of 4 years.  Cost-sharing is not required.  Proposals with budgets exceeding the total award limits will not be considered.

Eligibility Information:
Public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and hospitals) located in the U.S., state and local governments, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments, and U.S. territories or possessions are eligible to apply.  See full announcement for more details.

Application Materials:
To apply under this solicitation, use the application package available at Grants.gov (for further submission information see Section IV.E. “Submission Instructions and other Submission Requirements”).  The necessary forms for submitting a STAR application will be found on the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) web site, the Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page. If your organization is not currently registered with Grants.gov, you need to allow approximately one week to complete the registration process.  This registration, and electronic submission of your application, must be performed by an authorized representative of your organization.

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the Grants.gov application submission process for this solicitation, call 1-800-490-9194 or send a webmail message to the NCER Contact Us page at least 15 calendar days before the submission deadline to assure timely receipt of alternate submission instructions.  In your message  provide the funding opportunity number and title of the program, specify that you are requesting alternate submission instructions, and provide a telephone number, fax number, and an email address, if available.  Alternate instructions will be emailed whenever possible.  Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this Request for Applications (RFA), including Section IV, and be received by the solicitation closing date identified above.

Agency Contacts:
Eligibility Contact: James Gentry (gentry.james@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8093
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224
Technical Contacts: Nora Savage (savage.nora@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8104
José Zambrana (zambrana.jose@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8057

Full Announcement HERE.

Smelling good without stinking up the environment.

Boethling, RS. 2011. Incorporating environmental attributes into musk design. Green Chemistry http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c1gc15782e.

Synopsis by Wim Thielemans, Dec 01, 2011

Chemists developing compounds used to create fragrances can weed out chemicals that don’t meet toxicity and environmental standards early in the design process, finds a study that predicted the toxicity and persistence of a variety of musk chemicals using a sophisticated computer program.

The program – developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – uses molecular structure and other chemical attributes to predict if a compound will easily break down in the environment. The results are published in the journal Green Chemistry.

While the tools are not perfect, they help for early screening. One important use would be to compare the environmental effects of chemical classes or individual molecules to determine whether to proceed or block a chemical’s development. Further analysis and testing on the musks given the go ahead would still be needed to avoid producing a harmful molecule that might not be tagged as dangerous at this stage of development, because the computer modeling did not consider many potential mechanisms of toxicity, for example, whether or not the molecule is a potential endocrine disruptor.

The findings show that chemists can avoid making certain types of musks that may be harmful. Musks add scent to consumer products and can harm the environment. Predicting a compound’s later performance at a very early stage – even before the molecules are made – would make design and development of safer fragrance musks much cheaper.

Fragrances are used in a wide variety of products from the obvious perfumes to soaps, detergents, shampoos and toothpastes. The natural and synthetic musk compounds produce the rich and deep smells that form the base of some fragrances. The long-lived musks are chemically heavy and evaporate slowly. Their scents surface well after their use – at least 30 minutes – and may linger for a day. They also help hold lighter smells for a longer period of time.

These same longevity properties mean the compounds tend to end up in municipal wastewater and its solid sludge, which is often reused as fertilizer. Through these routes, musk compounds are released into the environment. They can accumulate in soils, wildlife and people. Several synthetic musks are toxic to fish, algae and aquatic invertebrates.

Chemists still design new synthetic musks. They use tools to predict the compounds’ future performances as a fragrance. A similar tool to predict their toxicity, their accumulation in the environment and their persistence in the environment is needed. A compound persists in the environment if it does not biodegrade.

The new research from the U.S. EPA looked at 106 synthetic and natural musk chemicals. The predictions on the environmental impact of these musks were compared to experimental data.

The study found and identified specific types of musks that were less problematic than others. It also verified that existing tools and knowledge could be used to screen new molecules for their potential to be toxic, not break down and accumulate.

According to the author, the research shows “that it can be convenient and useful to include environmental properties in that screening prior to any testing or manufacture of a chemical.” The tools and knowledge exist, and it is time to apply them to chemical production for “economic as well as environmental sense.”

Are Flame Retardants Safe? Growing Evidence Says ‘No’.

by Elizabeth Grossman: originally published 29 Sep 2011 in Yale360

Over the past 40 years, a class of chemicals with the tongue-twisting name of halogenated flame retardants has permeated the lives of people throughout the industrialized world. These synthetic chemicals — used in electronics, upholstery, carpets, textiles, insulation, vehicle and airplane parts, children’s clothes and strollers, and many other products — have proven very effective at making petroleum-based materials resist fire.

Yet many of these compounds have also turned out to be environmentally mobile and persistent — turning up in food and household dust — and are now so ubiquitous that levels of the chemicals in the blood of North Americans appear to have been doubling every two to five years for the past several decades.

Acting on growing evidence that these flame retardants can accumulate in people and cause adverse health effects — interfering with hormones, reproductive systems, thyroid and metabolic function, and neurological development in infants and children — the federal government and various states have limited or banned the use of some of these chemicals, as have other countries. Several are restricted by the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. Many individual companies have voluntarily discontinued production and use of these compounds. Yet despite these restrictions, evidence has emerged in recent months that efforts to curtail the use of such flame retardants — a $4 billion-a-year industry globally — and to limit their impacts on human health may not be succeeding.
This spring and summer, a test of consumer products, as well as a study in Environmental Science & Technology, showed that use of these chemicals continues to be widespread and that compounds thought to be off the market due to health concerns continue to be used in the U.S., including in children’s products such as crib mattresses, changing table pads, nursing pillows, and car seats. Also this summer, new research provided the first strong evidence that maternal exposure to a widely used type of flame retardant, known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), can alter thyroid function in pregnant women and children, result in low birth weights, and impair neurological development.

“Of most concern are developmental and reproductive effects and early life exposures — in utero, infantile and for children,” Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, said in an interview.

Read full post here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Grossman is the author of Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry, High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health, and other books. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Salon, The Washington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, Grist, and other publications. In earlier articles for Yale e360, she explored how the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster could affect marine life off the Japanese coast and reported on recent studies suggesting a possible link between prenatal exposure to pesticides and the mental abilities of children.
MORE BY THIS AUTHOR

Novel ‘Green’ Chemical Endocrine Screening Protocol Looks Beyond EPA’s

Inside EPA: Risk Policy Report – 07/12/2011
By Jenny Hopkinson

A group of private and government scientists is moving closer to completing a testing protocol for determining whether new “green” chemicals entering the market are safer than those they are intended to replace and do not pose endocrine disruption risks, an effort that extends beyond EPA’s screening program, which focuses on existing chemicals.

Advancing Green Chemistry (AGC), the non-profit group leading the efforts, has joined with National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Environmental Health Sciences, Inc and other private sector groups, to develop a five-tiered testing protocol that will eventually be available free to chemical producers to determine whether their products may disrupt human endocrine systems, an outcome that has been linked to a slew of health problems including obesity and breast cancer.

An AGC source says the protocol is close to being submitted for peer review and developers hope it will be completed in about another year.

The protocol is designed to address concerns that newly developed green chemicals — which are intended to be safer alternatives than existing substances — may not be much better for the endocrine system, which regulates the body’s hormones, than the existing chemicals they are being created to replace.

While EPA is required by law to test a slew of existing chemicals under its endocrine disruptor screening program (EDSP), so far the agency has been “stuck” in what it can get done and has been struggling for almost two decades, the AGC source says.

Delays with the EPA program have long been a concern. For example, former House Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) last year pushed legislation that would have created a new endocrine screening program at NIEHS, in part because EPA had been slow to establish its program. “While EPA does have the EDSP they’ve been more focused on toxics and only in the past few years focused on endocrine disruption,” her spokeswoman said (Risk Policy Report, Dec. 22, 2009).

Similarly, the AGC source says EPA is “snarled up in the morass of trying to regulate existing chemicals, and that hamstrings people.” Testing for endocrine disrupting effects “is something the government should be doing, but it just doesn’t seem to be something that’s happening,” the source says.

The source puts the blame on industry for the delays in EPA’s program. “There’s a lot of vested interest in the chemicals on the market” by their manufacturers, and that is slowing down the process, the source says. So far the agency “hasn’t been able to sort that out.” Rather than get bogged down in attempts for regulation of the chemicals, “we are trying to just look forward,” the source says.

But that is not to say that EPA hasn’t shown interest in the protocol. Paul Anastas, head of the Office of Research and Development, has been involved with developing the system, although the source says while he has been “constructive and supportive,” there has been no indication that EPA will adopt the methods. “But if they want to take over our project, great I think that would be better for all of us,” the source adds. “This should just be the way we test chemicals, period.”

A second source, however, argues that EPA’s programs aren’t capable of looking at such sensitive effects of chemicals. “Unfortunately there are people still working in the lab in EPA . . . who will say none of this work has any value,” the source continues. “They are stuck with toxicologists who are still doing old school toxicology.”

As a result, AGC, about a year ago, brought together a group of chemists, toxicologists and other government and private scientists to examine what the source describes as a “burgeoning wave” of new science on endocrine disruption with the goal of developing a tool for chemical makers to ensure in the development process that a chemical will not have effects on hormones.

The result is a five-tiered protocol that begins with what the source described as “quick and easy” Quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) modeling and looking at a chemical’s structure, followed by in vitro high-throughput screening assays, validated and specialized cell-based assays, amphibian and fish tests, with the final tier being mammalian testing.

While chemical producers can run a new substance through as many or as few tiers as they choose, if a chemical passes through all the tiers, then it is quite likely to be safe, said Thaddeus Schung, a postdoctoral research fellow with NIEHS, speaking at the American Chemistry Society’s 15th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Washington, DC, June 22.

Schung said that the system aims to be a logical, consensus based tool to determine endocrine activity based on sound science. “Were trying to use this brain power here to come up with a sensible effort to . . . predict chemical toxicity.” Our hope, Schung said, is to “kick some of these chemicals out of production and make way for some new chemicals that are being developed by green chemistry.”

The AGC source echoes this, saying the protocol will provide an important new tool for chemical producers. As chemists develop these new materials “it’s really hard for them to know whether or not what they’ve designed has the potential to be an endocrine disruptor.”

“Green chemists are being asked to design the next generation of benign chemicals and they don’t have the tools to do it,” the source continues, adding that chemists are not toxicologists. “This is the new design criteria — you want to make chemicals that don’t act like hormones and don’t rewire people’s systems.”

And another source says that given the public backlash on products containing such endocrine disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), “industry is staying ahead of this now,” the source says. “They realize that this is the way we have to go.” – Jenny Hopkinson

Hitting the Bottle.

By DOMINIQUE BROWNING
New York Times
Published: May 8, 2011

SUDDENLY, there’s a baby boom going on around me. I’m making weekly shopping trips to stock friends’ nurseries, and I’m struck by how many signs on the shelves advertise BPA-free bottles, BPA-free sippy cups. It breaks my heart. Manufacturers might be removing BPA, a chemical used to harden certain plastics, from their products, but they are substituting chemicals that may be just as dangerous, if not more so.

Read original post here.

NIEHS scientists join forces with green chemists

By Thaddeus Schug
April 2011

NIEHS/NTP scientists joined forces with leaders in the field of green chemistry in what may turn out to be a groundbreaking meeting, “Green Chemistry and Environmental Health Sciences — Designing Endocrine Disruption Out of the Next Generation of Materials,” held March 21-23 in Sausalito, Calif.

The challenges facing scientists trying to design such new materials are daunting. Say a chemist has developed a compound that he or she believes could be a replacement for bisphenol A (BPA). How will the scientist determine if the molecule is safer to human health and the environment? What testing will need to be done and what will guide scientists through this process?

The goals of the meeting in Sausalito were ambitious — to develop a consensus statement on the principles that guide the science needed to assess risks of potential endocrine disruptors, and to develop a reliable and rational testing protocol to aid chemists as they develop and bring the next generation of chemicals into the marketplace.

The intersection of green chemistry and environmental health science

Karen O’Brien, Ph.D., from Advancing Green Chemistry (AGC) and Pete Myers, Ph.D., of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS), welcomed participants to the event, which brought together an equal mix of biologists and chemists. Representatives from NIEHS and NTP included Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) program administrator Jerry Heindel, Ph.D., and Kristina Thayer, Ph.D., director of the NTP Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR).

Following a social ice-breaking exercise on the evening of March 21, the first full day of the meeting opened with presentations from Terry Collins, Ph.D., the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and John Warner, Ph.D., president and founder of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.

Both Collins and Warner stressed the need for fundamental changes in the way that scientists design new chemicals and the process of bringing them into the marketplace. “We must also pay close attention to the environmental impact and the effects on human health posed by these chemicals, and for those reasons chemists need to work hand-in-hand with biologists,” said Warner. He also stressed that chemists generally have no background in toxicology, but that they need to be able to test the chemicals being developed for endocrine activity and to do it early on in the product development process.

Designing a chemical screening protocol

The remainder of the day was divided into discussion sessions covering each phase of a newly developed screening model, designed by a science advisory board formed by meeting organizers that met monthly, via teleconference, for six months prior to the workshop. The protocol is geared towards identifying a wide-range of endocrine-active chemicals, such as atrazine, BPA, brominated flame retardants, organotins, perchlorates, and phthalates. The Board conducted  interviews with scientists with expertise in specific areas of toxicology, endocrine disruption, and assay development.

The testing paradigm proposed involves a five-tiered approach, starting with the fastest and cheapest assays and working through more specialized tests to determine whether a new chemical has endocrine disrupting characteristics. The initial two phases rely on predictive computer modeling and high-throughput screening to quickly weed out problem chemicals. These tests are followed by more specific in vitro cell-based screening assays with a mind to refining, reducing, and replacing animal testing as much as possible.

The final two phases involve use of fish, amphibian, and mammalian in vivo modeling systems. Overall, the protocol is intended to help green chemists establish a high degree of confidence that the replacements they are developing are unlikely to be harmful to humans or the environment.

The next steps

The meeting wrapped up with discussion on how to proceed with development of the testing protocol as well as plans for implementation. The advisory board plans to use input from the meeting to develop and publish a white paper outlining guidelines that chemists can use to assess the quality of protocols and tests used to assess endocrine disruption.

(Thaddeus Schug, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow currently on detail as a program analyst in the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training. He was part of the NIEHS/NTP delegation and a presenter at the meeting.)

A representative diagram of the draft screening protocol  unveiled at the meeting
A representative diagram of the draft screening protocol unveiled at the meeting. The protocol is designed in a tiered approach, with rapid and cost effective screens conducted in the early phases and more extensive testing toward the end. (Slide courtesy of Pete Myers)

Left to right, Collins, Heindel, and Warner mix ingredients  for a batch of salmon tartare.
Left to right, Collins, Heindel, and Warner mix ingredients for a batch of salmon tartare.  The cooking exercise was used as an ice-breaking event to demonstrate how environmental health scientists and chemists can work together to solve complex issues. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

Laura Vandenberg, Ph.D., left, contributes to the discussion  on assay development, as Tom Zoeller, Ph.D., center, and Wim Thielemans, Ph.D.,  look on.
Laura Vandenberg, Ph.D., left, contributes to the discussion on assay development, as Tom Zoeller, Ph.D., center, and Wim Thielemans, Ph.D., look on. Vandenberg, a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts University, studies the developmental effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

Left to right, Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D., Thayer, and Andreas  Kortenkamp, Ph.D., served as panel members for a discussion on in vitro screening assays.
Left to right, Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D., Thayer, and Andreas Kortenkamp, Ph.D., served as panel members for a discussion on in vitro screening assays. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

A group photo of the meeting attendees.
A group photo of the meeting attendees. The meeting was held at the Cavallo Point Lodge, which sits adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

NIEHS  grantees Andrea Gore, Ph.D., left, and Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., were among  panel members for the discussion on in  vivo assays.
NIEHS grantees Andrea Gore, Ph.D., left, and Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., were among panel members for the discussion on in vivo assays. Both Gore and vom Saal are members of  the project’s scientific advisory board. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

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