Tag Archives: EPA

Do we need labels on eco-labels?

BASF Launches Eco-Label Database for Easy Comparing

Published February 28, 2011
BASF Launches Eco-Label Database for Easy Comparing

FLORHAM PARK, NJ —  In an attempt to get a handle on the numerous eco-labels and ratings systems that have multiplied in recent years, BASF created a database that now includes 100 programs and is growing.

The chemical company says it developed the SELECT Eco-Label Manager so that it and its stakeholders could better manage all the different environmental labels, claims, directories and ratings that have been created or are used by the government, other businesses, trade groups and organizations.

SELECT — standing for Sustainability, Eco-Labeling and Environmental Certification Tracking — lets users search, analyze and compare programs, and is currently only available to BASF employees and certain BASF customers and stakeholders.

”The demand for environmentally preferable products is rapidly evolving and influencing purchasing decisions along entire supply chains,” Pat Meyer, BASF senior product steward and program leader, said in a statement. “These purchasing requirements have spawned hundreds of eco-labels and programs…leading to a lot of confusion.”

The SELECT database has 100 programs in it so far, most related to North America, but BASF says it will keep adding programs from around the world to it.

Innovative Energy Technology Transforms Wasted Heat into Electricity.

US EPA Announces 2011 Energy Star Emerging Technology Awards.

Release date: 02/08/2011

Contact Information: Stacy Kika, kika.stacy@epa.gov, 202-564-0906, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing two companies for innovative new products that recycle wasted energy and turn it into usable electricity in homes or small buildings. Micro combined heat and power (CHP) systems are an emerging technology that can help change how we use and produce energy in our homes while protecting people’s health. When offsetting purchases of coal-generated electricity in cold climates, this emerging technology can reduce energy use and curb carbon dioxide emissions by 20 to 30 percent.

As winners of the 2011 Energy Star Emerging Technology Award, Freewatt micro CHP system made by ECR International, N.Y., and the Ecopower micro CHP system made by Marathon Engine, Wis. are helping home and small building owners, particularly in the Northeast region, produce their own electricity, reducing their utility bills. These technologies capture wasted energy from space or water heaters and turn it into usable electricity from a single fuel source.

Although the technology has been successfully used in larger applications for many years, micro CHP systems have only recently been commercialized for small scale use in residential homes, apartment buildings and small office buildings. This year’s winning micro CHP systems met strict criteria for efficiency, noise, emissions and third party-verified performance. In addition to submitting laboratory test results, products were monitored in the field for a minimum of one year to be eligible for recognition.

More information: http://www.energystar.gov/emergingtech

Increasing the Focus on Green Chemistry in New England.

Science Wednesday: a blog post from the US EPA’s Curt Spalding.

Posted on January 5th, 2011 – 10:30 AM


Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Curt Spalding

New England is abuzz with discussions and planning to position the Northeast as a green chemistry force for the country and the world.

What is Green Chemistry? Simply put, it seeks to design and invent the next generation of everyday materials and products by reducing or eliminating the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry means less waste, better energy efficiency and reduced risks for us and our environment. It’s an ongoing process of applying innovation, creativity and intelligence.

I believe green chemistry will be a powerful economic engine for the U.S. and for New England.

Last summer, along with my colleague Paul Anastas, we began brainstorming how to bring together green chemistry leaders from the Northeast. We sought out John Warner of Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry , Amy Cannon of Beyond Benign , and New England leaders in government, academia and business to strategize what a sustainable green chemistry future might look like – and how we could make it happen in New England.

Read the entire post here.

Beekeepers Ask EPA to Remove Pesticide Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder, Citing Leaked Agency Memo

Beekeepers Ask EPA to Remove Pesticide Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder,
Citing Leaked Agency Memo

Pesticide Already Illegal in Germany, Italy & France Based on Scientific Findings

SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON, D.C – Beekeepers and environmentalists today called on EPA to remove a pesticide linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), citing a leaked EPA memo that discloses a critically flawed scientific support study. The November 2nd memo identifies a core study underpinning the registration of the insecticide clothianidin as unsound after EPA quietly re-evaluated the pesticide just as it was getting ready to allow a further expansion of its use. Clothianidin (product name “Poncho”) has been widely used as a seed treatment on many of the country’s major crops for eight growing seasons under a “conditional registration” granted while EPA waited for Bayer Crop Science, the pesticide’s maker, to conduct a field study assessing the insecticide’s threat to bee colony health.

Bayer’s field study was the contingency on which clothianidin’s conditional registration was granted in 2003. As such, the groups are calling for an immediate stop-use order on the pesticide while the science is redone, and redesigned in partnership with practicing beekeepers. They claim that the initial field study guidelines, which the Bayer study failed to satisfy, were insufficiently rigorous to test whether or not clothianidin contributes to CCD in a real-world scenario: the field test evaluated the wrong crop, over an insufficient time period and with inadequate controls.

Original post at Pesticide Action Network.

Contacts:Heather Pilatic, Pesticide Action Network
cell: 415.694.8596

Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides
202.543.5450, ext 15

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.

EPA seeks policy shift, announces sustainability reform effort.

By Marla Cone

Editor in Chief
Environmental Health News
Dec. 1, 2010

Aiming to reform its policies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has enlisted one of the biggest guns in the federal arsenal to help: The National Academy of Sciences.

On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and National Academy of Sciences President Ralph Cicerone launched an effort to develop the so-called Green Book, a project to ensure all EPA policies are driven by sustainability.

The effort is reminiscent of the 1983 Red Book, written by the National Research Council to develop a strategy of risk assessment to guide the agency’s policies. That project triggered a dramatic shift in how the EPA developed regulations, focusing for the first time on scientifically evaluating risks to human health and the environment.

The National Research Council project was commissioned by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and announced as part of EPA’s 40th-anniversary celebration.

Paul Anastas, EPA’s assistant administrator for research and development, said a new strategy focusing on sustainability is a necessary but challenging step in the “evolution” of the nation’s environmental laws and programs.

“This is no small shift,” he said. “This is a seismic shift in how we pursue our mission…We are under no illusion that it will happen by next Tuesday.”

EPA’s current policies and regulations are driven by statutes that oversee individual issues, such as pesticides, air pollution and drinking water contaminants. But the project by the National Research Council will develop a framework for the EPA to link all environmental issues and ensure its policies rely on sustainable use of energy, water, land and other resources.

For the initiative to succeed, it will have to incorporate a lot of diverse, often contradictory factors, such as environmental justice, economic growth, chemical exposures and energy savings.

In announcing the effort, Jackson said she wants the framework to “apply across all of the agency’s programs, policies and actions.”

Instead of just focusing on risks, if there were a new “sustainability” approach, EPA would have to incorporate a range of sustainable approaches in its solutions to problems. For example, EPA officials said a new global indoor stove initiative deals not only with air pollutants, but also climate change, deforestation and women’s health issues.

The idea is to think systemically, Anastas said. “We act in a fragmented way,” he said.

Anastas said an example of the consequences of fragmentation is that drinking water must be disinfected, but disinfection leads to byproducts in the water supply that pose health risks and must then be regulated. Similarly, growers want to increase crop yields to grow the food supply but this goal leads to overuse of farm chemicals.

The National Research Council panel will be chaired by Dr. Bernard Goldstein, a  professor of environmental and occupational health at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Science Wednesday: Learning About Green Chemistry and Sustainability

Posted on July 21st, 2010 – 10:30 AM


By Cathryn Courtin, US EPA. Previous Science Wednesdays.

My introduction to “green chemistry” came a few weeks ago when I sat in on a Sustainability Workshop conducted for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. The workshop was led by John C. Warner, Ph.D., founder of the Warner-Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.

Dr. Warner has been honored with numerous awards, has hundreds of patents to his name, and enjoys widespread recognition in his field. He also co-authored Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice with EPA Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas, a book largely responsible for setting the Green Chemistry movement in motion.

During his presentation, Dr. Warner stated, “I have synthesized over 2,500 compounds, and I have never been taught what makes a chemical toxic. I have no idea what makes a chemical an environmental hazard!”

That certainly got my attention. How could it be possible that a chemist at the top of his field had never studied toxicity? Dr. Warner offered a surprising answer to this question. “In order to earn a degree in chemistry,” he stated, “no university requires any demonstration of knowledge regarding toxicity or environmental impact.” The presence of toxins, he explained “always gets found out later in the process because it’s not part of the training.”

Green Chemistry, I learned, is designed to change that. Its principles aim for less hazardous chemical synthesis and striving to design safer chemicals instead of dealing with hazard throughout the process. Of course this is not a simple matter, and Dr. Warner detailed just how complex and challenging it is. “It’s an incremental process”, he said, one which requires much research, hard work, and innovation. Products have already been patented, however, that have been designed following the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.

“We’ve got to celebrate the improvements where they are” Warner says, and we have to proceed with the mind set to change the status quo. Green chemistry has the potential to protect human health and safety while creating more cost effective and better performing alternatives to the current process and products.

It seems that green chemistry is a huge frontier for further exploration and research as well as a huge opportunity not only for universities but for science in the U.S. as well. Green Chemistry has many other facets in addition to those I have mentioned. Although I was just recently introduced to the topic, Dr. Warner has helped me see how incredibly important it is.

About the Author: Cathryn Courtin is a student at Georgetown University in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs program. She is spending her summer working as a student contractor at EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Pigments may be a new source of PCBs.

Pigments may be a new source of PCBs.

Jul 09, 2010

Hu, D and KC Hornbuckle.  2010.  Inadvertent polychlorinated biphenyls in commercial paint pigments. Environmental Science and Technology 44(8):2822–2827.

Synopsis by Evan Beach
Environmental engineers report that common paint pigments – more types than previously thought – are contaminated with PCBs and may be an ongoing source of exposure for people.

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Researchers at the University of Iowa have discovered that PCBs are present in many more kinds of paint pigment than previously known. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency knew about some of the contamination, the extent of the problem is a surprise.

The researchers suggest that the contaminated pigments used in a variety of paints, inks, cosmetics, plastics and other consumer goods are probably a source of ongoing exposures in humans.

PCBs are persistent and bioaccumulating toxic chemicals that have been largely banned from use in the United States since the 1970s. They can still be detected in air, water and people.

In the study, the scientists measured PCB levels in paints produced by Sherwin Williams, PPG and Vogel. The PCBs were only found in paints with certain kinds of colored pigments, belonging to two of the major classes of synthetic dye molecules.  From that information, the researchers were able to pinpoint the mechanisms by which PCBs could be formed unintentionally during manufacturing.

PCBs contain the element chlorine. During manufacturing, PCBs could form from reactions involving raw materials or solvents that contain chlorine. The use of chlorobenzene solvents, for example, led to PCB contamination in pigments with no chlorine in their chemical structure.

From a green chemistry perspective, this information could be used to design a new manufacturing process free of chlorinated materials.

The researchers pointed out that the levels of PCBs found in the paint samples were below regulatory thresholds, but the ubiquity of pigments in urban areas and the ability of PCBs to bioaccumulate may increase exposures.

There are hundreds of possible structures for PCBs, and some are more toxic than others. The researchers detected a wide variety of structures, including some of the most toxic, dioxin-like PCBs.

The connection between modern pigments and global PCB pollution is suggested because some of the PCBs found in the paint samples were not produced on a large scale before bans took effect. Those PCBs have been found by other researchers worldwide in air and surface water as well as waste streams from pigment manufacturing.

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.

“Thoughtful Design Versus Reaction” by Paul Anastas

Thoughtful Design Versus Reaction

by Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator, US EPA, Director of the Office of Research and Development

From: US EPA Science Matters

Seldom in all my years at EPA have I been more impressed by the raw effort and dedication of the people of EPA, and of course here in the Office of Research and Development, in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Day in and day out I’ve been in the Emergency Operations Center where people come together to solve some of the most challenging questions the Agency has ever faced, and work to prevent a tragedy from becoming a catastrophe.

As I look around the table, I see scientists and engineers sitting down and intensely engaging with economists, attorneys, communication specialists, and community outreach experts. It is a truly integrated trans-disciplinary endeavor. It has made it even more clear to me than it had been before the importance of integrated trans-disciplinary systems thinking.

When we are faced by the type of emergency such as the tragedy in the Gulf, we recognize that it takes all talents to come together and focus like a laser.

What is also clearer to me than ever before is that it is the lack of this kind of integrated trans-disciplinary systems thinking up-front that often leads us as a society into these types of environmental crisis situations.  Thoughtful sustainable design has the potential to minimize both the potential for these types of situations to occur and to minimize the consequences when accidents do happen.  It is a classic example of invest a little now versus having to pay tremendously later.

How will our response to the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico change how we approach EPA research, now and into the future?  By incorporating integrated trans-disciplinary design into our scientific and technical support actions, our research products will be useful and informative to those seeking to make the products, processes, and systems of the future more sustainable and to those who are reacting to the next foreseeable yet unforeseen crisis.

Our colleagues are contributing to dealing with the situation in the Gulf — spending days, nights, and weekends.  How I wish it were unnecessary for them to be working on such a terrible event.  The hope remains that as we spend our efforts on thoughtful trans-disciplinary design through our research that there will be fewer of these tragedies in the future.

More information about EPA’s response to the BP Oil spill is available on the US EPA web site:
http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/.