Regulation

Hazardous chemicals in your pizza box? Petition asks FDA to ban them

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

U.S. manufacturers stopped using a hazardous chemical in pizza boxes and other food wrappers three years ago — but it may still be seeping into your takeout food.

That’s because foreign companies can still use perchlorate and perfluorocarboxylates (PFCs) – which can cause permanent brain damage in infants – in paper products that are imported into the United States.

On Thursday, a group of consumer and health groups filed a food additive petition with the Food and Drug Administration, asking that the agency pass regulations that would close this loophole and clearly ban the chemicals in food production. Perchlorate helps to reduce static and PFCs keep grease from soaking into food containers.

EPA Finds Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments of Little or No Benefit to U.S. Soybean Production

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released an analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoid seed treatments for insect control in soybeans. Neonicotinoid pesticides are a class of insecticides widely used on U.S. crops that EPA is reviewing with particular emphasis for their impact on pollinators. The analysis concluded that there is little or no increase in soybean yields using most neonicotinoid seed treatments when compared to using no pest control at all. A Federal Register notice inviting the public to comment on the analysis will publish in the near future.

“We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale, U.S. soybean farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments.”

During the review of the neonicotinoids, EPA found that many scientific publications claim that treating soybean seeds has little value. Part of our assessment examined the effectiveness of these seed treatments for pest control and estimated the impacts on crop yields and quality, as well as financial losses and gains. The law requires EPA to consider the benefits of using pesticides as well as the risks.

The analysis concluded that:

  • There is no increase in soybean yield using most neonicotinoid seed treatments when compared to using no pest control at all.
  • Alternative insecticides applied as sprays are available and effective.
  • All major alternatives are comparable in cost.
  • Neonicotinoid seed treatment could provide an insurance benefit against sporadic and unpredictable insect pests, but this potential benefit is not likely to be large or widespread throughout the United States.

This analysis is an important part of the science EPA will use to move forward with the assessment of the risks and benefits under registration review for the neonicotinoid pesticides. Registration review — the periodic re-evaluation of pesticides to determine if they continue to meet the safety standard — can result in EPA discontinuing certain uses, placing limits on the pesticide registration, and requiring other label changes.

Sign up for pesticide program updates to be notified by email when the EPA opens the docket and invites comment on its analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoid seed treatments on soybeans.

EPA Sees Wide Risks in Paint Strippers

Read the full story at Paint Square.

Methylene chloride, widely used in paint stripping products, poses a health threat to hundreds of thousands of workers, consumers and project bystanders, U.S. authorities have determined.

The findings of the final risk assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could move the agency a step closer to regulating the chemical, also known as Dichloromethane (DCM).

OSHA launches national dialogue on hazardous chemical exposures and permissible exposure limits in the workplace

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced it is launching a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent work-related illness caused by exposure to hazardous substances. The first stage of this dialogue is a request for information on the management of hazardous chemical exposures in the workplace and strategies for updating permissible exposure limits.

OSHA’s PELs, which are regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air, are intended to protect workers against the adverse health effects of exposure to hazardous substances. Ninety-five percent of OSHA’s current PELs, which cover fewer than 500 chemicals, have not been updated since their adoption in 1971. The agency’s current PELs cover only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of chemicals used in commerce, many of which are suspected of being harmful. Substantial resources are required to issue new exposure limits or update existing workplace exposure limits, as courts have required complex analyses for each proposed PEL.

“Many of our chemical exposure standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “While we will continue to work on updating our workplace exposure limits, we are asking public health experts, chemical manufacturers, employers, unions and others committed to preventing workplace illnesses to help us identify new approaches to address chemical hazards.”

OSHA is seeking public comment regarding current practices and future methods for updating PELs, as well as new strategies for better protecting workers from hazardous chemical exposures. Specifically, the agency requests suggestions on:

  • possible streamlined approaches for risk assessment and feasibility analyses and
  • alternative approaches for managing chemical exposures, including control banding, task-based approaches and informed substitution.

The goal of this public dialogue is to give stakeholders a forum to develop innovative, effective approaches to improve the health of workers in the United States. In the coming months, OSHA will announce additional ways for members of the public to participate in the conversation.

The comment period for the RFI will continue for 180 days. Instructions for submitting comments are available in the Federal Register, Docket No. OSHA-2012-0023, at https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-24009. For more information, please visit the OSHA Chemical Management Request for Information Web page at http://www.osha.gov/chemicalmanagement/index.html.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

Cleaning Up CAFOs with the Civil Rights Act

Read the full post from the Center for Effective Government.

For decades, minority communities in North Carolina have suffered with the odors and pollution of industrial pig farms. They may finally get a reprieve thanks to a complaint submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Civil Rights. The complaint, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of several groups, argues that North Carolina’s permitting process for pig farms negatively and disproportionally affects minority communities and violates the Civil Rights Act.

Oil Companies Quietly Prepare For a Future of Carbon Pricing

Read the full story in Yale Environment360.

The major oil companies in the U.S. have not had to pay a price for the contribution their products make to climate change. But internal accounting by the companies, along with a host of other signs, suggest that may soon change — though the implications of a price on carbon are far from clear.

Federal legislation would ban microplastics in personal care products

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

A New York U.S. senator recently introduced legislation to ban tiny plastic particles in personal care products.

These plastic microbeads are found in products like facial scrubs, body washes, hand cleansers and toothpastes. They are too small to be caught by wastewater treatment plants so they end up in large bodies of water like the Great Lakes.

Illinois has already banned plastic microbeads in consumer products and similar legislation is being considered in New York, Ohio and California.