“We don’t live in a research bubble”: The hopes and fears driving an online movement to help Ukrainian researchers

Read the full story at The Verge.

In recent weeks, this desire to help has resulted in an earnest and extensive online movement made up of individuals, groups of volunteers, and institutions, which are using the internet and social media to offer Ukrainian scientists and students affected by war all the support they can: jobs, a place to continue their studies, a new home.

Illinois EPA completes statewide sampling for investigation into the prevalence of PFAS in drinking water

Read the full story from Illinois EPA.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director John J. Kim announced the
completion of statewide sampling to investigate the prevalence and occurrence of per- and
polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in finished drinking water at all community water systems (CWSs)
in Illinois. Illinois EPA began the investigation in the fall of 2020 and completed sampling for 18
PFAS compounds in early 2022. Illinois EPA sampled the finished drinking water at the distribution
system entry points at 1,017 CWS, at 1,428 sample locations. This represents all operational
sources of water for the entirety of CWS in the state. Data gathered as part of this investigation will
aid in the development of future Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) drinking water quality
standards for PFAS.

EPA continues to take actions to address PFAS in commerce

U.S. EPA has announced two important actions to safeguard communities from products containing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). First, as part of EPA’s effort to identify, understand and address PFAS contamination leaching from fluorinated containers, the agency is notifying companies of their obligation to comply with existing requirements under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ensure unintentional PFAS contamination does not occur. The agency will also remove two PFAS from its Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL) following a review of these substances (which were added to that list in 2012).

“Today’s action will help ensure that responsible parties are held accountable for any future PFAS contamination affecting communities,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “Additionally, keeping PFAS out of consumer products certified under the agency’s Safer Choice program will help prevent potential exposures to PFAS from occurring in the first place.”

TSCA Compliance Notification Letter to Industry on PFAS in High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Containers

Today, EPA notified manufacturers (including importers), processors, distributors, users, and those that dispose of fluorinated HDPE containers and similar plastics (i.e., fluorinated polyolefins) that the presence of PFAS formed as a byproduct in these containers may be a violation of TSCA.

In an open letter released today Letter to Fluorinated HDP Industry, EPA outlines notifications requirements under TSCA for such PFAS. Certain PFAS, including long-chain PFAS as defined in EPA’s 2020 long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) Significant New Use Rule (SNUR), that are found to be present in or on fluorinated polyolefins may be subject to TSCA regulations and enforcement. LCPFAC chemical substances that are byproducts of the manufacturing process for fluorinated polyolefins do not meet the requirements of the byproduct’s exemption.  This means that the uses require notice to EPA via a Significant New Use Notice (SNUN), EPA review of potential risks of this use under TSCA section 5, and a determination of whether (and under what conditions) such uses can continue.

In March 2021, EPA made testing results available related to PFAS found in fluorinated containers. The contamination was first noted in HDPE containers used to store and transport a pesticide product. As the agency continues to determine the potential scope of the use of this fluorination process outside of its use for pesticide storage containers, EPA is issuing this letter to notify industry of their statutory obligations under TSCA and to help prevent unintended PFAS contamination.

Under the PFAS Strategic Roadmap issued by EPA Administrator Regan in October of 2021, EPA has committed to improve approaches for tracking and enforcement of PFAS requirements in new chemical consent orders and SNURs. The letter released today supports this goal by ensuring that manufacturers, processors, distributors, users, and those that dispose of these containers are aware of and are complying with the SNUR requirements.

For questions concerning this matter, contact EPA at TSCA_PFAS@epa.gov.

Removing PFAS from the Safer Chemical Ingredients List

EPA will also remove two PFAS first listed on the SCIL in 2012 under EPA’s Safer Choice program to better protect consumers and ensure that products certified under this program are free from PFAS.

EPA’s Safer Choice program is a voluntary program that helps consumers, businesses, and purchasers find products containing ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment. The SCIL includes chemicals that meet the criteria of the Safer Choice program and can be used in Safer Choice-certified products because they have been determined to be among the safest for their functional use.

Under the PFAS Roadmap, EPA committed to taking a fresh look at previous PFAS decisions, and, as part of this review, undertook a review of the SCIL. 

EPA’s process for removing a chemical from the SCIL is to first mark the chemical with a grey square on the SCIL webpage to provide notice to chemical and product manufacturers that this chemical may no longer be acceptable for use in Safer Choice-certified products. A grey square notation on the SCIL means that the chemical may not be allowed for use in products that are candidates for the Safer Choice label, and any current Safer Choice-certified products that contain this chemical must be reformulated unless relevant health and safety data is provided to justify continuing to list this chemical on the SCIL. The data required would be determined on a case-by-case basis. In general, data useful for making such a determination would provide evidence of low concern for human health and environmental impacts.  Unless information provided to EPA adequately justifies continued listing, this chemical would then be removed from the SCIL 12 months after the grey square designation.

EPA initially listed these two PFAS on the SCIL in 2012 based on the data available and the state of the agency’s knowledge at the time. EPA has updated the SCIL listing for these PFAS to a grey square because of a growing understanding of the toxicological profiles for certain PFAS, and incomplete information on the potential health and environmental effects of these substances. This means that these two PFAS will not be allowed for use in new products applying for Safer Choice certification. Additionally, any existing Safer Choice-certified products that contain these two PFAS must be reformulated.

For more information on the Safer Choice program and the SCIL, visit Safer Choice.

Startups and scaleups invited to partner on sustainable beauty solutions

The Unilever Foundry, Unilever’s collaborative innovation network, has launched a new entrepreneurial challenge focused on sustainable beauty solutions, through the Positive Beauty Growth Platform.

The Growth Platform’s second challenge aims to find the next generation of biodegradable and sustainable ingredients and packaging, looking for materials that deliver incredible benefits to our consumers, while supporting our vision to do more good for the planet, and help achieve our ambitious goals to protect and regenerate nature.

  • Two Unilever Open Forums, where experts from Unilever will present further details about the ask and host a Q&A session, will take place on Wednesday 23 March at 10:00 and 16:00 (GMT).
  • Submissions close on Monday 11 April at 23:59 (BST).

EPA researchers develop tool that helps water quality managers meet nutrient load targets

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems. This pollution can occur when excess amounts of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, run off from land into streams, rivers, lakes, and other water sources. To help water quality managers reduce nutrient pollution, EPA researchers developed the River Basin Export Reduction Optimization Support Tool (RBEROST), a regional online tool currently available for the Upper Connecticut River Basin that provides low-cost solutions to meet nutrient load targets…

RBEROST is publicly available in EPA’s GitHubEXITEXIT EPA WEBSITE online repository. While anyone can use RBEROST, users must have R and RStudio software installed to access the data and code files. Once those are installed, RBEROST will install RShiny through its setup segment, which will allow users to customize management practices and loading targets. RBEROST is also compatible with USGS’ Northeast Regional SPARROW model, which is used to estimate major sources and environmental factors that affect the supply, transport, and fate of contaminants in streams.

Texas and other states want to punish fossil fuel divestment

Read the full story from NPR.

About ten percent of all investments in the world are now in some kind of environmental or socially aligned fund. And big financial firms like BlackRock – under pressure from shareholders – have joined the trend, attracting investors and positive media coverage by touting environmentally responsible strategies.

But last year, when BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote a letter advising companies to prepare for a zero carbon world, there were some places where the reaction was not so positive.

Places like Texas.

Upcycled food takes center stage at Expo West

Read the full story in Food Business News.

The upcycled food movement is gaining momentum as product developers create new uses for previously overlooked ingredients. Exhibitors at Natural Products Expo West sampled nutritious food and beverages formulated with avocado seeds, celery scraps, orange peels and other landfill-bound leftovers.

We’re releasing the data behind our toxic air analysis

Read the full story from ProPublica.

Last year, ProPublica revealed more than 1,000 hot spots of carcinogenic industrial air pollution. Now we’re releasing the data behind that analysis.

Review finds big blind spots in research on social media and crisis communications

Read the full story from North Carolina State University.

A team of communication experts calls for researchers and organizations to take a global view when assessing how to use social media for crisis communication efforts, particularly in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The call stems from a detailed assessment of almost 200 studies spanning 15 years, which found large swathes of the social media landscape essentially unstudied.

These solar panels pull in water vapor to grow crops in the desert

Read the full story from Cell Press.

Using a unique hydrogel, scientists have created a solar-driven system that successfully grows spinach by using water drawn from the air while producing electricity. The proof-of-concept design offers a sustainable, low-cost strategy to improve food and water security for people living in dry-climate regions.