Common dry cleaning chemical linked to Parkinson’s disease

Read the full story from the University of Rochester.

A common and widely used chemical may be fueling the rise of the world’s fastest growing brain condition–Parkinson’s disease. For the past 100 years, trichloroethylene (TCE) has been used to decaffeinate coffee, degrease metal, and dry clean clothes. It contaminates the Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune, 15 toxic Superfund sites in Silicon Valley, and up to one-third of groundwater in the U.S.  TCE causes cancer, is linked to miscarriages and congenital heart disease, and is associated with a 500 percent increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

In a hypothesis paper in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, an international team of researchers—including University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologists Ray Dorsey, MD, Ruth Schneider, MD, and Karl Kieburtz, MD—postulates that TCE may be an invisible cause of Parkinson’s.  In the paper they detail the widespread use of the chemical, the evidence linking the toxicant to Parkinson’s, and profile seven individuals, ranging from a former NBA basketball player to a Navy officer to a late U.S. Senator, who developed Parkinson’s disease either after likely working with the chemical or being exposed to it in the environment.

EPA clamps down on HFC imports

Read the full story at Cooling Post.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced several enforcement actions, including settlements totalling over $900,000, in support of its efforts to reduce the use of HFC refrigerants.

EPA seeks to restrict a toxic sterilizer, despite industry red flags

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Acting in response to community health experts and environmental justice advocates, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing tougher standards on several toxic chemicals, including ethylene oxide, widely used for sterilizing medical equipment and other purposes.

But parts of the health-care and chemical industries are warning that these Biden administration rule changes could disrupt the supply of safe medical equipment, affecting hospitals and clinics nationwide.

Managing the Systemic Use of Chemicals in Europe

Download the report.

Chemicals are embedded in practically every single manufactured good in the EU. On the one hand, chemicals play a key role in ensuring quality of life and offer new solutions to deliver the green and the digital transitions. On the other, our increasing reliance on chemicals leads to serious problems. From creating adverse health effects to contributing to the climate crisis, chemicals come with a cost — so much so that we have now exceeded the planetary boundary for chemical pollution. Where do we go from here? This briefing describes the systemic use of chemicals across Europe’s current systems of production and consumption. Moreover, it discusses key policy measures foreseen in the European Green Deal’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability that offer significant potential to ensure consumer safety, cut pollution and clean up material flows.

Public health vs. economic growth: Toxic chemical rules pose test for Biden

Read the full story in the New York Times.

The Biden administration is preparing to impose some of the first new rules in a generation to restrict or ban an array of toxic chemicals that are widely used in manufacturing, presenting the White House with tough choices between its economic agenda and public health.

Many of the substances in question are important to industries that President Biden has backed through other policies intended to bolster global competitiveness and national security, such as semiconductors and electric vehicles.

Corporations are framing the decisions about new regulations for an initial group of toxic chemicals as putting at risk the administration’s drive to nurture the American economy of the future. Environmental and public health groups are stressing the need to focus on protecting workers and communities from substances known to carry health risks, such as cancer, liver and kidney damage and infertility.

A major lobbying clash is already underway. Chip makers, the burgeoning electric vehicle industry and other companies, including military contractors, are pressuring the administration to water down the new rules, saying the repercussions of a ban or new restrictions could be crippling.

How the US can radically improve chemical safety

Read the full story at The Hill.

In the U.S., most chemicals have been considered innocent until proven guilty. They’re entered into use with little to no information about their safety, and if suspicion of harm arises, federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must do complex risk assessments to prove people are exposed at high enough concentrations to warrant action. This can take years or decades per chemical, and there are tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce today. 

Sound inefficient? Well, leading scientists agree. That’s why a more common-sense idea is gaining traction. The “essential-use approach” is quite simple in theory: If a chemical is harmful, or suspected of being harmful, it should be restricted to only those uses that are essential — and only until safer alternatives are developed. One can hardly find fault with that logic. Are antimicrobial socks or waterproof bathing suits essential enough to risk the use of harmful chemicals? Not likely. But we may need these chemicals in some surgical gowns or firefighting gear, at least until a safer alternative is developed. 

This approach is being adopted by the E.U. and several U.S. states. However, in practice, how to apply it is still being hammered out. In a new paper, we join other scientists from government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and academia in providing specific recommendations for how the essential-use approach can be applied by governments and businesses wanting to remove harmful chemicals from commerce. 

6th Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) Report

Download the report.

CFP is a program of Clean Production Action and was co-founded by the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the consultancy Pure Strategies, and Clean Production Action.

CFP includes two major initiatives for identifying and moving away from the use of chemicals of high concern (CoHCs) towards safer solutions. One initiative is the CFP Survey, a holistic assessment of where an organization is in its efforts to move beyond regulatory compliance towards best practices in chemicals management. The other initiative is the chemical footprint metric, a quantitative measure of the production and use of CoHCs. The chemical footprint metric is embedded into the CFP Survey and provides a means for companies to set goals, quantify their use of CoHCs, and measure progress.

Highlights from the 6th CFP Report

  • Companies with over $1 trillion in annual revenue from seven business sectors participated in the 2021 CFP Survey.
    Over one year, they reported chemical footprint reductions of 83.4 million pounds/37.8 million kilograms.
  • Walmart, one of the world’s largest retailers, surpassed its 10% chemical footprint reduction goal in formulated
    products by achieving a 17% reduction and encouraged suppliers to set impactful chemical footprint goals.
  • Reckitt, a major consumer goods company and retailer supplier with brands including Lysol, Woolite, and Calgon,
    announced it is “aiming for a 65% reduction in our chemical footprint by 2030.”
  • CFP Signatories including investors and retailers established the CFP Survey as a leadership framework in shareholder
    resolutions and benchmarking assessments.
  • The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in its new proxy voting disclosure requirements for institutional
    investment managers listed “chemical footprint” among examples for “Environment or climate” reporting requirements.

DOE issues notice of intent to fund industrial decarbonization and emissions reduction demonstration to deployment projects

DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) in collaboration with the Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains (MESC) intends to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled “Industrial Decarbonization and Emissions Reduction Demonstration-to-Deployment Funding Opportunity Announcement.” DOE expects to issue the FOA on or about March 2023 and will likely require concept papers.

OCED anticipates funding high-impact, large-scale, transformational projects to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from high-emitting industrial subsectors to build confidence in the technical and commercial viability of emissions reduction technologies and integrated solutions.

OCED will support cross-cutting industrial decarbonization approaches via energy efficiency; industrial electrification; low-carbon fuels, feedstocks, and energy sources; and carbon capture and utilization for emissions that are difficult to abate through other pathways. This approach aligns with but is not limited to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap.

Areas of interest (AOI) may include high-emissions industrial production processes in iron, steel, steel mill products, aluminum, cement, concrete, glass, pulp, paper, industrial ceramics, chemicals, and other energy-intensive industrial sectors. In addition to the industry-specific opportunities, which require process-specific solutions, crosscutting opportunities to minimize the GHG emissions across the sector or sectors will be considered. 

DOE anticipates providing awards to teams that are led by a single entity. All applicants are encouraged to partner with experts in technical engineering support or analysis, lifecycle analysis, and/or community benefits if none exist within the applicant’s team.  

Read DOE’s full notice of intent (PDF will download automatically).

EPA adds 12 chemicals to Toxics Release Inventory

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that adds 12 chemicals to the list of chemicals subject to Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements. Facilities that are covered by TRI and meet reporting requirements for these chemicals will now be required to report to EPA on quantities of these chemicals that are released into the environment or otherwise managed as waste. The first reports on these chemicals will be due to EPA July 1, 2024, for calendar year 2023 data.

TRI data are reported to EPA annually by facilities in certain industry sectors and federal facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use TRI-listed chemicals above certain quantities (typically 25,000 pounds for manufacturing or processing, or 10,000 pounds for a chemical that is otherwise used).

Information collected through the TRI allows communities to learn how facilities in their area are managing listed chemicals. The data collected also help companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the public make informed decisions. This information can be especially important to fenceline communities (i.e., communities near industrial uses of these chemicals where releases to water, air, or land could have a greater impact).

In 2014, the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) submitted a petition under Section 313(e) of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requesting EPA add 25 chemicals to the TRI. EPA evaluated the 25 chemicals to determine if they met the TRI listing criteria of EPCRA Section 313(d)(2). In October 2021, EPA responded to the petition by proposing a rule to add 12 of the 25 chemicals to the TRI chemical list. Today’s rule is being finalized without any significant changes from the proposed rule.

The 12 chemicals that are now subject to TRI reporting requirements are:

  • dibutyltin dichloride;
  • 1,3-dichloro-2-propanol; 
  • formamide; 
  • 1,3,4,6,7,8-Hexahydro-4,6,6,7,8,8-hexamethylcyclopenta[g]-2-benzopyran;
  • n-hydroxyethylethylenediamine;
  • nitrilotriacetic acid trisodium salt;
  • p-(1,1,3,3-Tetramethylbutyl)phenol;
  • 1,2,3-trichlorobenzene;
  • triglycidyl isocyanurate;
  • tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate;
  • tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate; and
  • tris(dimethylphenol) phosphate.

EPA has also classified one of the chemicals, 1,3,4,6,7,8-hexahydro-4,6,6,7,8,8-hexamethylcyclopenta [g]-2-benzopyran, as a persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemical and designated it as a chemical of special concern with a 100-pound reporting threshold. PBT chemicals are toxic chemicals that remain in the environment for long periods of time and can build up in the body, posing potential risks for exposed populations. Even small quantities of these chemicals can pose risks, and the 100-pound reporting threshold reflects that fact.

In separate, unrelated actions, three of the 25 chemicals named in the TURI petition (1-bromopropane, nonylphenol, and 1,2,5,6,9,10-hexabromocyclododecane) have already been added to the TRI chemical list. EPA determined that there is insufficient toxicity information available to support the listing of nine of the remaining chemicals. The last of the 25 chemicals, octabromodiphenyl ether, is no longer in production in the United States and no use or releases are expected. Therefore, EPA anticipates that no reports would be filed for this chemical and did not list it.

Learn more on EPA’s website.

EPA announces innovative effort to bring new chemicals used in electric vehicle, semiconductor, clean energy sectors to market

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a new effort under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to implement a streamlined and efficient process under the New Chemicals Program to assess risk and apply mitigation measures, as appropriate, for new chemicals with applications in batteries, electric vehicles, semiconductors and renewable energy generation.

Under TSCA, EPA’s New Chemicals Program plays an important role by reviewing all new chemical substances before they enter the marketplace in order to bring innovative chemistries to market in a way that does not harm human health or the environment. 

The new process is for mixed metal oxides (MMOs), including new and modified cathode active materials (CAMs). MMOs are innovative chemistries and have numerous electrical applications in batteries as well as use as catalysts, adsorbents, and in ceramics. Notably, MMOs, including CAMs, are a key component in lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, which are a growing and important industry. New MMOs can also be used for semi-conductors, and renewable energy generation and storage, such as solar cells and wind power turbines. They typically consist of lithium, nickel, cobalt and other metals, and they are the key material used in the production of the cathode in battery cells, which are subsequently assembled into a battery.

This effort supports President Biden’s bold agenda to tackle the climate crisis, and will complement the resources flowing to EPA from historic legislation signed by the President. There are incentives attached to clean energy under the Inflation Reduction Act, including tax credits for electric vehicles. Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, there are also incentives to build a national network of electric vehicle chargers.

Like all chemical substances not listed on the TSCA Inventory, MMOs, including new and modified CAMs, are subject to section 5 of TSCA, which requires manufacturers (including importers) of new chemical substances to provide EPA with notice before initiating the activity by submitting a Premanufacture Notice (PMN). When EPA receives a PMN, TSCA requires the agency to fully assess all the potential hazards and exposures of the new chemical substance, make a determination as to whether it presents an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment, and take steps to address that risk before it can enter commerce

EPA has reviewed hundreds of TSCA section 5 submissions for MMOs, including CAMs and modified CAMs, since the 1980’s. To further describe this new effort, EPA will launch outreach and training for interested stakeholders to outline the new streamlined approach to reviewing MMOs, basics of TSCA statutory and regulatory requirements, and steps for navigating the new chemicals submission process.

Subscribe to OCSPP’s news releases to receive notices about upcoming webinars.

Today’s announcement is supplemented with the release of a Compliance Advisory that reaffirms that new MMOs, which includes CAMs and modified CAMs, are new chemical substances subject to TSCA. Anyone who plans to manufacture (including import) a CAM or modified CAM that is not on the TSCA Inventory must comply with the TSCA section 5 new chemical requirements and implementing regulations.

In January 2022, EPA launched a similar effort to streamline the review of dozens of PMNs for biofuels that could be used to displace current, higher greenhouse gas emitting transportation fuels. Under this effort, EPA has completed about 95 percent of all biofuel PMNs submitted since the initiative was announced.

More information about EPA’s review of new chemicals and MMOs.