Monthly Archives: January 2011

No disappearing act: Dispersant ingredient lives on months after BP oil disaster

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Remember that old naïve saw, “Dilution is the Solution to Pollution”?   When it comes to the dispersants used last year to address the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, that axiom appears to be the operative mechanism.

Last week, researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute published data showing that a key component of the Corexit dispersant used by BP to address the oil spill, did not degrade – as had been predicted by just about everybody, including BP, the Coast Guard, the dispersant manufacturer Nalco and EPA.  In fact, it was still detectable when last looked for in September, 5 months after the spill began and at least two months after use of dispersants had ceased. Read More »

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Regulating nanomaterials to life, not death

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

As we enter a new year and legislative season, we face a changed political climate where the thought of new regulation is anything but de rigueur.  I will argue in this post that a little regulation would have done – and still could do – the world of nanotechnology a world of good.

Come again?

Back when the debate over nanomaterial safety really got started, which I would place ‘round about 2004 (or was that just my first involvement in it?), there seemed to be broad agreement on first-order needs to ensure that nanotechnology would survive and thrive.  The aim was to “get it right the first time,” by identifying and addressing potential risks up front and in the open.  That meant we needed to adequately fund and direct risk research.  We also needed to make sure adequate regulatory authority existed to address potential risks, ideally before they arose.

Most fundamentally, there was virtual consensus on the need for prompt action to ensure regulatory agencies had at hand the basic information they needed to understand the lay of the nano-land:  what nanomaterials are already being produced and are in the pipeline; in what applications and products are they being used; and where along the nanomaterial lifecycle are the most likely points for potential releases and exposures.

With respect to this most fundamental of needs, I’m sorry to say that, in 2011, we are essentially no closer to achieving it than we were in 2004.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Nanotechnology, Regulation| Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

The States we're in on chemical policy reform in 2011: 30 and counting

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Today, legislators in 30 states and the District of Columbia introduced or announced plans to introduce bills aimed at reducing the impact of chemicals on public health.  These actions send a strong signal that states will to continue to respond to the mounting public concern over unsafe, under-regulated and inadequately tested chemicals — in the face of continued inaction by the U.S. Congress to do so.

The bills differ in scope and content, but all of them address chemicals, products or policy needs that have fallen through the cracks in the 35 years since the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted.

With strong, bipartisan majorities of Americans embracing the need for stronger chemical laws, these latest actions make clear that states will continue to act until there is a strong federal system in place that restores confidence in our government's ability to assure the safety of all chemicals we use and encounter in our daily lives.  Read More »

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Do these chemicals make me look fat?

Woman in mirrorJennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

My colleague Richard Denison at EDF ended his last blog post asking, “The new study [Environmental Chemicals in Pregnant Women in the US: NHANES 2003-2004] leaves me with one question:  How many more such wake-up calls do we need before our government enacts policies to ensure the safety of chemicals to which we are exposed?”

Maybe this will help shake us awake!  The obesity epidemic in the United States is increasing at alarming rates.   So too is an associated disease, type 2 diabetes.  Researchers have attributed 70% of the risk associated with developing type 2 diabetes with being overweight or obese, a risk that increases by 4.5% for every 2.2 pounds of weight gained over 10 years.

A healthy diet and hitting the gym should keep these diseases at bay, right?  Certainly proper nutrition and exercise are good and important habits for controlling our weight and maintaining overall health.  But what if, despite all such efforts, there are contributing factors outside of our control, and even outside of our genetic makeup?  And what if those potential factors are found in us, on us, and all around us?

New research suggests that chemicals found in our environment and in everyday products may play a significant role in packing on the pounds.  Read More »

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New study demands far more than a pregnant pause: Expectant women carry dozens of toxic chemicals in their bodies

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

A long-awaited study documenting the presence of multiple toxic chemicals in the bodies of pregnant women was published today in Environmental Health Perspectives.  The study, conducted by researchers at Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed the most recent comprehensive biomonitoring data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as part of its national human biomonitoring program.

The new study found widespread exposure of pregnant women to a large fraction of the chemicals for which biomonitoring is conducted, including chemicals that are currently in widespread use, such as brominated flame retardants (known as PBDEs) used in furniture foam and plastics, perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) used in everything from packaging to textiles, and a pervasive environmental contaminant used in rocket fuel (perchlorate).

In particular the study noted:  “Certain PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, PFCs, phenols, PBDEs, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate were detected in 99 to 100% of pregnant women.” (emphasis added)  Read More »

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A near-sisyphusian task: EPA soldiers on to require more testing under TSCA

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday that it has finalized a rule requiring testing [UPDATE 1/7/11:  The published rule is available here] to determine basic health and environmental effects for 19 high production volume (HPV) chemicals.  While I welcome this as well as any other effort to close the huge safety data gaps that exist even for the most widely used chemicals, the back story behind this rule reveals why it is actually a perfect poster child for what’s wrong with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

For starters, consider that it took EPA two and a half years to move the rule from the proposed stage to finalization.  And that doesn’t count the several preceding years EPA had to spend developing information sufficient to make the findings it has to make to justify proposing a test rule.

Then consider that the rule addresses only 19 of the many hundreds of HPV chemicals on the market today for which even the most basic, “screening level” hazard data are not publicly available.

And it gets worse.  Read More »

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