Jonathan Choi is a chemicals policy fellow.
EDF Senior Scientist Dr. Jennifer McPartland contributed to this post.
The beginning of this century will no doubt be known for a lot of things. In the biological sciences, I predict it’ll be known for big data. It’s hard to wrap your head around just how far we’ve come already. For example, the data chips that sing “happy birthday” to your loved ones in those horrendously overpriced cards have more computing power than the Allies did in 1945. When I first started using computers, the 5.4” floppy disk was being replaced by the new 256Kb 3.5” disk. Now in Korea, you can get 1 GB per second internet speeds for $20 a month. That’s around 4000 floppy disks of data per second for about as much as I spend every week at the burrito place down the street.
In the biological sciences, we’ve seen an explosion of new ways to generate, collect, analyze, and store data. We’re photographing the world’s biodiversity and sharing it with crowdsourced taxonomists. We’re creating a database of the genomes of the world’s organisms. We’re mapping chemical exposures (our exposome), inventorying the microbes that live in our guts (our microbiome), ripping apart cells and sequencing every bit of messenger RNA that floats around inside (our transcriptome), and much more.
So, it’s not too surprising that regulatory agencies like EPA are pushing their own efforts to amass large quantities of data to help meet their missions. EPA has the unenviable task of reviewing tens of thousands of chemicals currently on the market with little health and safety data, on top of hundreds of new chemicals banging at its door each year. As we have written on numerous occasions, the agency clearly needs a better law that gives it greater authority to get the data it needs to effectively evaluate and manage chemical risks. But, given the information abyss in which we operate, we could definitely stand to adopt new testing approaches that generate at least screening level data on chemicals faster. Read More
Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.
[UPDATE 2/26/16: Updated versions of (1) our detailed side-by-side comparison of Senate and House bills — now with bill section references — and (2) our 5-part series have been posted below.]
On December 17, 2015, the full Senate passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697, the Lautenberg Act), which would amend the nearly 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
The House of Representatives already passed its TSCA reform bill in June, the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015, H.R. 2576.
Next up in the New Year will be efforts to reconcile these two bills. In anticipation of this, I am posting here updated analyses of the two bills that examine how and to what extent they would address key flaws in TSCA. These analyses include:
- brief and detailed side-by-sides of TSCA and the two bills,
- a comparison of how the bills deal with the contentious issue of preemption of state authority,
- a comparison of how well the bills meet the Administration’s principles for TSCA reform, and
- an earlier blog post on the importance of understanding which chemicals are in use today.
All of these materials (including this post) are available at blogs.edf.org/health.
Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
[UPDATE 5-17-15: On April 28, 2015, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a revised version of the Lautenberg Act out of the committee on a bipartisan 15-5 vote. On May 14, 2015, the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy passed a revised version of the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 out of the subcommittee on a bipartisan 21-0 vote. UPDATE 5-28-15: The legislation was formally introduced as H.R. 2576 on May 26, 2015. The new versions made no significant changes to the testing provisions discussed below.]
While most of the attention around legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has focused on the issue of preemption, it’s important not to lose sight of how new legislation would address fundamental problems in the current law. This post will be the first in a series examining flaws in TSCA and how recent bipartisan reform proposals would address them.
The Lautenberg Act, S. 697, is the bipartisan TSCA reform legislation introduced in the Senate in March. A bipartisan process has also begun in the House, leading to last week’s release of a discussion draft of “The TSCA Modernization Act of 2015.” In this series of posts, I’ll describe how each of these legislative vehicles would address the specific problematic area of the current law I’m discussing.
First up, EPA testing authority. Read More
Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.
New approaches for evaluating chemical hazard and risk are needed to help address substantial data gaps that exist for the thousands of chemicals currently in the marketplace as well as those yet to be introduced. EPA has been investing significant resources to create research programs dedicated to advancing new types of chemical testing and assessment approaches. But what exactly are these approaches? How might they improve the practice of risk assessment? Are they appropriate for decision-making, and if so, what kinds of decision making? What role does the public interest community have to play?
To explore these and other important issues, EDF’s Health Program has launched a website, “Chemical Testing in the 21st Century,” that provides an introduction to these new approaches and the programs the EPA has built around them—including their potential uses, benefits and limitations. The website includes the following informational resources:
- Chemical Testing in the 21st Century: A Primer – An introduction to EPA’s Computational Toxicology (CompTox) research initiative and its component programs, such as ToxCast; a discussion of the opportunities and challenges of these new testing programs; and a discussion of issues and needs for greater engagement by the public interest community.
- Chemical Testing in the 21st Century: Webinar Series – Linked audio and video recordings of each of EDF’s three webinars (held in October) featuring EDF and EPA scientists exploring the basics of EPA’s new testing programs and the promises and challenges they present.
We will soon be adding a page with descriptions of and links to additional resources.