Selected tags: phthalates

A REACH milestone: First authorisation application passes the European Chemicals Agency

Alissa Sasso is a Chemicals Policy Fellow.

It’s been a while since we’ve posted an update on ongoing activities under the European Union’s Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).  The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been quite busy in recent months.

The first application for authorisation (we’ll be using the English spelling of this term, as it is spelled in REACH) to use a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) cleared ECHA’s Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) on January 3rd. This is a significant step in the implementation of REACH in the EU. The authorisation process is intended both to manage the risks posed by SVHCs and to drive the replacement of these hazardous substances with safer alternatives.  And, as the final step in the process laid out under REACH for managing chemical substances, its execution is central to the success of REACH as a whole. This first application for authorisation was therefore a kind of test-run for ECHA, as well as the chemical industry, and sets the stage for the submission and review of future authorisation applications.

As we run through the details of this particular authorisation application, keep in mind that ECHA received seven other applications for authorisation last year, and will see even more activity in the coming year.  Read More »

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Premier medical organizations sound alarm on toxic chemicals’ harm to reproductive health

Joanna Slaney is an EDF consultant.

As a mom, I know what it’s like to worry about the health and safety of my children. You want to do everything you can to protect your kids, and help them stay healthy and strong. That’s why I think most parents will want to pay attention to the statement released today from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). The joint opinion from two of the country’s most prestigious medical organizations details how prenatal exposure to certain chemicals is linked to miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects. These groups are urging ob-gyns to advocate for government policy changes needed to ensure we identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents.

EDF Health is very pleased that ACOG and ASRM are expanding awareness of the serious threats toxic chemicals can pose to our health. We urge everyone, especially parents, to take a closer look at this joint statement.

EDF Health has issued the following statement: “Today’s statement from ACOG and ASRM is the latest reminder about the devastating impact toxic chemicals can have on our health,” said Dr. Sarah Vogel, Director, EDF Environmental Health. “Even more shocking is that most everyday chemicals have never been tested for safety.  Our doctors are telling us we need to fix America’s chemical laws to protect our families’ health.”

To learn more about the health impact of toxic chemicals, please go here.

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21st Century on the horizon for endocrine disruptor screening?

Rachel Shaffer is a research assistant. Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

BPA, DDT, PCBs, PBDEs, phthalates, PFOA … Forgive the alphabet soup, but chances are you’ve heard of at least some of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which have been the subject of a lot of public and media attention in the last several years. Research has begun to uncover the ways in which these chemicals can interact with the body’s hormone – or endocrine – system to disrupt various natural biological processes, including metabolism, the reproductive system, and development of the brain and nervous systems.

While the endocrine-disrupting properties of the chemicals named above have been confirmed, scientists suspect there may be many more such chemicals in our environment, in the products we use, and in our bodies.  How can we identify them?

Legislation enacted in 1996 required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a screening program to identify potential EDCs.  More than 10 years later, EPA finally launched the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP).  Testing is being conducted in two phases, or “tiers.”  In “Tier 1,” a screening battery of validated in vivo and in vitro assays is used to identify chemicals with potential to interfere with the endocrine system. Chemicals flagged in the first tier of testing are then subject to “Tier 2” testing intended to determine the specific effect and the lowest dose at which it occurs. (We should note this program is very controversial and the subject of ongoing debate, but that is not the subject of this post.)

EPA has identified an estimated 9,700 chemicals to be screened – a very daunting task given the time- and resource-intensive nature of the testing battery EPA has established.  Might there be a way to expedite the identification and testing of the more problematic chemicals? A study published earlier this year in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) investigates a possible approach: using in vitro high-throughput (HT) assays developed through EPA’s ToxCast and Tox21 programs to target and prioritize chemicals for further testing under the EDSP. While use of these assays poses its own challenges, might it at least help in determining an appropriate testing sequence?  Read More »

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No way to treat our kids: Formaldehyde, flame retardants and other toxics exceed safe levels in air and dust in day care centers

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

A study conducted by the State of California [Update 10-26-12:  The study was funded by the California Air Resources Board and conducted by Asa Bradman and colleagues at the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at UC Berkeley] – described as “the first comprehensive study in child care centers to measure a broad spectrum of pollutants including many volatile organic chemicals, particles, and pesticides, and emerging pollutants such as flame retardants, phthalates and perfluorinated compounds” – has routinely detected dozens of these toxic contaminants in the air or floor dust present in such facilities. 

Some of the key findings include the following:

  • “Formaldehyde levels in 87% of the facilities exceeded the California acute and chronic reference exposure guideline levels for non-cancer health effects such as respiratory and sensory irritation (e.g. eyes, nose, throat, and lungs).”
  • “In most facilities, levels of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, chloroform, benzene, or ethylbenzene exceeded child-specific Safe Harbor Levels computed by the report authors based on Proposition 65 guidelines for carcinogens.”  [These are levels calculated to result in a cancer risk of at least 1 per 100,000 people.]
  • “Phthalates, flame retardants, pesticides, perfluorinated compounds, and lead were also frequently detected in dust and/or air.”
  • “Child dose estimates from ingestion of dust for two brominated flame retardants (BDE-47 and -99) exceeded the non-cancer U.S. EPA reference health dose (RfD) in 10.3% of facilities for children < 1 year old.”
  • “Two VOCs commonly found in cleaners and personal care products, d-limonene and decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, had the highest concentrations compared to other chemical groups.”

The presumed sources of most if not all of these chemicals are everyday materials and products used to construct, furnish or clean these facilities.  Formaldehyde, for example, is used in hundreds of materials and products, including furniture, wood products, carpeting, paints, and household cleaning products.  California took action in 2007 to limit is use in pressed wood products, and Congress passed a law in 2010 to do the same.  (Unfortunately, the proposed regulations needed to implement the federal law – which Congress mandated be in place by January 1, 2013 – are stuck in regulatory review limbo at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB):  The proposed regulations were sent by EPA to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) more than 170 days ago, on May 5 of this year, but remain under “pending review” by OIRA despite the requirement for OIRA to complete its reviews within 90 days.)

The larger problem exposed by the California study demands, of course, a far more comprehensive solution – TSCA reform.

 

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ECHA gives a CoRAP: REACH substance evaluation kicks off with list of target chemicals

Allison Tracy is a Chemicals Policy Fellow.

Posts to this blog concerning REACH – the European Union’s regulation for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals – have dealt mainly with the “R” and “A”.  A few weeks ago, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) took a first big step to capitalize on the “E” (Evaluation).

Specifically, the final 2012-2014 Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP) was published on February 29th (see ECHA’s press release).  After many months of consultation with the Member States, ECHA has released the list of 90 chemicals that will be the first to undergo REACH’s substance evaluation process in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Existing data guided the prioritization process that led to the production of this list, but REACH’s authorities granted for substance evaluation will allow ECHA and the Member States to gather new information to fill data gaps.  This new information will help to improve both governmental and public knowledge about the risks these chemicals may pose to human health and the environment.  Read More »

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Linking everyday chemicals to disease: New science keeps on intensifying the writing on the wall

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

As a Washington policy geek, it’s sometimes hard not to let the ups and downs of political prospects for achieving real improvements in public health protections from toxic chemicals get me down.  The tenacity with which some stakeholders insist on throwing wrenches into the works to block efforts to reach middle ground is indeed depressing.

But through it all, there is one constant that continually restores my optimism that we’ll eventually get where we need to get to:  Science keeps moving forward and inexorably points toward the need for reform.  I will use this post to briefly highlight four recent studies that demonstrate the changing landscape of our knowledge of how environmental factors, including toxic chemical exposures, are affecting our health.  What’s noteworthy about these studies is that they all identified adverse health effects in human populations, and linked those effects to early-life exposures.  They all also illustrate the complex interplay between chemical exposures and social or other environmental factors that directly challenges the overly simplistic and non-scientific approach to causation that our chemicals policies have taken for decades.

Below are summaries of and links to these new studies:

  • Early-life exposure to PCE is associated with later-life risky behaviors.
  • Phthalate exposure is associated with excess weight in New York City children.
  • Exposure to perfluorinated chemicals may interfere with childhood vaccine effectiveness.
  • Epigenetic changes are associated with socio-economic status and biomarkers for cardiovascular disease.

Read More »

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Chemical safety evaluation: Limitations of emerging test methods

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist. Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Parts in this series:      Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts on new approaches that federal agencies are exploring to improve how chemicals are evaluated for safety.  In this post, we’ll discuss a number of current limitations and challenges that must be overcome if the new approaches are to fulfill their promise of transforming the current chemical safety testing paradigm.  Read More »

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No authorization, no market: REACH identifies first six chemicals to be phased out except for explicitly authorized uses

Allison Tracy is a Chemicals Policy Fellow.  Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

The European Commission today identified the first six chemicals to be made subject to authorization under the European Union’s Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals, or REACH.

The long road to today’s decision began in October 2008, when the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) identified these chemicals as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) and placed them on its Candidate List for chemicals potentially to be subject to authorization. Under REACH, a chemical qualifies as a SVHC as a result of being:  (1) carcinogenic, mutagenic, or a reproductive toxicant (CMR), (2) being persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT), (3) being very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB), or (4) being found to “give rise to an equivalent level of concern.”  Clearly these are the types of chemicals we want to pay attention to!

Today’s formal addition of these chemicals to REACH’s Annex XIV serves to notify manufacturers and importers that they must apply for, and obtain, authorization for specific uses of these chemicals if they want to continue using them beyond their designated sunset dates in 2014 and 2015.  It is of note that this rule applies to the chemicals in question regardless of their production volumes.   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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