EDF Health

No more just California Dreamin’: First three priority products proposed

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Today the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced its first three draft priority products—the next major milestone in the implementation of its Safer Consumer Product (SCP) regulations to address chemicals of concern in the marketplace.  While we’re still at the start of a long process, today’s announcement is the clearest indicator to date of the impact these regulations may have on consumer products.

The release of the draft priority products follows DTSC’s release last September of its candidate chemicals list and from within this list, the subset initial candidate chemicals list.  Together with the initial candidate chemical list, the identification of the draft priority products now defines the possible set of chemical-product combinations that may head toward alternatives assessment.  Read on for a description of the chemicals and products and of the next phase of regulatory actions.  Read More »

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Getting the data on chemicals is just the beginning

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Common sense tells us it’s impossible to evaluate the safety of a chemical without any data. We’ve repeatedly highlighted the scarcity of information available on the safety of chemicals found all around us (see for example, here and here).  Much of this problem can be attributed to our broken chemicals law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA).

But even for those chemicals that have been studied, sometimes for decades, like formaldehyde and phthalates, debate persists about what the scientific data tell us about their specific hazards and risks.  Obtaining data on a chemical is clearly a necessary step for its evaluation, but interpreting and drawing conclusions from the data are equally critical steps – and arguably even more complicated and controversial. 

How should we evaluate the quality of data in a study? How should we compare data from one study relative to other studies? How should we handle discordant results across similar studies?  How should we integrate data across different study designs (e.g., a human epidemiological study and a fruit fly study)? These are just a few examples of key questions that must be grappled with when determining the toxicity or risks of a chemical.  And they lie at the heart of the controversy and criticism surrounding chemical assessment programs such as EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). 

Recently, a number of efforts have been made to systematize the process of study evaluation, with the goal of creating a standardized approach for unbiased and objective identification, evaluation, and integration of available data on a chemical.  These approaches go by the name of systematic review

Groups like the National Toxicology Program’s Office of Health Assessment and Translation (OHAT) and the UCSF-led Navigation Guide collaboration have been working to adapt systematic review methodologies from the medical field for application to environmental chemicals.  IRIS has also begun an effort to integrate systematic review into its human health assessments. 

Recently a paper in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) by Krauth et al. systematically identified and reviewed tools currently in use to evaluate the quality of toxicology studies conducted in laboratory animals.  The authors found significant variability across the tools; this finding has significant consequences when reviewing the evidence for chemical hazard or risk, as we pointed out in our subsequent commentary (“A Valuable Contribution toward Adopting Systematic Review in Environmental Health,” Dec 2013). 

EDF applauds these and other efforts to adopt systematic review in the evaluation of chemical safety.  Further elaboration of EDF’s perspective on systematic review can be found here

 

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This SNUR is not a SNORE!

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Yesterday EPA finalized a significant new use rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that requires manufacturers and importers of certain perfluorinated chemicals to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing any “significant new use” of these chemicals.  (See below for what EPA has designated to be a “significant new use.”)

These notifications afford EPA an opportunity to evaluate the designated new uses before they start and address any risks the new uses may pose.  Read on to learn more about some novel aspects of this final rule, including the scope of what EPA has designated as significant new uses of these chemicals.  Read More »

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EDF launches website on EPA’s emerging chemical testing programs

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: 

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.

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The Sweet Smell of … Cardiovascular Hazards?

Kyle Ward is an intern in EDF’s Health Program.  Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

When you think of air fresheners what is the first thing that comes to mind?  Fresh spring flowers?  French vanilla?  Reduced Heart Rate Variability?  While that last one may not be on everyone’s mind, it certainly has been for one team of scientists.  They have recently conducted the first study ever to examine the potential for exposure to household cleaning sprays, air fresheners and scented products to adversely affect people’s cardiovascular systems.  Their findings, published in last month’s Environmental Health Perspectives, show a linkage between long-term use of household sprays and scented products and reduced heart rate variability (HRV).  Reduced HRV is associated with increased risk for a host of negative health effects ranging from heart attack to death.   Read More »

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Doing its best under a flawed law: 35 groups file comments supporting EPA efforts to reduce exposure to toxic flame retardants

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

Today Environmental Defense Fund and Earthjustice, joined by 33 other health and environmental groups, filed comments that urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to swiftly move forward with two proposed actions to regulate a group of toxic flame retardants called PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers). 

The first proposed rule would require anyone intending to begin production, processing or import of any PBDE, or a product containing one, to notify EPA before doing so.  This would give the agency an opportunity to evaluate the risks of the proposed activity and if necessary take action to restrict or prohibit it.  The second proposed rule would require anyone who continues after 2013 to produce, process or import any PBDE, or a product containing one, to conduct extensive tests needed to allow EPA to determine the risks posed by those ongoing activities.   Read More »

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