Toxic Chemical and Product Safety News for Investors

Headline stories are selected by IEHN staff from environmentalhealthnews.com's "Above the Fold" daily news service. IEHN releases annotated versions several times monthly. Headlines listed here are linked to their original sources and are subject to those sources' archiving policies.

February 27, 2009

Environmental policy and regulations are changing with the new administration, but industry groups are also, surprisingly, supporting modernization of the federal chemical management system. Chemical makers support changes in these regulations because they say the public has lost trust in the government's ability to regulate toxic chemicals. A new study reveals that research spending on nanotechnologoy risks is woefully inadequate and industry participation in data gathering projects has been limited. A recent conference highlighted the potential for litigation around the risk of exposure to nanotech-enabled consumer products. The plastics chemical bisphenol A may cause more harm to infants than adults, because infants can't metabolize this chemical as well. The majority of companies that are about to get hit with environmental sanctions ignore the Securities and Exchange Commission's requirement that they disclose that liability to investors.

Industry group calls for 'modernization' of toxic chemical law
The New York Times
February 27, 2009

"The federal chemical management system should be updated to better leverage new science and technology, where there is scientific consensus on both the methods and how to interpret results," said Cal Dooley, CEO of the American Chemistry Council. "This will lead to more intelligent evaluations of chemicals and regulatory decisions about their use." This is the first time a major industry group has gone so far in calling for reform to the current law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, which was first established in 1976 to govern the roughly 82,700 chemicals in commerce. It highlights how the dynamics have shifted in the TSCA reform debate. According to Mark Greenwood, a Washington environmental lawyer and former director of U.S. EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics."This is a huge shift in ACC's perspective. It just goes to show you how the dynamics of any kind of TSCA reform in 2009 is going to be very different from it would have been in 1974. It's a much more complex landscape of issues and of interests now."

Administration tasked with undoing Bush-era policies on air quality, toughening pollution laws
Riverside Press-Enterprise
February 26, 2009

Less than six weeks after George W. Bush left office, clean-air advocates are wasting no time under the new administration to push for new and tougher regulations. Several of the former president's air pollution policies already are in jeopardy, raising hopes among clean-air advocates and fears among those who worry that industries could get hit with higher costs during a recession.

Chemical industry calls for tougher regulation
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
February 26, 2009

Chemical makers said Thursday that the public has lost trust in the government's ability to regulate toxic chemicals, and called for federal oversight to be improved. In calling for changes, industry officials said they were breaking with their past position of support for the existing Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. Officials said they were doing this to boost consumer confidence in their products. They called for improvements to the federal law, which gives the EPA the ability to regulate chemicals considered dangerous. But industry officials stopped short of calling for a complete overhaul of the act.

Industry and government must commit more resources to nanotech risk research
Cosmetics Design
February 25, 2009

Research spending on nanotechnologoy risks is woefully inadequate and industry participation in data gathering projects has been limited, according to the Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Research spending on the risks of nanotechnology accounted for less than 3 percent of the $1.4 billion federal nanotechnology research budget in 2006. The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is calling for that figure to be increased to 10 percent. Although the majority of nanomaterials are probably perfectly safe, according to a project spokesperson, a tiny percentage of unsafe material has the potential to cause lot of damage.

U.S. gas drilling boom stirs water worries
February 25, 2009

There are concerns that the "fracking" fluid may escape, and that the chemicals in it have the potential to cause cancer, damage human immune and reproductive systems, and trigger other illnesses.

BPA may pose greater threat to newborns
Toronto Globe and Mail
February 24, 2009

Bisphenol A, the controversial chemical used to make plastic, lingers far longer in the bodies of babies who ingest it than in adults because they lack a crucial liver enzyme needed to break it down, according to researchers at the University of Guelph.

Simple elixir called a 'miracle liquid'
Los Angeles Times
February 23, 2009

It's a kitchen degreaser. It's a window cleaner. It kills athlete's foot. It has been approved by U.S. regulators. Oh, and you can drink it. The stuff is a simple mixture of table salt and tap water whose ions have been scrambled with an electric current. Researchers have dubbed it electrolyzed water, and it's starting to replace the toxic chemicals Americans use at home and on the job. Used as a sanitizer for decades in Russia and Japan, it's slowly winning acceptance in the United States. 

The big business of nano litigation
Science Progress
February 23, 2009

A recent conference examining the legal protections corporations are taking to defend themselves in the event their products turn toxic highlights regulatory questions. The nanotech industry’s nervousness about its own potential liability is most apparent in its relationship with regulators. Agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration are still trying to work out how nanotech fits into existing regulations, and whether new guidances or rules may be required to protect the public. That means that for now, at least, regulators are largely relying on invitations to “come talk to us” just to find out what nano-companies are up to. With potential liabilities looming, one of the best ways for nanotechnology companies to stay clear of lawsuits is to post adequate safety warnings for workers and consumers, so that any user who eventually claims to have been harmed by the stuff can be argued in court to have been a “sophisticated user”—someone who was aware of the risks and took them anyway.

It's easy not being green
CFO Magazine
February 18, 2009

The majority of companies that are about to get hit with environmental sanctions ignore the Securities and Exchange Commission's requirement that they disclose that liability to investors, according to a University of Arkansas researcher.

February 18, 2009

Is Your Company Ready for CPR?
February 17, 2009

Chemical Policy Reform (CPR) is a long overdue, systematic and fundamental overhaul of the basic approach the U.S. federal government takes to managing hazards from chemicals in products. Europe and various American states have already been moving on Chemical Policy Reform; Washington is just playing catch-up. Reports on the many chemicals in all our bodies -- and their additive effects --are proliferating, and the effect is rising consumer doubt about corporate assurances that the levels they're exposed to are "safe." The companies likely to be hurt least and who might benefit the most from CPR will be those already far along in knowing their chemicals and finding safer substitutes.

Bisphenol A Mimics Estrogen, Phthalates Target Testosterone
MedPage Today
February 5, 2009

Although they have been linked to reproductive problems in both sexes, bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates -- common chemicals found in household plastics -- have gender-specific effects. Research has shown that even low levels of BPA and phthalates cause problems in humans -- including obesity.

Pesticide panel on chopping block
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
February 4, 2009

A small state panel that tracks pesticide exposures and is considered a national pioneer -- but caused political heartburn for Gov. Chris Gregoire -- is being eliminated just as research it supported is revealing pesticide spraying close to homes harms residents.

China blames pollution for surge in birth defects
Los Angeles Times
February 2, 2009

Chinese officials told the state media that birth defects are increasing at an alarming rate and that a major reason was degradation of the environment. The government's acknowledgment of the problem is a victory for environmentalists, who say the rate of defects is highest in coal-producing regions.

Food may not be sole BPA source
Toronto Globe and Mail
January 30, 2009

New research on bisphenol A suggests that people are being exposed to the estrogen-mimicking chemical from a number of sources and not just food, as is commonly thought. Scientists think there may be other sources because they have found unexpectedly high levels of the compound, used in the making of plastic, in people who have been fasting.

First Plastic Went After Babies; Now It's Messing Up Science Itself
Discover Magazine
January 30, 2009

Concerned parents have switched from plastic to metal water bottles to protect their kids from bisphenol A and phthalates, plastic-hardening chemicals suspected of posing health risks. Now a study in the journal Science reveals that plastics may also be a problem in the lab: Compounds purposely embedded in plastic lab equipment�to prevent bacteria from growing and to lower the melting temperature�can taint complex biological experiments, potentially skewing the results. For instance, one researcher recently discovered that chemicals released from disposable plastic test tubes interfered with a drug they were testing by binding to specific proteins in the experiment. Such effects have not been seen beyond a handful of instances, but for now, Holt says, researchers may want to switch to glass instruments.

The greening game
Chemical and Engineering News
January 26, 2009

Laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents, and spray cleaners have always promised to rid the home of dirt and grime. But now many products vow to protect the environment as well. New offerings target consumers who, more and more, want to know what's in the cleaners they buy.