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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
Under the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000, each agency’s inspector general must prepare an annual statement summarizing what the inspector general considers to be “the most serious management and performance challenges facing the agency” and to assess briefly the agency’s progress in addressing those challenges. On November 29, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its report regarding EPA’s fiscal year (FY) 2023 top management challenges. According to the report, the eight top management challenges for EPA in FY 2023 include:

  • Providing for the Safe Use of Chemicals: The public must be able to depend on the EPA’s ability to conduct credible and timely assessments of the risks posed by pesticides, toxic chemicals, and other environmental chemicals.

OIG states in its full report that an audit of the Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA) New Chemicals Review Process is currently ongoing as part of its FY 2022 Oversight Plan. According to OIG, the objective of that review is to determine the extent to which EPA is using and complying with applicable records-management and quality-assurance requirements and employee performance standards to review and approve new chemicals under TSCA to manage human health and environmental risks.
 
OIG concludes that many of the Biden Administration’s top priorities rely on the work of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). Both EPA OIG and EPA have noted that key OCSPP programs face a steep staffing shortage and a lack of planning that could negatively impact critical chemical work, however. Absent the resources OCSPP needs for its TSCA programs, EPA “will remain challenged with meeting its statutory deadlines.” OIG states that if OCSPP is unable to balance the workload with its resource needs, EPA “will continue to face the key challenge of ensuring the safety of chemicals.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
Research in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD) is organized around six highly integrated and transdisciplinary national research programs that are closely aligned with EPA’s strategic goals and cross-EPA strategies. Each program is guided by a Strategic Research Action Plan (StRAP) developed by EPA with input from its many internal and external partners and stakeholders. In October 2022, EPA published six StRAPs for fiscal years (FY) 2023-2026. EPA states that the StRAP for Chemical Safety for Sustainability (CSS) “is focused on addressing the pressing environmental and health challenge of a lack of sufficient information on chemicals needed to make informed, risk-based decisions.” The StRAP for CSS states that CSS will continue to:

  • Develop the science needed to reduce, refine, and replace vertebrate animal testing consistent with EPA policies;
  • Accelerate the pace of chemical assessment to enable our partners to make informed and timely decisions concerning the potential impacts of environmental chemicals on human health and the environment; and
  • Provide leadership to transform chemical testing, screening, prioritization, and risk assessment practices.

Topic 1, Chemical Evaluation, includes three research areas, including emerging materials and technologies. The StRAP states that emerging materials and technologies often have unique physicochemical properties, warranting specialized approaches for evaluating hazard and exposure, and necessitating an evaluation of the environmental impacts of their use. In addition, investigation of novel products of synthetic biology, genome editing, and metabolic engineering is needed to support risk assessment of emerging biotechnology products. The emerging materials and technologies research area will develop, collate, mine, and apply information on emerging materials and technologies to support risk-based decisions, including potential impacts of disproportionately affected populations. It will address the additional data needed to characterize potential release of and exposure to these chemicals and materials, and subsequent environmental impacts of emerging materials on humans and ecological species. The research area will also address relevant cross-cutting priorities related to cumulative impacts and environmental justice potentially associated with incidental exposures.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On November 1, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced 26 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners, recognizing their achievements in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals. The awardees represent a wide variety of organizations, including small- and medium-sized businesses, women-owned companies, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and trade associations.
 
EPA encouraged applicants for the 2022 awards to show how their work advances environmental justice, bolsters resilience to the impacts of climate change, results in cleaner air or water, or improves drinking water quality. According to EPA, many of the organizations being recognized are working to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combat the climate crisis. For example, several winners offer products with concentrated formulas that reduce water consumption and plastic use. This practice also lowers GHG emissions by reducing the amount of product that must be transported.
 
EPA states that additionally, many awardees increased access to products with safer chemical ingredients in underserved and overburdened communities. For example, one nonprofit winner conducted targeted outreach in both English and Spanish to promote safer cleaning techniques and products, including Safer Choice-certified products, in food trucks. Many of these businesses are owned and operated by immigrant entrepreneurs. Another winner made its Safer Choice-certified product line more accessible to lower income shoppers by offering affordable prices and making these products available at retailers that often serve low-income communities.
 
In early 2023, EPA intends to build on this work by announcing a grant opportunity for projects that can increase supply and demand for safer, environmentally preferable products such as those certified by the Safer Choice program or identified by EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program.
 
The 2022 winners include:

  • American Cleaning Institute, District of Columbia;
  • The Ashkin Group, LLC, Channel Islands Harbor, California;
  • Bona US, Englewood, Colorado;
  • Case Medical, Bloomfield, New Jersey;
  • Church & Dwight Co., Inc., Ewing, New Jersey;
  • Clean Safety & Health in Food Trucks (CleanSHiFT) Team, Seattle, Washington;
  • The Clorox Company, Oakland, California;
  • Colgate-Palmolive, New York, New York;
  • Design for the Environment Logo Redesign Coalition: Environmental Defense Fund, The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Clorox Company, The Procter & Gamble Company, and Reckitt;
  • Dirty Labs Inc., Portland, Oregon;
  • ECOS, Cypress, California;
  • Grove Collaborative, San Francisco, California;
  • The Hazardous Waste Management Program, Seattle, Washington;
  • Holloway House, Inc., Fortville, Indiana;
  • The Home Depot, Atlanta, Georgia;
  • Household & Commercial Products Association, District of Columbia;
  • Jelmar, LLC, Skokie, Illinois;
  • Lemi Shine, Austin, Texas;
  • LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, San Francisco, California;
  • Mother Africa, Kent, Washington;
  • Novozymes North America, Raleigh, North Carolina;
  • The ODP Corporation, Boca Raton, Florida;
  • The Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, Ohio;
  • PurposeBuilt Brands, Gurnee, Illinois;
  • Sensitive Home, Greenbrae, California; and
  • Solutex, Sterling, Virginia.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

Come learn about the 2023 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards program and the nomination process. This year the program will recognize winners in six categories, including: Greener Synthetic Pathways; Greener Reaction Conditions; The Design of Greener Chemicals; Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change; Small Business; and Academic.

Registration is open.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On August 25, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that registration was open for the 2022 Conference on the State of the Science on Development and Use of New Approach Methods (NAM) for Chemical Safety Testing. EPA notes that there will be limited availability in person at EPA headquarters in Washington, DC, on October 12-13, 2022, and a virtual option will also be available. Conference topics include:

  • Variability and Relevance of Traditional Toxicity Tests;
  • Evolution of Validation and Scientific Confidence Frameworks to Incorporate 21st Century Science; and
  • Breakout groups discussing Variability of Traditional Toxicity Tests, Relevance of Traditional Toxicity Tests, and Feedback on EPA Scientific Confidence Framework.

EPA asks that attendees register for the NAMs conference before October 7, 2022.
 
On October 18, 2022, EPA will provide training on the Computational Toxicology (CompTox) Chemicals Dashboard, which is part of a suite of databases and web applications developed by EPA to support the development of innovative methods to evaluate chemicals for potential health risks. The computational toxicology tools and data in the Dashboard help prioritize chemicals based on potential health risks. Specifically targeted for decision-makers, the training will provide:

  • An overview of the Dashboard content and function;
  • Application-oriented use-case demonstrations in the areas of general use, hazard/bioactivity, exposure/absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME)-in vitro to in vivo extrapolation (IVIVE), and chemistry; and
  • Opportunities for participatory learning and engagement.

The training will offer information about the latest release of the Dashboard and how it can be used to gather actionable information about chemical properties and risks through case examples, demonstrations, and hands-on exercises. Registration is now open (attendees must register for the training portions individually):


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 22, 2022, that as part of its commitment to re-evaluate policies and practices under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) New Chemicals Program to ensure they adhere to statutory requirements and the Biden Administration’s executive orders and directives, it has updated its policy to discontinue the use of exposure modeling thresholds when assessing the health and environmental risks of new chemicals under TSCA. According to EPA, due in part to the automation of modeling, it has become less burdensome to complete these calculations. Furthermore, according to EPA, removing the thresholds supports President Biden’s Executive Order 13985, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” which calls on federal agencies to advance equity, including by reviewing and revising as needed government policies and programs impacting underserved communities.
 
The New Chemicals Program will implement this change by making minimal changes to the coding in the New Chemical Review application to remove the thresholds and will update standard operating procedures and training materials for exposure and human health risk assessors. EPA states that it will implement this policy change “as soon as feasible.” According to EPA, despite the resource challenges it is currently facing in the TSCA program, it anticipates that the change “will have minimal impact on the amount of time it takes to complete new chemical reviews and that the benefits gained from a more comprehensive accounting of all potential air and water releases will help ensure any needed protections are in place before a new chemical can come to market.”
 
More information and a detailed commentary that discusses thresholds of toxicological concern (TTC) are available in our August 22, 2022, memorandum.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 18, 2022, that it is accepting nominations for the 2023 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards from companies or institutions that have developed a new green chemistry process or product that helps protect human health and the environment. The awards again include a category to recognize technology that reduces or eliminates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. EPA will hold a webinar on September 28, 2022, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. (EDT) to educate stakeholders on the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards and the nomination process. Registration for the webinar is open. Nominations are due to EPA by December 9, 2022.
 
EPA states that green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation and use of chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and people’s health. According to EPA, its efforts to “speed the adoption of this revolutionary and diverse discipline” have led to significant environmental benefits, innovation, and a strengthened economy. Green chemistry aims to prevent pollution before it is created, making it the preferred approach for providing solutions to some of the most significant environmental challenges.
 
An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute will formally judge the 2023 nominations and make recommendations to EPA for the 2023 winners. EPA anticipates giving awards to outstanding green chemistry technologies in six categories in fall 2023.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 11, 2022, that it updated the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL), “a living list of chemicals by functional-use class that EPA’s Safer Choice program has evaluated and determined meet the Safer Choice Standard.” EPA added 22 chemicals to the SCIL. EPA states that to expand the number of chemicals and functional-use categories on the SCIL, it encourages manufacturers to submit their safer chemicals for review and listing on the SCIL. In support of the Biden Administration’s goals, the addition of chemicals to the SCIL “incentivizes further innovation in safer chemistry, which can promote environmental justice, bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change, and improve water quality.” According to EPA, chemicals on the SCIL “are among the safest for their functional use.”
 
EPA also changed the status for one chemical on the SCIL and will remove the chemical from the list in one year “because of a growing understanding of the potential health and environmental effects.” According to EPA, the chemical was originally listed on the SCIL based on data from a closely related substance that EPA marked with a grey square earlier this year. EPA’s process for removing a chemical from the SCIL is first to mark the chemical with a grey square on the SCIL web page to provide notice to chemical and product manufacturers that the chemical may no longer be acceptable for use in Safer Choice-certified products. A grey square notation on the SCIL means that the chemical may not be allowed for use in products that are candidates for the Safer Choice label, and any current Safer Choice-certified products that contain this chemical must be reformulated unless relevant health and safety data are provided to justify continuing to list the chemical on the SCIL. EPA states that the data required are determined on a case-by-case basis. In general, data useful for making such a determination provide evidence of low concern for human health and environmental impacts. Unless information provided to EPA adequately justifies continued listing, EPA then removes the chemical from the SCIL 12 months after the grey square designation.
 
According to EPA, after this update is made, there will be 1,055 chemicals listed on the SCIL. EPA is committed to updating the SCIL with safer chemicals on a regular basis. EPA states that the SCIL is a resource that can help many different stakeholders:

  • Product manufacturers use the SCIL to help make high-functioning products that contain safer ingredients;
  • Chemical manufacturers use the SCIL to promote the safer chemicals they manufacture;
  • Retailers use the SCIL to help shape their sustainability programs; and
  • Environmental and health advocates use the SCIL to support their work with industry to encourage the use of the safest possible chemistry.

EPA’s Safer Choice program certifies products containing ingredients that have met the program’s rigorous human health and environmental safety criteria. The Safer Choice program allows companies to use its label on products that meet the Safer Choice Standard. The EPA website contains a complete list of Safer Choice-certified products.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Chemicals Program held a webinar on July 27, 2022, to provide an in-depth look at its analysis of common issues that cause EPA to have to reconduct risk assessments (“rework”) of new chemicals. In June 2022, EPA announced a broad outreach effort to describe and to discuss with stakeholders how EPA evaluates engineering data (i.e., data related to environmental release and worker exposure) provided for new chemicals submissions under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and common issues that cause EPA to have to rework risk assessments for these submissions. EPA has posted the meeting slides online.
 
During the webinar, EPA presented an example of a rework case. According to EPA, from its analysis, it observes that:

  • Information on material balance parameters, environmental releases, environmental release media, and engineering controls cause nearly 80 percent of all rework;
     
  • In most cases, companies provide additional information that deviates from EPA model defaults and assumptions; and
     
  • Companies often lack understanding on what information is needed for a Section 5 engineering assessment, including the level of detail needed to support their statements relating to environmental release and worker exposure.

As noted in the meeting slides, EPA plans to hold two additional webinars in fall 2022 that will cover:

  • How EPA evaluates quantitative and qualitative information, with examples on the level of detail needed to support the submitted information to be accepted by EPA; and
     
  • The types of information commonly missing in Section 5 submissions, how EPA evaluates environmental release information on sites not controlled by the submitter, and their impact on engineering assessment.

More information is available in our July 28, 2022, memorandum.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 1, 2022, a 15-day public comment period on two additional peer review candidates for the external peer review of the Biofuels and the Environment: Third Triennial Report to Congress (RtC3). 87 Fed. Reg. 46958. EPA previously requested comment on an initial pool of 20 candidates announced in a May 9, 2022, Federal Register notice. EPA states that after considering public comments and the balance and collective expertise of the reviewers, it asked ERG, the independent contractor organizing the peer review, to identify additional candidates to strengthen expertise gaps and allow a more balanced panel. EPA seeks public comment on additional peer review candidates to strengthen underrepresented areas of expertise, specifically economics, water quality, and ecology disciplines. According to EPA, ERG will ensure the peer reviewers’ combined expertise best spans the following disciplines: economics, engineering, agronomics, land use change, remote sensing, air quality, biogeochemistry, water quality, hydrology, conservation biology, limnology, and ecology. Comments are due August 16, 2022.
 
The first report to Congress (RtC1), completed in 2011, provided an assessment of the environmental and resource conservation impacts associated with increased biofuel production and use. The second report to Congress (RtC2) was completed in 2018 and reaffirmed the overarching conclusions of RtC1. RtC3 builds on the previous two reports and provides an update on the impacts to date of the RFS Program on the environment. It assesses air, water, and soil quality; ecosystem health and biodiversity; and other effects. RtC3 also includes new analyses not previously included in RtC1 and RtC2.


 
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