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Last year was full of surprises, two of which will drive much of the agenda in 2017 for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). First, Congress significantly amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Although many thought the chances of successful TSCA legislation were slim, the second surprise event was even more unexpected — the election of Donald Trump as President.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally concluded January 12, 2017, a ten-year effort to issue a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 8(a) rule establishing reporting and recordkeeping requirements for certain discrete forms of chemical substances manufactured or processed at nanoscale. This column summarizes the rule. Reports are due to the EPA no later than May 12, 2018. The final rule is effective May 12, 2017.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a Federal Register notice on February 10, 2017, inviting comment on a proposed information collection plan, "Survey of Engineered Nanomaterial Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Practices." The goal of the project is to assess the relevance and impact of NIOSH's contribution to guidelines and risk mitigation practices for safe handling of engineered nanomaterials in the workplace. The intended use of the data is to inform NIOSH's research agenda to enhance its relevance and impact on worker safety and health in the context of engineered nanomaterials.
Each year, millions of consumers, including large numbers of children, are exposed to unknown quantities of anti-mold pesticides when they open a shoebox. Although the active ingredient in these mostly unregistered anti-mold pesticides is undisclosed and the products are marketed as all natural, many stickers contain allyl isothiocyanate (AITC). These stickers have not been registered for this use, nor has this use, or the resulting exposure to consumers, been reviewed for safety by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), or by any other regulatory agency.
It’s unlikely that shoe retailers and distributors are aware of the staggering tort liability that could be hibernating in shoeboxes. Someday, millions of unsuspecting and unprotected consumers, including children, could allege they were harmed by products few ever noticed. Even more alarming is that any consumer claims of injury from exposure to an unregistered pesticidal agent cannot be subject to preemption under FIFRA Section 24(b), 7 U.S.C. § 136v(b) because the products are unregistered and have not been reviewed by EPA. This puts U.S. distributors or retailers at risk, especially if they knew that an unregistered pesticide was present in the product and failed to warn consumers.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a report entitled Alternative Testing Strategies in Risk Assessment of Manufactured Nanomaterials: Current State of Knowledge and Research Needs to Advance Their Use.
On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, Pub. L. No. 114-182, and in so doing significantly revised the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for the first time since its enactment in 1976. This article reviews and analyzes TSCA as amended and focuses narrowly on how new TSCA specifically impacts nanoscale materials. Although the new TSCA dramatically changes how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) evaluates and manages industrial chemicals, including nanoscale chemicals, the absence of words or phrases such as nano or nanoscale materials means that there are no specific or additional requirements that apply explicitly to such materials. This was a significant shift from many of the earlier TSCA reform bills, which explicitly addressed nanoscale materials by proposing new definitions such as “substance characteristics” and “special substance characteristics” that included concepts such as size or size distribution; shape; surface structure; and reactivity. The new TSCA is noticeably silent on this subject and does not distinguish nanoscale materials or treat such materials differently from other chemical substances regulated under TSCA.
Nanotechnology, biotechnology, and synthetic biology are the ploughs and tractors of the twenty-first century. These precision farming tools are ensuring a sustainable food supply otherwise threatened by climate change and population growth, among other global challenges. Genetically modified E. coli is being used to produce synthetically derived pheromones, substances beneficially used in agricultural applications to attract, capture, and eliminate harmful pests. Nanopesticides and nanofertilizers are being effectively used in drought-stricken regions, eliminating or minimizing the need for conventional agricultural chemicals. These and similar technologies are essential to enable today’s agricultural professionals to compete with an increasingly unforgiving Mother Nature and an ever-increasing demand for food.
These emerging technologies do not come without potential risks, however. How to regulate them is a subject upon which stakeholders disagree.
Against this backdrop, this article considers emerging agricultural technologies, and discusses domestic agricultural oversight systems and their ability to keep pace with innovation. As discussed below, the domestic governance system is capable of addressing comprehensively the potential risks posed by these evolving technologies. The system, however, could be improved by better integration of measures to educate policy makers and regulators on these technologies, and greater involvement by the private sector in facilitating a predictable flow of information on these technologies to all stakeholders.
On December 12, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a long-awaited final rule to reduce exposure to formaldehyde vapors from certain wood products produced domestically or imported into the United States. Formaldehyde is found in the adhesives used in a range of composite wood products. This column summarizes the new rule.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released on December 20, 2016, a white paper entitled Sustainability in the Workplace: A New Approach for Advancing Worker Safety and Health. See https://www.osha.gov/sustainability/docs/OSHA_sustainability_paper.pdf The paper highlights the importance of including worker safety and health in the growing movement toward sustainability and corporate responsibility. According to the paper, research on sustainability does not include occupational safety and health.
On November 24, 2016, the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy began a public consultation on the Draft National Standard for the Environmental Risk Management of Industrial Chemicals and a supporting Draft Explanatory Document. See http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/chemicals-management/national-standard/draft-national-standard-environmental-risk-management-industrial-chemicals According to the Department, the primary purpose of the papers is to outline the design and operation of the National Standard.