All Published Articles
On March 25, 2016, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its long-awaited revised standards for occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica (81 Fed. Reg. 16286). OSHA issued two separate standards — one for general industry and maritime, and the other for the construction industry — to tailor requirements to the unique circumstances found in these sectors. The rule impacts more than 2.3-million American workers across a wide spectrum of industries, according to OSHA, and is expected to save the lives of more than 600 workers per year. Its implementation will likely have broad logistical and cost implications for many employers in numerous industry sectors. This article provides highlights of the final rule.
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform has been a “work in progress” for years. House and Senate passage in 2015 of substantive TSCA reform measures considerably improved the odds that Congress would enact TSCA-reform legislation in 2016. Recent events suggest otherwise, however, and as of this writing in mid-March the fate of TSCA reform remains decidedly uncertain. Momentum has dissipated as a dithering House has been slow to engage with Senate counterparts to reconcile the different approaches contemplated under each bill. The surprisingly harsh Republican response to Associate Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s untimely demise has hardened the partisan divide that threatens to tank Congressional action on any important initiative, let alone legislation as significant and potentially divisive as TSCA reform. It is hoped that cooler heads will prevail and leverage the hard work and momentum that has brought us to this momentous place in history. This Commentary provides an update on the current state of TSCA reform efforts.
On January 26, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) pesticide general permit (PGP) for public comment. The publication marks the first reissuance of the PGP since its inception in 2011. The Sixth Circuit’s decision in National Cotton Council v. EPA, F.3d 927 (6th Cir. 2009), which vacated EPA’s 2007 rule exempting pesticides from NPDES permitting, required EPA to issue the PGP. In October 2011, EPA published a five-year PGP, which expires on October 31, 2016. Additionally, all states with delegated NPDES program authority developed and issued state versions of the PGP.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced on March 23, 2016, a new publication co-authored with the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and Joint Research Center (JRC) that illustrates how to use data for different nanoforms within the same substance registration.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released on February 25, 2016, amendments to the accidental release prevention requirements of the Risk Management Programs (RMP) under the Clean Air Act Section 112(r)(7). This column summarizes this important proposed rule.
The February 24, 2016, Official Journal of the European Union includes the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on "Nanotechnology for a competitive chemical industry."
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently published the following reports: Physical-chemical properties of nanomaterials- Evaluation of methods applied in the OECD-WPMN testing programme and categorisation of manufactured nanomaterials workshop report.
Prompted by a 2013 Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) report on hazardous waste exports from the United States (CEC, 2013) and changes to the 2001 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Council Decision for waste exports and imports, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on October 19, 2015, proposed changes to its regulations under the Resource Conversation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regarding the export and import of hazardous wastes from and into the United States (EPA, 2015). EPA also proposed changes to address and respond to concerns outlined in the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) July 6, 2015, report entitled “EPA Does Not Effectively Control or Monitor Imports of Hazardous Waste” (EPA OIG, 2015). This article from the Spring, 2016, issue of Environmental Quality Management, summarizes key proposed changes.
PUBLIC CONCERNS LEAD TO CHEMICAL LAW
In the 1960s and early to mid-1970s, new reports of chemicals causing cancer appeared in the press or on TV almost every month. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used in electrical transformers for over 40 years, were being found in fish and environmental samples from around the country. Other chemicals, including those not thought to be harmful, caused serious health or environmental effects. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were depleting the earth’s protective ozone layer. Asbestos, a mineral fiber widely used in insulation, caused lung cancer, especially in workers. Polybrominated biphenyls used as flame retardants were mistakenly mixed into animal feed and poisoned people and cattle in Michigan. Eating fish contaminated with mercury caused a severe neurological syndrome in adults as well as birth defects in Minamata, Japan. And the list went on.
Although society reaps enormous benefits from chemicals, there was little or no knowledge of the effects on health or the environment of the thousands of chemicals used and released into the environment. There was not even a list of the chemicals made and used in America. The drumbeat of concerns contributed to a growing realization that environmental chemicals might cause major problems. People were suddenly aware that a man-made chemical environment of unknown dimensions literally surrounded them. Other studies pointed to the large gap in existing laws for dealing with these problems. During the 1970s, the groundswell of public concern resulted in legislative action.
On February 16, 2016, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released for public comment its “Guidance on Data Evaluation for Weight of Evidence Determination.” The document aims to help employers consider all available information when classifying hazardous chemicals for labeling and safety data sheet (SDS) completion purposes. Because of the critical importance of satisfying these regulatory obligations correctly, understanding the Guidance is essential.