DTSC spring quarterly meeting will address Safer Consumer Products.

Officials from California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will discuss the Safer Consumer Products program and Priority Products at the agency’s upcoming Quarterly Public Meeting. DTSC recently posted the agenda [PDF] online, but more detailed presentation and supporting materials are not yet available. At the agency’s last quarterly public meeting [PDF], held in December, officials estimated that draft Priority Products would be identified before April 2014 and draft Alternatives Analysis guidance would be released in spring 2014.

In addition to Safer Consumer Products, other topics to be addressed at the meeting include DTSC’s proposed budget for 2014-15; an update on the ongoing permit program review; and an update on the agency’s work on cost recovery. The meeting will be held on March 17, 2014, at 9 a.m. in the Sierra Room of the Cal/EPA Building in Sacramento.

House Subcommittee holds fifth and final hearing on TSCA reform.

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held its fifth hearing on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In its last hearing on the subject for the 113th Congress, Subcommittee members focused on TSCA sections 4 and 8, which govern chemical testing and information reporting and retention requirements. (We previously covered Subcommittee hearings on TSCA here and here.)

In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair John Shimkus (R-IL) expressed his interest in reconsidering EPA’s authority to “produce tailored, necessary and high quality test data and other information to carry out TSCA.” Rep. Shimkus also highlighted the need to reexamine section 8’s exemptions to reporting requirements and the definition of “processor.”

Both Republican and Democratic members emphasized the importance of sending TSCA modernization legislation to the President this year. Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) offered to work with Rep. Shimkus, whose office has reportedly been developing TSCA reform legislation without input from any Democratic members. Rep. Waxman also pointed out that the public interest community is deeply concerned with the bipartisan Senate bill known as the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) and noted that the American Chemistry Council and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition had in 2011 identified and documented areas of agreement in a mediated discussion. Rep. Waxman and Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (R-NY) sent a letter to the two organizations requesting this documentation in the hope that it might “provide a blueprint for legislative success.”

Hearing witnesses from the private and public sectors all voiced their support for TSCA modernization. Industry members called for a flexible, prioritized risk-based approach to screening and assessing chemicals. Public sector witnesses advocated for significant reform of TSCA’s testing and reporting requirements, including making it easier for EPA to require testing from manufacturers, especially for vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women, and increasing transparency for data currently protectable as Confidential Business Information (CBI).

The January 9 chemical spill in West Virginia prompted witnesses and Democratic members to question the adequacy of TSCA’s data collection, pointing out the lack of basic health and safety data on the contaminant in that spill. Also on Tuesday, the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, part of the Environment and Public Works Committee, held a hearing on the safety and security of drinking water supplies. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) testified at that hearing, calling for stronger chemical storage standards and more frequent safety inspections, as well as TSCA reform.

UK REACH survey: high costs and supply chain communications problems.

According to a survey conducted by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), REACH registration has forced some firms to withdraw products from the market. Defra’s REACH Business Impacts Survey collected information from over 150 respondents on the effects of REACH on UK businesses following the first and second registration deadlines, with the intent of developing a “better understanding of how the implementation of [REACH] might be improved.”

The UK Chemicals Stakeholder Forum – an advisory group to the UK government composed of industry, NGOs, trade unions, and academia – reviewed initial results of the survey at a January 28 meeting. Registrants or downstream users comprised the bulk of survey respondents, although some distributors, importers, and trade groups were also included. The survey posed questions specific to the various stages in the supply chain (registrants, distributors, downstream users) and about the quality of support provided by various entities (the Health and Safety Executive, ECHA, trade associations).

On the topic of Substance Information Exchange For a (SIEFs), registrants reported mixed experiences. Costs, time commitment, and workload were some of the major problems associated with SIEFs. However, SIEFs did appear to be effective in data-sharing among businesses to assemble the required data. In addition, participation in SIEFs was found to be easier in 2013 than in 2010.

Twenty-five registrants reported withdrawing substances because of REACH; in 17 cases, the withdrawal was due to the high cost of registration rather than supply chain pressure. The survey also found that most respondents were dissatisfied with the quality of information provided in supply chain communication. Businesses experienced particular difficulties with supply chain communications and confidentiality; customers were reportedly “generally very reluctant to give information about their specific uses.” Of 37 businesses that registered or attempted to register substances imported from outside the EU, nine “experienced difficulty with obtaining information from non-EU suppliers,” due to a lack of understanding of the REACH process and, e.g., the lack of test information from China.

The preliminary survey results did not identify any clear trends on whether registrants would adopt a different approach for the next REACH registration deadline, on June 1, 2018. Changes proposed by some respondents including more planning and spreading of costs, starting the process earlier, and taking a phased approach. With regard to specific concerns to be addressed in advance of the 2018 deadline, the comments revealed two areas of needed improvement: (1) more time; and (2) more guidance from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

Analysis of the survey results are still at an early stage, but the validated findings will be shared with the European Commission and ECHA. Defra plans to commission follow-up interviews in summer 2014 to address issues highlighted in the survey in greater detail.