ASC Supplement 2013: Spreading the word on chemical safety

26 April 2013 12:54  [Source: ICB]

The US EPA is taking a three-pronged approach to improving chemicals risk management, reviewing priority chemicals and making information more accessible to producers and consumers

The US government has not so far been particularly effective at management of chemical risk, according to James J. Jones, acting assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 

 EPA's eco-logo will be updated for easier use

Through its Existing Chemicals Program, however, the agency is ramping up its efforts to ensure that chemicals in commerce are safe. Jones wants all companies that deal with chemicals, including adhesives and sealants manufacturers, to be aware of these activities and, hopefully, share any information that might help the agency achieve effective outcomes.

"We all have the same goal - the use of chemicals in a safe manner that allows for manufacture of valuable products and materials, as well as continued advances in technology and innovation," Jones states. "We are working towards this goal from both ends - assessing the risks of priority chemicals and making end users aware of chemicals that have been shown to have minimal risk. In addition, we want to make the information that we have on chemicals more accessible to all stakeholders."

EPA has three particular elements within the Existing Chemicals Program that serve as the basis for these activities. The first involves its workplan approach to the assessment of existing chemicals. The agency initially identified 83 priority chemicals that it intends to review in the next several years, according to Jones. Five have been completed, another 18 are slated for review in 2013/2014, and the remainder are to be completed by 2016.

"Some of these chemicals may be of interest to the adhesives and sealants industry, and it is important that users be aware of which chemicals are being evaluated. As important, though, is the fact that we are hoping to gather as much information as possible on the uses and potential for exposure associated with each substance," Jones says. He adds that there will be an opportunity for industry to comment on each review, and each evaluation will also undergo a peer review process.

A second element of focus for EPA is the development of an improved, web-based chemical information portal that will provide public access to the information the agency has on thousands of chemicals, including hazard, safety, exposure, regulatory and other data. "Currently there is no easy way to gather all of this different information. The new portal will make it easy for all stakeholders to find out what EPA knows about a chemical," Jones explains. EPA expects to launch the Chem Portal in late summer or early fall of 2013.

Third, the agency is redesigning the logo for its Design for the Environment (DfE) Program, through which products that are cleaner, more cost-effective and safer for workers, the public and the environment (and meet specific EPA standards) can earn an ecolabel, which currently features a globe.

With about 2,800 participating products, the programme has been very successful, but largely in the institutional markets, according to Jones. Federal and state governments have helped in these sectors, because they often preferentially select products with the DfE label.

EASIER SAFETY RECOGNITION
"We want to just as successfully get the message out to consumers, so that companies that use safer ingredients can get the acknowledgment they deserve and consumers can make an informed choice. We believe that our redesigned logo for the ecolabel will better communicate this idea than the existing one, and make it easier for the consumer to recognise products that have been determined to be safe according to the EPA."

He does note that the standards for product ingredients are not changing. The redesigned logo should also be ready later in 2013.

Jones also encourages adhesive and sealant manufacturers that have developed greener manufacturing processes to consider participating in EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards programme, which recognises chemical technologies that incorporate green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture and use.


Author: Cynthia Challener



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