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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on April 8, 2021, that it is releasing an updated toxicity assessment for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), which is a member of the group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).  EPA states that this PFBS assessment is part of its commitment to restore scientific integrity to all of the Agency’s actions and increase the amount of research and information available to the public on PFAS.  According to EPA’s announcement, “EPA, federal agencies, states, tribes, and local communities can use the PFBS toxicity assessment, along with specific exposure and other relevant information, to determine if and when it is necessary to take action to address potential health risks associated with human exposures to PFBS under appropriate regulations and statutes.”  EPA notes that the updated assessment “has gone through all appropriate reviews, includes input EPA received from external peer review, upholds the tenants of scientific integrity, was authored by expert career scientists in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and has not been compromised by political staff -- these were all issues with a version of the assessment that was posted during the previous administration.  The release of today’s PFBS assessment upholds the integrity of EPA’s science, which EPA, states, tribes, and more rely on to make decisions that protect the health of their communities.”
 
According to EPA’s fact sheet on the toxicity assessment, PFBS is a replacement chemical for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), a PFAS that was voluntarily phased out by the primary U.S. manufacturer by 2002.  PFBS has been identified in the environment and consumer products, including surface water, wastewater, drinking water, dust, carpeting and carpet cleaners, and floor wax.  The fact sheet states that the PFBS toxicity assessment is comparable to assessments developed under EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) and Provisional Peer-Reviewed Toxicity Value (PPRTV) Programs in that it provides hazard identification, dose-response information, and toxicity values.  EPA will continue to work with state, tribal, and local partners to provide technical assistance as they consider the final PFBS toxicity values in relevant exposure scenarios.  The fact sheet notes that at this time, EPA does not plan to issue a regulation for PFBS.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on November 10, 2020, that the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program released the ORD Staff Handbook for Developing IRIS Assessments (IRIS Handbook) for public comment.  EPA states that the IRIS Handbook provides operating procedures for developing IRIS assessments, including problem formulation approaches and methods for conducting systematic review, dose response analysis, and developing toxicity values.  The IRIS Handbook notes that it does not supersede existing EPA guidance and does not serve as guidance for other EPA programs.  EPA will publish a Federal Register notice announcing the beginning of a 90-day public comment period on the IRIS Handbook and on the draft charge questions for reviewers in advance of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) peer review.  EPA will summarize comments received and provide them to the committee conducting the peer review.  EPA has posted a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on September 10, 2019, announcing that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a directive to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing.  Administrator Wheeler also announced $4.25 million in funding to five universities to research the development and use of alternative test methods and strategies that reduce, refine, and/or replace vertebrate animal testing.  Administrative Wheeler directs the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) and the Office of Research and Development (ORD) “to prioritize ongoing efforts and to direct existing resources toward additional activities that will demonstrate measurable impacts in the reduction of animal testing while ensuring protection of human health and the environment.”  The directive states that EPA “will reduce its requests for, and [its] funding of, mammal studies by 30 percent by 2025 and eliminate all mammal study requests and funding by 2035.  Any mammal studies requested or funded by the EPA after 2035 will require Administrator approval on a case-by-case basis.”  Administrative Wheeler requests that OCSPP and ORD hold a joint animal conference on new approach methods (NAM), with the first conference to be held in 2019
 
Five universities were awarded grants through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results Program.  According to EPA, the research focuses on advancing the development and use of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine, and/or replace vertebrate animal testing.  The grantees are advancing the science of non-vertebrate alternative test methods and strategies in chemical hazard assessment.  The grantees include:

  • Johns Hopkins University to develop a human-derived brain model to assess the mechanism by which environmental chemicals might cause developmental neurotoxicity;
     
  • Vanderbilt University to test their organ-on-a-chip to study the blood brain barrier and potential brain injury after organophosphate exposure;
     
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center to use their Endo Chip technology to research how preexisting diseases affect cellular responses to environmental toxicants with a focus on reproductive disorders in women;
     
  • Oregon State University to develop in vitro test methods for fish species to screen chemicals in complex environmental mixtures; and
     
  • University of California Riverside to use human cells to develop a cost-effective end point to characterize potential skeletal embryotoxicants.