By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On November 15, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced the availability of its annual report summarizing what OIG considers the “most serious management and performance challenges facing the agency.” According to OIG, EPA’s top management challenges in fiscal year (FY) 2022 include:
- Mitigating the Causes and Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change: EPA must take a leadership role in limiting climate change and mitigating its effect on human health and the environment;
- Integrating and Leading Environmental Justice across EPA and the Government: As part of its effort to integrate environmental justice across its programs, EPA must address the environmental hazards and cumulative risk facing at-risk communities and effectively communicate that risk to those communities;
- Ensuring the Safe Use of Chemicals: OIG states that to protect effectively public health and the environment, EPA must be able to depend on its ability to conduct credible and timely assessments of the risks posed by pesticides, toxic chemicals, and other environmental chemical risks. According to OIG, the 2016 expansion of EPA’s regulatory authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has increased the need for conducting rapid and accurate risk assessments. OIG notes that EPA must also continue to conduct registration and reregistration of “hundreds of pesticides per year, as well as assure that it is setting appropriate exposure levels for contaminants in drinking water.” Without appropriate resource and implementation plans in place to demonstrate that EPA can accomplish this work, and without the ability to conduct scientifically sound risk assessments accurately, the public’s trust and confidence in EPA’s ability to accomplish its mission of protecting human health and the environment will be at risk;
- Safeguarding Scientific Integrity Principles: Science-based decisions at EPA must be based on principles of scientific integrity to ensure that human health and the environment are protected by using the best available science. EPA must develop new processes and update its regulations, policies, and guidance to protect scientific integrity. According to OIG, taking these actions will help make EPA decisions more legally defensible and maintain public trust in its decision making;
- Ensuring Information Technology and Systems Are Protected against Cyberthreats: Information technology is a fundamental and essential resource for EPA to carry out its mission;
- Managing Infrastructure Funding and Business Operations: EPA must effectively oversee the funding and operation of America’s water, wastewater, and other environmental infrastructure; and
- Enforcing Environmental Laws and Regulations: Through enforcement, EPA ensures that regulated entities are following environmental laws and will continue to do so, as enforcement actions effectively deter future noncompliance. According to OIG, considering EPA’s limited resources, and despite potential funding increases in FY 2022, “EPA is challenged to assess its resource requirements for the enforcement program and identify innovative and cost-effective means of detecting and deterring noncompliance in the future.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On September 22, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized 33 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners across 16 states and the District of Columbia for achievement in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals. The Safer Choice program helps consumers and purchasers for facilities, such as schools and office buildings, find products that perform and are safer for human health and the environment. According to EPA, the work of many of the organizations being recognized addressed climate change, including by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, several awardees have worked to increase access to products with safer chemical ingredients in underserved communities. EPA states that in the coming year, it hopes to build on this work by expanding the Safer Choice program to make products containing safer chemicals increasingly available to underserved communities, including communities of color and low-income communities. The 2021 Partner of the Year award winners include:
- Albertsons Companies, Safer Choice Retailer: Albertsons expanded their line of Safer Choice-certified products by adding six laundry detergent products that have SmartLabels that allow customers to scan a product quick response (QR) code and learn more about the Safer Choice certification. Albertsons also worked with cities and counties to identify opportunities to educate underserved households about safer cleaning and disinfecting products.
- American Cleaning Institute (ACI), Safer Choice Supporter: ACI contributed toxicological reviews that resulted in eight chemicals being added to EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL) and was the first non-manufacturer to do so. ACI’s news media coverage featuring the Safer Choice program generated a total potential reach of 11.2 million in 2020 and highlighted that “Adding chemicals to SCIL encourages innovation and growth in safer products, increases markets for manufacturers and helps protect people and the environment.”
- Apple, Safer Choice Supporter: Apple uses internal Apple Safer Cleaner Criteria based on Safer Choice criteria, among other assessment tools, to determine the safer chemical status of chemicals used in its manufacturing processes. Apple assessed 54 new cleaners, bringing the total to more than 80 safer cleaner and degreaser alternatives approved for use by more than 80,000 employees in their supply chain.
- The Ashkin Group, Safer Choice Supporter: The Ashkin Group included Safer Choice in training programs for frontline cleaning workers, training more than 30,000 workers to date, the majority of whom are from underserved communities.
- BASF Home Care and I&I Cleaning Solutions (BASF), Safer Choice Innovator: BASF added 13 and renewed 25 safer ingredients on CleanGredients, a database of chemical ingredients pre-approved for use in Safer Choice-certified products. This brought their total to 74 ingredients across seven functional class categories.
- Bona, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Achieving Safer Choice-certification is a companywide objective for Bona. Since becoming a Safer Choice partner in 2020, Bona has certified 13 products. Bona has reformulated more than 90 percent of their current cleaner line for Safer Choice certification.
- Case Medical, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Case Medical broadened the availability of their line of Safer Choice-certified products to additional markets. They built these formulations with ingredients from the SCIL and from CleanGredients.
- Church & Dwight Co., Inc. (CHD), Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: CHD had a new product certified by Safer Choice. CHD’s advertising of this new Safer Choice-certified product included national television, digital, and print ads, and social media, with a potential reach of 169 million. CHD partnered with Safer Choice to develop and implement an in vitro testing strategy to meet Safer Choice pH criteria for laundry detergents.
- The Clorox Company, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Clorox updated ten formulations and added a new product to their offering of Safer Choice- and Design for the Environment (DfE)-certified products, bringing the total to 37 Stock Keeping Units (SKU) spanning 19 retail and 18 industrial and institutional products. They also increased the percentage of Safer Choice-certified products displaying the Safer Choice label prominently on the front product label from 57 percent of products in 2019 to 70 percent of products in 2020.
- Defunkify, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Defunkify has 15 Safer Choice-certified products, a 67 percent increase over 2019. Defunkify centers their communications strategy on emphasizing product performance and Safer Choice certification.
- Dirty Labs Inc., Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Dirty Labs’ first two commercial products are Safer Choice-certified, and every ingredient in these products is listed on CleanGredients. The lifecycles and sources for these ingredients are mapped on Dirty Labs’ website.
- ECOS, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: ECOS added four new products, renewed four products, and updated 11 product formulations. In total, ECOS offers more than 150 products that are Safer Choice-certified, which represents 79 percent of all ECOS product offerings.
- Grove Collaborative, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Grove Collaborative expanded beyond the hand soap category to certify their entire liquid laundry and dishwasher detergent collections. Grove Collaborative made it easier for customers to learn about the Safer Choice program and find certified products on their website by creating an EPA Safer Choice Spotlight store.
- Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, Washington, Safer Choice Supporter: The program featured Safer Choice in presentations at virtual webinars, as well as in publications and educational materials available in more than a dozen languages. The program also piloted a Safer Choice retail product mapping database that lists Safer Choice-certified products and information on the store where each product is sold, with the goal of increasing access to Safer Choice-certified products.
- The Home Depot, Safer Choice Retailer: In 2020, Home Depot carried 173 Safer Choice-certified products. These products are featured in a callout on Home Depot’s Eco Options website, which had more than 410,000 views in 2020.
- Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA), Safer Choice Supporter. HCPA continued its support of the Safer Choice program by bringing stakeholders together from across HCPA’s membership virtually to strengthen Safer Choice, encourage more HCPA members to get their products certified by Safer Choice, and engage in discussions with Safer Choice staff about improvements to the program.
- Jelmar, LLC, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Jelmar added three new products to its Safer Choice partnership. Jelmar displays the Safer Choice label to consumers on 100 percent of its Safer Choice-certified products. In addition to its product labels, Jelmar features the Safer Choice label in advertisements for television, social media, online video, podcasts, and at trade shows.
- Lake Monroe Sailing Association (LMSA), Safer Choice Supporter: The City of Bloomington, Indiana, relies on the Lake Monroe watershed for drinking water, recreation, and supporting the local economy. LMSA uses Safer Choice-certified products on facility-owned boats and makes these products easily accessible at no cost to their 200 members by placing them at boat cleaning stations.
- Lemi Shine, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Lemi Shine added three products and updated five Safer Choice-certified formulations in 2020. Currently, 18 of their 21 products are Safer Choice-certified, and Lemi Shine prioritizes formulating with chemicals from the SCIL in over 99 percent of their materials.
- LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: LightHouse is a non-profit that has programs to help blind and visually impaired employees get experience in many areas, including chemical manufacturing, chemical blending, and quality assurance and control. LightHouse had record sales for their Safer Choice-certified products in 2020, with all proceeds going directly to the blind and visually impaired community.
- LSI, Innovator: LSI developed a formula for a DfE-certified, fast-acting hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant that combats SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This base formulation is registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and certified under the DfE program.
- Novozymes North America, Safer Choice Innovator: In 2020, Novozymes added six enzyme ingredients to CleanGredients. Novozymes also supported 25 requests made by formulators and brand owners for certification of formulations by the Safer Choice program.
- Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)-Toxics Use Reduction Program, Safer Choice Supporter: Oregon DEQ developed innovative projects with goals of building a community that purchases safer products and of directly supporting businesses in obtaining Safer Choice certification. In partnership with the Pollution Prevention Resource Center, Oregon DEQ’s team developed and implemented a Safer Chemical Alternatives Training Program that focused on increasing knowledge about Safer Choice-certified products.
- The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: P&G added 12 products to their Safer Choice-certified line and updated two formulations. P&G designed, formulated, and manufactured their first complete Safer Choice-certified brand portfolio that is a collection of fabric and home care products.
- PurposeBuilt Brands, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: PurposeBuilt Brands added 12 products (with 27 SKUs) to their line of Safer Choice-certified products.
- Roger McFadden and Associates, LLC, Safer Choice Supporter: McFadden and Associates designed 21 products to meet Safer Choice criteria. Based on their pro bono technical recommendations, three health care facilities replaced eight cleaning products, amounting to 84,500 pounds, with Safer Choice-certified products.
- Rust-Oleum Corporation, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Rust-Oleum increased their offering of Safer Choice-certified products by 19 percent to 16 products (with 42 SKUs). They also began focusing on using concentrates and refillable bottles to reduce plastic use and emissions, contributing to EPA’s goal of addressing climate change.
- Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Safer Choice Supporter: Sea Mar continued to act on the top two concerns for the Hispanic/Latino community identified during an earlier stakeholder meeting: the overuse of disinfectants and the common and dangerous practice of mixing cleaning products. Sea Mar conducted 100 trainings with Spanish-speaking households on safer cleaning practices, reaching 369 people with their training.
- Sensitive Home, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: All of Sensitive Home’s 14 dish, laundry, and surface cleaners became Safer Choice-certified in 2020. Sensitive Home designed their products for sensitive people, including those with skin sensitivities, compromised immune systems, and respiratory issues.
- Seventh Generation, Safer Choice Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Seventh Generation added 16 products, bringing their total to 66 Safer Choice-certified products. Seventh Generation also promoted their Safer Choice-certified products through digital and print marketing materials, including Safer Choice promotions through major e-commerce retail partners.
- University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (UW DEOHS) Continuing Education Programs, Safer Choice Supporter: In response to a surge in calls to the Poison Control Center because of increased misuse of cleaning and disinfecting products in 2020, a team at the UW DEOHS collaborated with the Occupational Health and Safety Section of the American Public Health Association to publish a fact sheet on best practices for safer cleaning and disinfecting to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In both English and Spanish, the fact sheet highlights certified safer cleaning products, including those with the Safer Choice label and DfE-certified disinfectants and products with DfE-approved active ingredients.
- Wegmans Food Markets, Safer Choice Retailer: Wegmans added nine products (with 16 different SKUs) to their line of Safer Choice-certified products. Wegmans offers more than 70 SKUs of national brand Safer Choice-certified products.
- Wexford Labs, Inc., Formulator-Product Manufacturer: Wexford Labs has three DfE-certified products, after bringing on a new brand of disinfecting wipes in 2020. They also assisted their partners in obtaining DfE certifications for seven new private-label products.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on March 23, 2021, that it is now accepting nominations for the 2021 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards. According to a Federal Register notice scheduled for publication on March 24, 2021, the awards will recognize the leadership contributions of Safer Choice partners and stakeholders who, over the past year, have shown achievement in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals that further outstanding or innovative source reduction. EPA “especially encourages” award applications that show how the applicant’s work in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of those products promotes environmental justice, bolsters resilience to the impacts of climate change, results in cleaner air or water, or improves drinking water quality. All Safer Choice stakeholders and program participants in good standing are eligible for recognition. Interested parties should submit to EPA information about their accomplishments and contributions during 2020. Submissions are due May 31, 2021. EPA will recognize award winners at a ceremony in fall 2021.
Safer Choice is an EPA Pollution Prevention (P2) program, which includes practices that reduce, eliminate, or prevent pollution at its source, such as using safer ingredients in products. The Safer Choice program certifies products containing ingredients that have met its “specific and rigorous” human health and environmental toxicological criteria. EPA notes that the Safer Choice program allows companies to use its label “on certified products that contain safer ingredients and perform, as determined by expert evaluation.” EPA states that the Safer Choice program certification “represents a high level of achievement in formulating products that are safer for people and the environment.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a fully remote hearing on March 10, 2021, on “The Path Forward: Restoring the Vital Mission of EPA.” According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s March 3, 2021, press release, the hearing will examine the “critical need to restore the mission” of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and how EPA “can address climate change and other urgent challenges to the nation’s environment and public health.” Subcommittee members will hear “from former EPA leaders about what steps must be taken to undo the damage done to the agency over the last four years and to re-empower it to fulfill its mission.” The hearing will be available via live webcast.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change announced on March 6, 2019, that it will hold a hearing on March 13, 2019, on “Mismanaging Chemical Risks: EPA’s Failure to Protect Workers.” The Subcommittee will address how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “is systemically ignoring worker risks in its implementation of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act and other worker protections.” Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) stated that protecting vulnerable populations is an essential part of EPA’s mission, but under the Trump Administration, EPA “has systematically undervalued or completely overlooked the risks workers face from exposure to chemicals on the job. Workers should not have to choose between their health and their jobs.” Information for the hearing, including the Majority Memorandum, witness list and testimony, and a live webcast, will be posted on the hearing web page as they become available.