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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a virtual public meeting on April 20-21, 2022, to provide an overview of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program and give stakeholders an opportunity to provide input. As described in EPA’s draft document entitled “Modernizing the Process and Bringing Innovative Science to Evaluate New Chemicals Under TSCA,” the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) proposes to develop and implement a multi-year collaborative research program focused on approaches for performing risk assessments on new chemical substances under TSCA. EPA has posted the following presentations from the April 20-21, 2022, meeting:

More information on the meeting is available in our April 22, 2022, memorandum, and more information on EPA’s draft document is available in our March 14, 2022, memorandum. Written comments on the draft document are due May 10, 2022.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On March 23, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a webinar on “Biofuel Premanufacture Notices: New Chemical Risk Assessment and Applications of Tools and Models.” As reported in our January 24, 2022, blog item, in January 2022, EPA announced an effort to streamline the review of new biobased or waste-derived chemicals that could displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting transportation fuels. EPA states that to support this effort, it is offering outreach and training to stakeholders interested in biofuels. According to EPA, the bi-weekly webinar series includes reviewing requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), outlining the streamlined approaches for risk assessments and risk management actions, and providing information on how to navigate the new chemicals premanufacture notice (PMN) process. EPA provided background and outlined the following challenges for each risk assessment conducted:

  • Chemistry Assessment:
    • Fuel stream and related substances are broad in number and scope, especially with the addition of current biobased and waste feedstock blends; they can be class 1, class 2, or chemical substances of unknown or variable composition, complex reaction products, and biological materials (UVCB) substances;
    • Many petroleum-derived fuel streams are on the original TSCA Inventory and there are very little data associated with them; and
    • Complete characterization of the new chemical substance is often unavailable;
  • Environmental Fate and Transport Assessment:
    • Analysis of constituents may not represent the properties of the new chemical substance;
  • Engineering Assessment: Environmental Releases:
    • EPA’s release assessment analyzes each manufacturing, processing, and use operation and determines the sources/activities that can result in releases to the environment. These release estimates are used to estimate exposure estimates for ecological and human receptors;
    • Examples of release data: (1) Measured release data; (2) Measured release data for a “surrogate” chemical; (3) Modeled release estimates; and
    • Release estimates have limitations -- examples:
      • Lack of appropriate model/method to estimate releases from specific industrial activities (e.g., storage tank emissions); and
      • Limitation in certain release models (e.g., limited to a vapor pressure threshold of 35 torr);
  • Engineering Assessment: Occupational Exposures:
    • The occupational exposure assessment estimates the magnitude, frequency, and duration of exposures to the new chemical substance at the workplace;
    • Worker inhalation and dermal exposures are expected throughout the lifecycle of the new chemical substance (e.g., manufacturing, processing, use); and
    • Exposure models do not account for some engineering controls (vapor capture/reduction);
  • Exposure Assessment: General Population and Consumer Exposures:
    • The occupational exposure assessment estimates the magnitude, frequency, and duration of exposures to the new chemical substance for the general population and consumers via inhalation and drinking water pathways; and
    • The confidence of the exposure estimates are affected by:
      • Assumptions, limitations, and areas of uncertainty in the fate and engineering analyses; and
      • Inherent uncertainties of the exposure parameters and assumptions for the estimation of the general population and consumer exposures;
  • Hazard Assessment:
    • Data on the new chemical substance or an analogous biofuel are preferred, but few submissions include toxicological or composition data;
    • EPA often lacks acute/chronic environmental test data on the new chemical substance and the analogous substances; and
    • There are challenges in performing read-across approaches and route-to-route extrapolations with analogous substances of variable composition.

For biofuel PMNs, EPA has started generating one report that combines the results of each of the above assessments. The final webinar in the series will be held April 6, 2022, on new chemicals risk management actions, including TSCA Section 5 orders and significant new use rules (SNUR).


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Chemicals Program will hold a webinar on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (EST) to learn about requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the premanufacture notice (PMN) process for biofuels. As reported in our January 24, 2022, blog item, in January 2022, EPA announced an effort to streamline the review of new biobased or waste-derived chemicals that could displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting transportation fuels. EPA states that to support this effort, it is offering outreach and training to stakeholders interested in biofuels. According to EPA, the bi-weekly webinar series includes reviewing TSCA requirements, outlining the streamlined approaches for risk assessments and risk management actions, and providing information on how to navigate the new chemicals PMN process. Future webinars will include:

Registration is required for the February 23, 2022, webinar.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced the availability of its fiscal year (FY) 2022 oversight plan on December 14, 2021. According to OIG, the plan reflects the priority work that the OIG believes is necessary to keep EPA, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), and Congress fully informed about issues relating to the administration of EPA programs and operations. The planned oversight projects concerning Ensuring the Safe Use of Chemicals include:

  • Audit of EPA’s Management of New Chemical Risk Assessments Conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA): Determine the extent to which EPA is using and complying with applicable records-management and quality-assurance requirements and employee performance standards to review and approve new chemicals under TSCA to manage human health and environmental risks;
     
  • Evaluation of EPA Regions’ Oversight Responsibilities for State and Tribal Drinking Water Certification Programs: Determine whether select EPA regions are fulfilling oversight responsibilities for drinking water certification programs in states and tribal nations;
     
  • Evaluation of EPA’s Use of Pesticide Incident-Reporting Data: Determine whether EPA uses pesticide incident-reporting data to prevent unreasonable adverse effects on human health and the environment;
     
  • Evaluation of Implementation of EPA’s Federal Certification for Applicators and Dealers of Restricted-Use Pesticides within Indian Country: Determine how EPA monitors and enforces the requirements for restricted-use pesticide applicators (private and commercial) and restricted-use pesticide dealers in Indian Country;
     
  • Evaluation of EPA’s Progress toward Providing States with Clear Benchmarks to Address Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Drinking Water: Determine why EPA has not established a mandatory limit for PFAS in drinking water; what challenges may prevent EPA from setting such a limit; and what EPA’s plan -- if one exists -- is for implementing such a limit; and
     
  • Evaluation of EPA’s Progress to Identify Key Regulatory Stakeholders for TSCA Existing Chemical Risk Management: Determine whether EPA identified and partnered with key regulatory stakeholders and developed a process to coordinate the regulation of occupational exposures from existing chemicals under TSCA.

Ongoing projects concerning Ensuring the Safe Use of Chemicals include:

  • Evaluation of EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review for Pesticide 1,3-Dichloropropene: Evaluate the extent to which EPA followed policies and procedures in developing the cancer assessment for the 1,3-dichloropropene pesticide registration review decision to prevent unreasonable adverse effects on human health; and
     
  • Evaluation of EPA’s Overdue Residual Risk and Technology Reviews: Evaluate whether EPA has conducted residual risk and technology reviews in a timely manner, as required for EPA to revise standards, as needed, to protect the public from air toxics emitted by stationary sources.

Planned and ongoing projects concerning Safeguarding Scientific Integrity Principles include:

  • Congressional Request: Evaluation of EPA’s Changes to Final Perfluoroalkyl Carboxylate and Perfluoroalkyl Sulfonate Significant New Use Rule (SNUR): Determine the extent to which EPA followed applicable policies, procedures, and guidance for the changes made to the Long-Chain Perfluoroalkyl Carboxylate and Perfluoroalkyl Sulfonate Chemical Substances SNUR between the EPA Administrator’s signing of the final SNUR on June 22, 2020, and the publication of the final SNUR in the Federal Register on July 27, 2020; and
     
  • Evaluation of EPA’s January 2021 Perfluorobutane Sulfonic Acid (PFBS) Toxicity Assessment: Determine whether EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) followed applicable policies and procedures in the development and publication of the January 19, 2021, PFBS toxicity assessment.

OIG states that it is important to note that its planning efforts “are not static and that the projects included herein may be modified throughout the year as challenges and risks for the EPA and the CSB evolve and emerge.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on November 30, 2021, the release of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) external peer review report of the Office of Research and Development (ORD) Staff Handbook for Developing Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Assessments (IRIS Handbook). EPA states that the IRIS Handbook provides standard operating procedures for staffers developing IRIS assessments and includes systematic review approaches that promote consistency and ensure that contributors understand how the assessment components are developed.
 
The NASEM committee found that the IRIS Handbook “reflects the significant improvements that EPA has made in its IRIS assessment process.” For instance, according to the report, the IRIS Handbook describes the inclusion of “sophisticated, state-of-the-art methods that use systematic evidence maps to summarize literature characteristics for scoping and systematic review methods for hazard identification.” The committee acknowledges that the IRIS program is “clearly helping” to advance the science of systematic review as applied to hazard identification. The report states that the committee “recognizes that EPA faces challenges in implementing many of the methods for the IRIS assessment process and is impressed and encouraged by the progress that the IRIS program has made to date.” The committee suggests that the methods for developing IRIS assessments can serve as a model for other EPA programs implementing systematic review methods.
 
The committee found that the Handbook does not consistently convey the strengths and advances in methodology for the IRIS assessment process in an even and clear manner, however. The report includes the committee’s recommendations to ensure the IRIS Handbook meets its objectives of providing transparency about the IRIS assessment process and providing operational instructions for those conducting the assessments.


 

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 October 27, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested public nominations of scientific experts to consider for service as ad hoc reviewers assisting the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) with two peer review topics anticipated for early 2022: the draft EPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Systematic Review Protocol and the draft EPA TSCA Screening Level Approach for Assessing Ambient Air and Water Exposures to Fenceline Communities. 86 Fed. Reg. 59382. EPA states that individuals nominated should have expertise in one or more of the following areas:

  • Systematic review: Individuals nominated for peer review of the draft systematic review protocol should have expertise in one or more of the following areas: systematic review approaches of human health and ecological hazard, exposure topics, and fate. All experts, including those representing other fields of interest, who have experience with engineering, machine learning, artificial intelligence techniques, and natural language processing approaches as applied to systematic review are also needed. EPA states that understanding the TSCA risk evaluation process “is highly desirable for the context of this peer review.”
  • Exposures to fenceline communities: Individuals nominated for peer review of the draft EPA TSCA Screening Level Approach for Assessing Ambient Air and Water Exposures to Fenceline Communities should have expertise in one or more of the following areas: chemical fate and transport via ambient air and water pathways; atmospheric modeling of fate, transport, and human exposures; human health, exposure, and risk assessment for airborne and/or waterborne chemicals; expertise estimating environmental air releases of chemicals from a variety of sources and databases such as Chemical Data Reporting (CDR); experience developing air dispersion methodologies and/or models to estimate ambient air concentrations and impacts to human populations; expertise estimating environmental water releases of chemicals from a variety of sources and databases such as CDR, Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), and Discharge Monitoring Report; experience developing methodologies and/or models to estimate chemical concentrations in ambient/source/drinking water and impacts to human populations; and public health protection for at-risk communities.

EPA states that any interested person or organization may nominate qualified individuals to be considered prospective candidates for these reviews. Individuals may also self-nominate. Nominations are due November 17, 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 15, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appointed nine new members to serve on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC). Additionally, EPA appointed a new Chair and reappointed seven existing members. In EPA’s July 13, 2021, announcement, EPA notes that members of the TSCA SACC serve staggered terms of appointment, generally of three years. They possess expertise in scientific and technical fields relevant to chemical risk assessment and pollution prevention, including human health and ecological risk assessment and chemical exposure to susceptible life stages and subpopulations. EPA states that in addition to scientific expertise, members also have backgrounds and experiences that will contribute to the diversity of scientific viewpoints, including professional experiences in government, public health, industry, and other groups. According to EPA, TSCA SACC serves as a primary scientific peer review mechanism of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) and is structured to provide independent scientific advice and recommendations to EPA on the scientific basis for risk assessments, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures and approaches for chemicals regulated under TSCA.


 

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) will host its first annual conference to discuss alternative test methods and strategies to reduce animal testing on December 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C.  According to EPA, the conference will bring together some of the leading voices in environmental and health research to discuss efforts to reduce testing on mammals.  The conference will focus on the New Approach Methods (NAM) and will feature presentations by U.S. and international scientific experts on advancements in the field.  On-site participants will have the opportunity to exchange information about scientific advancements in the NAMs field to develop a better understanding of the state of the science, discuss approaches for developing scientific confidence in using alternatives, and summarize existing studies characterizing the uncertainties in results from animal testing.  The public can register to participate via webinar.
 
As reported in our September 11, 2019, blog item, on September 10, 2019, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a directive to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing.  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.”
 
EPA notes that over the past several years, it has made significant scientific advancements in NAMs and has led efforts to reduce, replace, and refine its animal testing requirements.  On December 5, 2019, EPA updated the list of NAMs that it developed pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the 2016 Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act.  EPA states that it “will continue to lead the way among federal agencies in the United States and internationally.”


 
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