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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On August 25, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that registration was open for the 2022 Conference on the State of the Science on Development and Use of New Approach Methods (NAM) for Chemical Safety Testing. EPA notes that there will be limited availability in person at EPA headquarters in Washington, DC, on October 12-13, 2022, and a virtual option will also be available. Conference topics include:

  • Variability and Relevance of Traditional Toxicity Tests;
  • Evolution of Validation and Scientific Confidence Frameworks to Incorporate 21st Century Science; and
  • Breakout groups discussing Variability of Traditional Toxicity Tests, Relevance of Traditional Toxicity Tests, and Feedback on EPA Scientific Confidence Framework.

EPA asks that attendees register for the NAMs conference before October 7, 2022.
 
On October 18, 2022, EPA will provide training on the Computational Toxicology (CompTox) Chemicals Dashboard, which is part of a suite of databases and web applications developed by EPA to support the development of innovative methods to evaluate chemicals for potential health risks. The computational toxicology tools and data in the Dashboard help prioritize chemicals based on potential health risks. Specifically targeted for decision-makers, the training will provide:

  • An overview of the Dashboard content and function;
  • Application-oriented use-case demonstrations in the areas of general use, hazard/bioactivity, exposure/absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME)-in vitro to in vivo extrapolation (IVIVE), and chemistry; and
  • Opportunities for participatory learning and engagement.

The training will offer information about the latest release of the Dashboard and how it can be used to gather actionable information about chemical properties and risks through case examples, demonstrations, and hands-on exercises. Registration is now open (attendees must register for the training portions individually):


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On July 28, 2022, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) announced that the following revised Technical Reports on the Toxicity Studies are available on the NTP website:

  • Perfluoroalkyl Sulfonates (Perfluorobutane Sulfonic Acid, Perfluorohexane Sulfonate Potassium Salt, and Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid) Administered by Gavage to Sprague Dawley (Hsd:Sprague Dawley SD) Rats (Revised TOX-96); and
     
  • Perfluoroalkyl Carboxylates (Perfluorohexanoic Acid, Perfluorooctanoic Acid, Perfluorononanoic Acid, and Perfluorodecanoic Acid) Administered by Gavage to Sprague Dawley (Hsd:Sprague Dawley SD) Rats (Revised TOX-97).

According to NTP, transcription errors were identified in these reports, and an audit was conducted. NTP revised and republished the reports with an appendix that identifies the corrections. NTP notes that the final tables are available in the Chemical Effects in Biological Systems (CEBS) database.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on April 18, 2022, that it will hold a webinar on May 11, 2022, entitled “Data-Driven Solutions to Reducing Animal Use in Ecotoxicity.” Speakers will include:

  • Carlie LaLone, Ph.D., EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD), on “The Sequence Alignment to Predict Across Species Susceptibility (SeqAPASS) Tool: Extrapolating Knowledge Computationally.” EPA states that regulatory decision-making for chemical safety relies upon toxicity data generated from laboratory test species for the protection of wildlife in the environment. Typically, ecological risk assessments integrate safety factors to account for interspecies variability. According to EPA, the SeqAPASS tool is a more informed way to extrapolate knowledge from model species to other species that does not require the use of animals in toxicity testing and instead uses existing protein sequence knowledge. LaLone will describe EPA’s SeqAPASS tool and its applications for cross-species extrapolation relative to understanding conservation of biology and predicting chemical susceptibility.
     
  • Michael Lowit, Ph.D., EPA Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), on “Exploring Potential Reductions in Fish Testing in a Regulatory Context.” According to EPA, as part of its commitment to reducing animal testing, OPP is conducting retrospective analyses of existing data to evaluate critically which EPA guideline studies form the basis of regulatory decisions. EPA states that the results from these analyses can inform if reductions can be made to the number of animals used without reducing the quality of ecological risk assessments. EPA is currently conducting a retrospective analysis for fish acute toxicity tests, which are used by OPP to assess potential risk to fish species from pesticides. For each pesticide, EPA typically requires in vivo testing of three different fish species. Lowit will focus on the relative sensitivity among species subjected to in vivo fish acute toxicity studies. The results of this analysis will inform whether there is a basis for reducing the number of species while providing sufficient information to support pesticide registration decisions.

The webinar is co-organized by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Science Consortium International, EPA, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). EPA notes that it does not necessarily endorse the views of the speakers. Registration is now open.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On August 19, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a collaborative agreement with Unilever to explore better ways to assess chemical risks associated with consumer products. According to EPA, this agreement builds on prior cooperation between EPA and Unilever regarding New Approach Methods (NAM), “which are a promising alternative to conventional toxicity testing that are intended to reduce reliance on the use of animals.” EPA states that the collaboration aims to establish a framework for the Next Generation of Risk Assessments based on NAMs. The collaboration will bring together more than $2 million in both monetary and in-kind contributions, including scientific expertise and equipment, to develop a comprehensive NAMs dataset for a minimum of 40 chemicals. According to EPA, the chemicals will be selected and grouped such that half will be benign and the other half will have known adverse implications for human health. These chemicals will be tested using a wide variety of NAMs, and the results will be compared between the two groups to determine how well particular NAMs can infer differences in risk. EPA states that these data will be used in case studies to evaluate the potential to use NAMs in regulatory decisions. All data generated through the collaboration will be in the public domain, allowing academic, corporate, government, and nonprofit scientists to use the project results in their own research.
 
EPA states that in addition to the data generated through the collaboration, EPA and Unilever will use chemical data from EPA’s high-throughput screening efforts and the federal government’s Tox21 consortium, which is a collaboration among EPA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to EPA, “[t]hese automated chemical screening technologies rapidly test thousands of chemicals for their effects on human cells or cellular components that are critical to normal function.” EPA notes that data from these technologies are then incorporated into computational models to predict potential adverse health effects and estimate the amount of chemical that may cause these effects.


 

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
 
On August 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $3,980,782 in funding to five academic research teams to develop New Approach Methods (NAM) for evaluating chemical toxicokinetics.  According to EPA, compared to traditional animal testing, NAMs allow researchers better to predict potential hazards for risk assessment purposes without the use of traditional methods that rely on animal testing.  EPA is providing a grant of up to $800,000 to each research team through its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program.  EPA states that the projects will address gaps in ways to obtain data for informing chemical toxicokinetics and exposure-related factors not currently considered.  The five recipients include:
  • Purdue University to create an integrated blood brain barrier computer model to help determine if a chemical may cause neurotoxicity;
     
  • Texas A&M University to help integrate different types of chemical safety testing for more robust results;
     
  • University of Nevada to develop better estimations of the bioavailability of chemicals to assess the significance of public exposure;
     
  • Vanderbilt University to work on methods to refine organ-on-chip devices for chemical testing; and
     
  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to determine how zebrafish metabolism can be better correlated to the human metabolism to improve models for chemical toxicity testing.

 

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.

 

The American Chemical Society (ACS), together with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) and Honorary Co-Hosts Representatives Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), through ACS’ Science & the Congress Project have announced that they will be hosting a panel on “Alternatives to Animal Testing:  Emerging Uses and Policy Implications” on Tuesday, September 13, 2016, from Noon - 1:30 p.m. on Capitol Hill at the Cannon House Office Building in Room 340.  The panel will cover new and evolving non-animal based technologies and science that are being used to advance toxicology and safety testing and improve prospects in biomedical research, and will discuss how to robustly develop and incentivize adoption of these new methods, followed by an audience Q&A.  Lunch will be provided.  The moderator and panelists include:

  • Pamela Frasch, J.D., Lewis & Clark Law School (Moderator);
  • Warren Casey, Ph.D., National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences  and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program;
  • Amy Clippinger, Ph.D., PETA International Science Consortium Ltd.;
  • Paul A. Locke, J.D., Dr. P.H.,  JHSPH;
  • Pamela J. Spencer, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., Scientific Director of Toxicology and Environmental Research & Consulting, The Dow Chemical Company.

Registration for the panel is available online