Thursday, October 16, 2014

USDA, EPA in the Weeds

Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced several steps that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking to address the increase of herbicide resistant weeds in U.S. agricultural systems.

With EPA's recent announcement on the registration of new uses for herbicide mixtures containing the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate (in the Enlist® formulation) in conjunction with new genetically engineered crop varieties, farmers are being offered one more new tool to manage emerging populations of herbicide-resistant weeds in corn and soybeans crops.

In its decision for 2,4-D use on genetically modified corn and soybean, EPA has outlined new requirements for registrants as part of a product stewardship program.

USDA steps

Congruently, there are several steps the USDA is taking to help farmers manage their herbicide resistant weed problems in a more holistic and sustainable way:

  1. USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer financial assistance under its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for herbicide resistant weed control practices that utilize Integrated Pest Management plans and practices.
  2. Later this year NRCS will be soliciting proposals under the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Program for innovative conservation systems that address herbicide resistant weeds.
  3. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced yesterday it will actively promote use of best management practices (BMPs) in design protocols for regulated authorized releases of genetically engineered (GE) crops and will include recommendations for BMPs with the authorization of field trials of HR crops.

None of this is going to placate activitsts. But it's a program. The program represents some sort of structure, or protocol, or palette of best practices. If nothing else, these announcements are conversation starter, for industry and purists alike!

Bright ideas for GE crops

USDA is partnering with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) and is providing funds to develop education and outreach materials for various stakeholders on managing herbicide–resistant weeds. The Secretary has directed Dr. Sheryl Kunickis, Director of the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy, as the point person leading this effort with the USDA.

Prior to the post at Office Of Pest Management, Dr. Kunickis served as Director and Program Manager of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Beltsville, Maryland. Prior, she served the NRCS over 21 years as Research Coordinator, Program Manager, and Laboratory Director, and Soil Scientist and Landscape Analyst. Dr. Kunickis earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Agronomy from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in Soil Science from North Carolina State University in 2000. She appears to have a conservative strain.

Herbicide resistant weeds

The issue of herbicide resistant weeds has become one of increasing importance for agriculture. When herbicides are repeatedly used to control weeds, the weeds that survive herbicide treatment can multiply and spread. It's like the antibiotics problem.

EPA intends to require the same stewardship plans for all new applications for product registration on genetically modified crops with the goal being to encourage effective resistance management while maintaining needed flexibility for growers.

USDA says it recognizes that the problem of herbicide resistant weed control will not be solved solely through the application of new herbicides and that USDA will continue to work to ensure that growers have the diverse tools they need to address the management of herbicide resistant weeds.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Target Date for Canadian GHS

Countries and sectors (consumer, environmental, workplace, transportation) within any country will implement GHS at varying times depending on their local circumstances. So what is the target date for implementation for Canadian GHS?

The Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is being implemented by Canada. This alignment will change WHMIS-related compliance and laws (the Hazardous Products Act and Controlled Products Regulations). Final regulations are expected to be published in Canada Gazette Part II in late 2014 or early 2015.

Health Canada of course is the government body responsible for making the required changes to the federal WHMIS-related laws.

Health Canada's goal is to have the updated WHMIS laws in force no later than June 1, 2015. "In force" means that suppliers may begin to use and follow the new requirements for labels and SDSs for hazardous products sold, distributed, or imported into Canada at that time. A transition period is expected, but those dates haven't been announced. Expect two years but keep an eye on it.

Provincial and territorial WHMIS regulations will also require updating. Employers will be expected to have updated their WHMIS program and training to include the alignment with GHS at that time (exact timelines to be determined).


It is very likely that GHS will affect other laws in Canada. GHS is expected to be implemented by other regulatory agencies, including:
  • Transport Canada for the Transport of Dangerous Goods
  • Health Canada for Consumer Chemical Products
  • Health Canada for Pest Control Products
Discussions are occurring but the consultations are not complete.

Changes under WHMIS?

Overall, the current roles and responsibilities for suppliers, employers and workers likely will not change in WHMIS after GHS.

Suppliers, Importers and Producers duties will continue to include:
  • Classifying hazardous products
  • Preparing labels and SDSs
  • Providing these elements to customers
Employers must continue to:
  • Educate and train workers on the hazards and safe use of products
  • Ensure that hazardous materials are properly labelled
  • Prepare workplace labels and SDSs as necessary
  • Provide access for workers to up-to-date SDSs
  • Ensure appropriate control measures are in place to protect the health and safety of workers
Workers will still:
  • Participate in WHMIS and chemical safety training programs
  • Take necessary steps to protect themselves and their coworkers
  • Participate in identifying and controlling hazards
That's all I have on this one today.

Monday, September 29, 2014

10 Final Skin Notation Profile Publications

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a new strategy for assigning NIOSH skin notations. The new strategy relies on multiple skin notations to provide users a warning on the direct, systemic, and sensitizing effects of exposures of the skin to chemicals.

A support document called a Skin Notation Profile will be developed for each evaluated chemical. The Skin Notation Profile for a chemical will provide information supplemental to the skin notation, including a summary of all relevant data used to aid in determining the hazards associated with skin exposures.

NIOSH and CDC announce availability of the following 10 Skin Notation Profiles.

Substances & corresponding documents:
  1. Allyl glycidyl ether
  2. 2-Diethylaminoethanol
  3. 2-Ethoxyethyl acetate
  4. Ethyl acrylate
  5. Isophorone diisocyanate
  6. 2-Mercaptobenzothiazole (MBT); Sodium 2-MBT; Zinc 2-MBT
  7. Methyl isocyanate
  8. Nitrobenzene
  9. Phenylhydrazine
  10. Propargyl alcohol
These documents are available at the CDC web site:

In fact, skin notations have, historically, been published in the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. This practice will continue with the NIOSH skin notation assignments for each evaluated chemical being integrated as they become available. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ECHA Website Warns of Upcoming SVHCs

From now on, ECHA's website will give advance notice on substances being considered by authorities for regulatory risk management.

The website will also provide notice of regulatory routes being considered. (Routes include harmonised classification and labelling, authorisation or restriction.)

Such information will be useful for many stakeholders, including manufacturers and importers of chemicals, downstream users and general society.

The information is provided by the so-called public activities coordination tool (PACT). It lists the substances to be addressed and the risk management options being considered. Once completed, it will include the conclusion of the  Risk Management Option Analysis (RMOA).

See also:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Seven Sisters of CA Safer Consumer Products Plan

Seven Priority Products Categories have been identified under the relatively new California Safer Consumer Products Regulations. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) released its much anticipated draft Initial Priority Product Work Plan on Friday, September 12.

And the seven priority product categories are...

1. Beauty, Personal Care, and Hygiene

CA DTSC wonders: what chemicals are you wearing...?

This category includes products designed to be applied to, or used on, the body to satisfy all types of health and beauty needs. Examples include hair care products, skin care products, personal hygiene products, and cosmetics. Examples of products included in this product category are:
  • body wash & soaps
  • deodorants
  • lip balms & gloss
  • lotions
  • ointments
  • pomades
  • hair care products
  • cosmetics
  • nail care products

2 & 3. Building Products & Furnishings

Building Products: this category is limited to paints, adhesives, sealants, and flooring
Furnishings: this category includes home and office furnishing products that are treated with flame retardants or stain resistant chemicals or both

[It's unclear why these categories are lumped together this way in the Workgroup Plan. - ed.]

4. Cleaning Products

Cleaning Products includes general cleaners, air fresheners and deodorizers, laundry detergents, and various surface cleaners. These products are used in homes, schools, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, offices, and other indoor and outdoor environments. Examples include:
  • air fresheners 
  • floor cleaners 
  • oven cleaners 
  • bathroom cleaners 
  • carpet cleaners 
  • detergents 
  • floor waxes 
  • general-purpose cleaners 
  • scouring cleaners 
  • spot removers 
  • window cleaners

5. Clothing

This product category includes fiber and textile materials worn on the body with the primary function of covering the body and/or providing protection against the elements. Examples include:
  • full body wear
  • lower body wear
  • sleepwear
  • sportswear
  • underwear
  • upper body wear

6. Fishing and Angling Equipment

Lead poisoning associated with the ingestion of lead fishing weights has been well documented in a variety of bird and animal species around the world. Products in this category also contain chemicals that appear on the Candidate Chemicals List, including metals such as lead, zinc, and copper. Examples include fishing weights & gear.

7. Office Machinery (Consumable Products)

This product category includes consumable and refillable components of office machinery (e.g., cash registers, credit card terminals, printers, and photocopiers) that must periodically be refilled or replaced because they have been depleted or worn out. Examples include:
  • printer inks 
  • specialty paper 
  • toner cartridges
These products are widely used in offices, retail stores, and homes. They contain a range of Candidate Chemicals, including azo-dyes (some of which are carcinogenic to humans and acutely toxic to aquatic life), bisphenols (possible developmental toxicants), and phthalates.

Priority product categories

The plan prioritized product categories with the following attributes:
  • Product categories with products with clear pathways for dermal, ingestion or inhalation exposure
  • Product categories with chemicals found in biomonitoring studies
  • Product categories with chemicals observed in indoor air quality studies
  • Product categories that include product-chemical combinations that impact sensitive subpopulations
  • Product categories that contain chemicals that have aquatic resource impacts and/or which have been observed through water quality monitoring
The Work Plan is available online.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Apple Restricts Benzene, Beryllium, n-Hexane and TCE

Apple placed benzene, beryllium, n-hexane, trichloroethylene (TCE), and other chlorinated solvents in manufacturing operations on restriction in its manufacturing supply chain. The move was part of the company's new Regulated Substances Specification (PDF here and web page here).

In fact, Apple decided to order its suppliers to stop using benzene and n-hexane during the final assembly of iPhones, iPads, iPods, Mac computers and various accessories. Apple is also requiring all its factories to test all substances to ensure that they don't contain benzene or n-hexane, even if the chemicals aren't listed in the ingredients. 

"This is doing everything we can think of … to crack down on chemical exposures and to be responsive to concerns," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environmental initiatives, quoted in the South China Morning Post.

"We think it's really important that we show some leadership and really look towards the future by trying to use greener chemistries."
Apple restricts SVHCs

Supplier beware

Two NGOs have spoken loudly about Apple's lax approach to toxic and unnecessary chemicals in their manufacturing. Green America and China Labor Watch have been front and center. Both have been asking Apple to be more proactive about cleaning the supply chain.

Hundreds of Apple suppliers will need to be brought into compliance.

Apple is the most cash-rich company in the known universe, according to latest rankings. And they often rank in the top three, usually number one, in Gartner's annual ranking of supply chains. In fact, you'll recall from this blog that last May Apple was ranked #1 by Gartner.

So, the question is, if Apple finally spends some money on tidying up the environmental, health and safety of its supply chain operations in Asia, including restricting the use of known substances of concern such as benzene, will it still be #1 in these rankings?

Apple core customer

Once again, it's always surprising that Apple has such a distracted worker safety record and product stewardship approach. Especially given the demographic of Apple's faithful followers. You'd expect people with such progressive taste in eye-wear to be more concerned with safe manufacturing and cradle-to-cradle policies.

So far though, the Apple core consumers haven't seeded much in terms of stewardship initiatives. Being a hipster – or a baby boomer – is busy business, it seems, and on the whole there appears to be more interest in whether a gadget takes good selfies.

Looks like it's time for Applers turn the lens a little more outward. Bravo. I wish my concern was all for the environment and for worker safety, but my enthusiasm is largely towards a more level playing field. We all know that the reason so many companies like Apple outsource to China isn't just the proverbial cheap labor. It's the less complex regulatory field.

And while I think it's fair for a business to seek profits for its stakeholders, outsourcing to China largely so that your company can continue to turn a blind eye to uses of known chemicals of high concern like benzene and TCE is really just bad practice.

I'm still optimistic about the self-regulation of industry. Call me old fashioned.

An A for this effort, Apple.

Friday, September 5, 2014

CFSI: Conflict Minerals Audit Workshop

Did you miss the chance to win a date with George Clooney via the Enough Project last winter in their effort to promote peace in Africa's Democratic Republic of Congo? Yes, I missed it too.

But here's a chance to participate in this fall's Big Event in terms of conflict minerals compliance & program management.

The 14th Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI) Workshop will be held September 29-30, 2014 in Burlingame, California. It's easy to get to: it's right at the San Francisco International Airport, Hyatt Regency.

What the event will be like

Following the first-ever reporting initiative to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission on companies' conflict minerals due diligence, the 14th CFSI Workshop will review the process.

The Workshop will take a look back at what worked and what didn't in 2014 filings, and look toward the future to improved reporting and the implications of conflict minerals traceability in supply chains.

  • Day 1 focuses on lessons learned in the first reporting year, from the reports themselves to the supply chain surveys that informed those reports. 
  • Day 2 looks into future reporting and asks what can be done better. Breakout sessions on learning more about what in-region traceability means for companies. Breakout sessions on effective supply chain data management. Experts will also explain how to help manage your company’s audit costs. How can CFSI can help your company prepare for new regulatory schemes related to supply chain transparency? All will be revealed.

Also, if you can't make the CFSI workshop and you're in the Midwest that week, there's a Chicago event known as SMTAI that may interest you. SMTAI will have conflict minerals panels (more information here) and will occur side by side with IPC's Fall Standards Development Committee Meetings.

So there's lots of activity for Electronics Industry folks in coming weeks! Conflict minerals figures prominently.

I have a scout going to both San Francisco and to Chicago events — will update this blog with key news items brought back.