Monday, June 22, 2009

EPA's Suspension Of Chemical Management Program (ChAMP)

Jun 19: While a formal announcement from U.S. EPA is apparently pending, several sources are reporting that the Agency's Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP) has been suspended. ChAMP was created initially to implement commitments that the United States made at the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) Leaders Summit, in Montebello, Canada, in August 2007. The United States agreed to complete screening-level chemical prioritizations and initiate action as appropriate on an estimated 6,750 chemicals. The chemicals include High Production Volume (HPV) chemicals, which are reported under the Toxic Substances Control Act's (TSCA) 2006 Inventory Update Rule (IUR) as being produced or imported in quantities greater than or equal to 1 million pounds a year, and Medium Volume Production (MPV) chemicals, which are reported under the 2006 IUR as being produced or imported in quantities greater than or equal to 25,000 and less than 1 million pounds per year.

While the ChAMP has been widely supported by the chemical industry, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has criticized the program saying that the mostly voluntary initiatives to identify and manage the risks of thousands of chemicals "will provide far less protection than the more comprehensive approach taken under the European Union’s REACH regulation" [Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) program [
See WIMS 5/2/08].

On EPA's latest decision, EDF said, "It probably goes without saying that EDF welcomes EPA's decision to suspend the development and posting of risk-based prioritizations under its Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP). EDF has been arguing that ChAMP's 'rush to risk' has taken EPA badly off-track. But we have also identified many useful things that EPA's existing chemicals program can and should be doing with the data it obtained through the HPV Challenge (whether called ChAMP or not). We look forward to working with EPA to craft a new approach, grounded in a return to developing scientifically defensible hazard, not risk, characterizations and transparently identifying and addressing data gaps and data quality problems. EDF recently made a number of recommendations on how ChAMP could be used to leverage "green chemistry" and facilitate safer substitution [See WIMS 5/28/09].

In a related matter, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) announced on June 17 that it was launching an interactive online website featuring news and commentary, as well as a forum for a thought-provoking exchange of ideas on reforming the nation’s federal toxic chemicals policies. EWG said the site will feature analysis and opinion by scientists, lawmakers, industry officials, community activists, policy specialists, journalists and others interested in environmental health issues. A major focus will be the emerging debate over reform of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EWG indicated that Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) are expected to introduce comprehensive reform legislation known as the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act (Kid-Safe) in Congress later this year and EWG said it hopes to stimulate insightful conversation about that bill and other legislative proposals dealing with chemicals policy reform. In an article posted to the new website, Richard Wiles co-founded EWG with Ken Cook said, "Burying ChAMP is a great first step in reforming the nation’s toxic chemical safety system."

An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) indicated that the industry reaction to EPA's action ranged broadly from strong criticism expressed by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, to little concern as expressed by American Chemistry Council (ACC).

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said the abandonment of ChAMP means that EPA will refocus its efforts toward implementing a command-and-control approach toward chemicals management policy. They said EPA has "remained silent about its full intentions, contradicting President Obama’s commitment to transparency and support for scientific integrity." In a statement, NPRA President Charles Drevna said, “It is extremely disheartening that the Administration would abandon its priority-setting chemicals management process before it is even given the opportunity to work. We now question how the United States will keep its commitment to our neighbors under [i.e. Canada & Mexico] the Security & Prosperity Partnership of North America.”

Drevna continued, “One cannot help but gain the impression that this is less about science and more about politics. Using complete science to set priorities is fundamental to sound chemicals management. We urge the Administration to reconsider its abandonment of both the scientifically sound ChAMP initiative and the United States’ commitments to Canada and Mexico under the Security & Prosperity Partnership of North America.”

Access EDF's various recent blog postings on ChAMP (click here). Access EPA's ChAMP website with complete information on the program and links to recent activity under the new Administration (click here). Access a release from EWG (click here). Access the EWG new website (click here). Access the article in C&EN (click here). Access the statement from NPRA (click here).