Nov 12, 2019

Severe lung disease characterized by lymphocytic bronchiolitis, alveolar ductitis, and emphysema (BADE) in industrial machine‐manufacturing workers

Previously healthy male never smokers, ages 27 to 50, developed chest symptoms from 1995 to 2012 while working in the facility's production areas. Patients had an insidious onset of cough, wheeze, and exertional dyspnea; airflow obstruction (mean FEV1 = 44% predicted) and reduced diffusing capacity (mean = 53% predicted); and radiologic centrilobular emphysema. Lung tissue demonstrated a unique pattern of bronchiolitis and alveolar ductitis with B‐cell follicles lacking germinal centers, and significant emphysema for never‐smokers. All had chronic dyspnea, three had a progressive functional decline, and one underwent lung transplantation. Patients reported no unusual nonoccupational exposures. No cases were identified among nonproduction workers or in the community. Endotoxin concentrations were elevated in two air samples; otherwise, exposures were below occupational limits. Air flowed from areas where machining occurred to other production areas. Metalworking fluid primarily grew Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes and lacked mycobacterial DNA, but 16S analysis revealed more complex bacterial communities.

This cluster indicates a previously unrecognized occupational lung disease of yet uncertain etiology that should be considered in manufacturing workers (particularly never‐smokers) with airflow obstruction and centrilobular emphysema. Investigation of additional cases in other settings could clarify the cause and guide prevention.

Artificial intelligence: Implications for the future of work and cognitive decision support systems (DSSs).

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad transdisciplinary field with roots in logic, statistics, cognitive psychology, decision theory, neuroscience, linguistics, cybernetics, and computer engineering. The modern field of AI began at a small summer workshop at Dartmouth College in 1956. Since then, AI applications made possible by machine learning (ML), an AI subdiscipline, include Internet searches, e‐commerce sites, goods and services recommender systems, image and speech recognition, sensor technologies, robotic devices, and cognitive decision support systems (DSSs). As more applications are integrated into everyday life, AI is predicted to have a globally transformative influence on economic and social structures similar to the effect that other general‐purpose technologies, such as steam engines, railroads, electricity, electronics, and the Internet, have had. Novel AI applications in the workplace of the future raise important issues for occupational safety and health. This commentary reviews the origins of AI, use of ML methods, and emerging AI applications embedded in physical objects like sensor technologies, robotic devices, or operationalized in intelligent DSSs. Selected implications on the future of work arising from the use of AI applications, including job displacement from automation and management of human‐machine interactions, are also reviewed. Engaging in strategic foresight about AI workplace applications will shift occupational research and practice from a reactive posture to a proactive one. Understanding the possibilities and challenges of AI for the future of work will help mitigate the unfavorable effects of AI on worker safety, health, and well‐being.

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Draft Risk Evaluation for Methylene Chloride for TSCA

In the October 2019 draft risk evaluation for methylene chloride (MC), EPA reviewed a suite of potential MC exposures and made initial determinations on risk. These preliminary determinations may change as EPA's evaluation becomes more refined through the public comment and peer review processes. Below are the draft risk evaluation and supporting documents for MC

The public will have an opportunity to comment on the draft risk evaluation for 60 days until December 30, 2019, in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0437. EPA will also hold a peer review meeting of EPA's Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) on the draft risk evaluation for this chemical's conditions of use on December 3-4, 2019

Read about the steps EPA is taking in the risk evaluation process for MC.

Learn more about EPA's risk evaluation process.

Nov 6, 2019

DOE Announces $24.9 Million Funding Selections to Advance Hydropower and Water Technologies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced selections for up to $24.9 million in funding to drive innovative, industry-led technology solutions to advance the marine and hydrokinetics industry and increase hydropower's ability to serve as a flexible grid resource. Innovative water power technologies have the potential to increase the affordability of hydropower and marine energy. Selected projects will also strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness and build on department-wide initiatives to improve the capability of technologies to deliver value to the grid.

Projects were selected across four Areas of Interest (AOI)—Hydropower Operational Flexibility, Low-Head Hydropower and In-Stream Hydrokinetic Technologies, Advancing Wave Energy Device Design, and Marine Energy Centers Research Infrastructure Upgrades.

"Hydropower is a valuable national resource and these technologies will make it an even more competitive clean energy option to invest in the Blue Economy," said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. "These awards are another example of this Administration reaffirming its commitment to an 'all-of-the-above' energy policy to the benefit of the entire nation."

Read full at:

Oct 31, 2019

Russian Scientists Reveal First Photos of Massive Arctic Methane Fountain

A group of Russian scientists has revealed the first pictures of a massive fountain of methane gas bubbling from the sea floor in the eastern Siberian Sea.

During the 35-day expedition that started Sept. 21, the scientific expedition organized by Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU)  noticed a spot of emerald-colored water which turned out to be a record methane gas emission. Concentrations of the greenhouse gas — which can significantly influence the planet's climate — were found to be up to nine times the global average.

"A new powerful region of massive methane discharge from bottom sediments has been formed in recent years," the members of the expedition said. "This indicates an abnormally high rate of permafrost degradation."

The fountain covers an area between 4 and 5 meters. According to the researchers, the methane discharge field's dimensions have grown several times since 2014 when the survey was last performed.

The water was boiling with methane bubbles so violently that the scientists had to use buckets to collect the gas instead of the special plastic cones normally used for sampling.

The expedition members said that the degradation of the underwater and coastal permafrost that surrounds the Arctic Ocean will lead to massive emissions of methane and carbon dioxide, the two biggest greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

During the expedition, researchers also studied the accumulation of various types of microplastics, one of the most dangerous pollutants for living organisms.

Read full at:

Oct 30, 2019

BIG News! EPA Announces New 5-Year Plan to Accelerate Restoration of the Great Lakes

EPA Press Office ( — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Cathy Stepp unveiled an updated and aggressive action plan under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The GLRI Action Plan III will guide the actions of federal agencies and their many partners over the next 5 years to protect and restore the Great Lakes — fueling local and regional economies and community revitalization efforts across the basin. The agency also announced $11 million in funding for grants to support GLRI projects in Michigan.

"The Trump Administration is taking action to improve water quality while boosting local economies across the country," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "More than $2.4 billion from the GLRI has funded over 4,000 restoration projects. The GLRI Action Plan III and the grant funding we are announcing today will continue to accelerate this great work to the benefit of millions of Americans living in and visiting the region."

"The Great Lakes are a regional, national and international treasure," said Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Cathy Stepp. "It will take ambitious, dedicated and collaborative efforts by federal, state, tribal, local and non-governmental partners to ensure that our magnificent Great Lakes not only endure — but thrive."

"President Trump's EPA has made tremendous environmental progress and their plan to accelerate the restoration of the Great Lakes is a win for conservationists and Hoosiers," said Senator Mike Braun (IN). "This decisive action will keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, reduce harmful algal blooms and protect fish, birds and other animals whose habit relies on the Great Lakes."

"The work done through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) ensures our most treasured natural resource remains vibrant. Through President Trump's support and Administrator Wheeler's strong commitment to the Great Lakes, this new 5 year plan will provide a strong focus for the critical mission of the GLRI. This vision is a key element to protecting the Great Lakes and preserving the health of our communities, our rich sportsman heritage, and the economy of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula," said Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01).

"The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has played an important and critical role in preserving and protecting the Great Lakes," said Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. "The announcement of the GLRI Action Plan III will build on this success and strengthen the cleanup of legacy pollution, restore habitat, and combat invasive species across Michigan. I am glad to see Administrator Wheeler work to make the Great Lakes a national priority."

"I have worked alongside my colleagues in Congress to advocate to the administration about how important the Great Lakes are to everyone in Michigan and I welcome today's announcement for the next five years of the GLRI," said Congressman John Moolenaar (MI-04). "Working with partners including CMU and Ducks Unlimited, the GLRI has done incredible work to protect the Great Lakes for future generations and this new plan will continue that commitment in the years ahead."

"In Michigan, the Great Lakes impact every facet of our daily lives, from the significant economic benefits to all the recreational activities we enjoy," said Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07). "The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has supported many successful projects and is critical to cleaning up pollutants, stopping the spread of invasive species like Asian Carp, and reducing algal blooms. I am pleased to see the EPA take important action to expand these efforts to help ensure the Great Lakes are in good health for future generations."

"The EPA's updated action plan sets an aggressive path forward to protect and restore the Great Lakes under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has been a catalyst for unparalleled federal agency coordination to fund more than 4,800 projects that address the largest environmental issues facing the Great Lakes. I look forward to working with EPA to continue improving water quality, protecting and restoring native habitats and species, and preventing and controlling invasive species," said Congressman Paul Mitchell (MI-10).

"As someone who grew up on the shores of Lake Erie, I'm proud to be a champion of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in Congress," said Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14). "The Great Lakes provide more than 1.5 million jobs, supply 90% of our nation's fresh surface water, support over 3,500 species of plants and animals, and generate $62 billion in wages every year. I applaud the Administration for recognizing the importance of this vital program and look forward to continuing our work to protect and preserve the invaluable natural resource and economic powerhouse that is the Great Lakes System."

"The Great Lakes are critical to Northeast Wisconsin's economy and way of life," said Congressman Mike Gallagher (WI-08). "We've seen firsthand how GLRI dollars successfully reduced harmful algae in Green Bay, and I'm glad that GLRI Action Plan III will build upon this success and take action to ensure the Great Lakes are clean for generations to come."

"The partnership between the EPA and its Federal and State partners announced today on the GLRI Plan III is vitally important to the environmental quality of our Great Lakes. These efforts are crucial to our entire region's economy and quality of life for our residents and for those who visit and enjoy Michigan's lakes and streams," said Pat Williams, Township Supervisor, Canton, MI.

The GLRI has been a catalyst for unprecedented federal agency coordination, which has in turn produced unprecedented results. Under GLRI's former Action Plans I and II, GLRI accomplished the formal delisting of the Presque Isle Bay (Penn.), Deer Lake (Mich.), and White Lake (Mich.) Areas of Concern (AOCs) and moved a number of the remaining AOCs closer to delisting through the removal of numerous environmental impairments. GLRI resources have also been used for projects that have prevented more than one million pounds of phosphorus from entering the Great Lakes, reducing the excess phosphorus that contributes to harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay, and Green Bay. The GLRI produces economic benefits as well. A 2018 University of Michigan study shows that every dollar of federal spending on GLRI projects between 2010 and 2016 will produce $3.35 in additional economic activity in the Great Lakes region through 2036.

In addition to GLRI Action Plan III, the agency announced that it has recently awarded five GLRI grants for restoration work in Michigan, totaling nearly $11 million:

  • $2.2 million grant to Alliance for Rouge Communities (ARC) to restore Tamarack Creek and Johnson Creek habitat flood plains in Rouge River AOC.
  • $380,000 grant to Wayne County to design habitat restoration projects in Rouge River AOC.
  • $3.7 million grant to Michigan Department of Natural Resources to restore the natural surface water flow in flatwoods of Belle Isle in Detroit River AOC.
  • $815,500 grant to Alliance for Rouge Communities to restore wetlands in Seeley Creek in the Rouge River AOC.
  • $3.5 million to Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to continue restoration work at 12 impacted sites on the Great Lakes and to coordinate the state's lake-wide management plans for Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie as part of a new 3-year grant for $10.5 million.

To read the GLRI Action Plan III and related information visit: https://g

Oct 23, 2019

National Safety Council Position paper on marijuana and safety sensitive positions.

The National Safety Council,  published a Position/Policy Statement on October 21, 2019 addressing cannabis (marijuana) impairment in safety-sensitive positions. NSC stated that "it is clear that cannabis impacts psychomotor skills and cognitive ability," and concluded that "there is no level of cannabis use that is safe or acceptable for employees who work in safety-sensitive positions." ("Safety-sensitive" refers to jobs that impact the safety of the employee and the safety of others as a result of performing that job).

NFPA 470: The “New” Old Hazardous Materials Response Standards

From Rick Edinger:

In April 2019 I published an article entitled "What Ever Happened to NFPA 472?" In that piece I examined the addition of two new National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) documents related to hazardous materials response, their relationship to each other and the existing hazmat standards, and the effects on the hazmat response community. The title of the article spoke to some confusion among hazmat responders about the need for several seemingly related standards and confirmed that the legacy hazmat standards, NFPA 472 and 473, would continued to be maintained. 

During that same time period the NFPA Standards Council approved a plan to consolidate 114 current emergency response and response safety (ERRS) standards and related documents into 38 overarching emergency response standards. Based on document revision cycles for the affected standards, the NFPA ERRS standards consolidation plan will occur over several years with the end result being less documents for emergency responders to track, comply with and maintain. As noted in the April 2019 article, the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD  Response Technical Committee maintained four documents (NFPA 472, 473, 475, and 1072) and assists with the preparation of the NFPA Hazardous Materials Handbook. As these standards are all classified as emergency response documents, the committee's documents became part of the ERRS consolidation process. 

The consolidation process for affected documents began in the spring of 2019. As a result of this effort, a "new" hazmat standards document was born: NFPA 470: Hazardous Materials Standards for Responders. NFPA 470 was released in early October 2019 and contains all of the current content of NFPA 472, NFPA 473, and NFPA 1072 in one standard. The fourth document maintained by the committee, NFPA 475, is a recommended practice for the management of hazardous materials response programs. The committee has elected to maintain NFPA 475 separately and will do so within the same revision cycle as NFPA 470. 

From this point forward the committee will maintain one standards document that contains the content of the original standards that existed prior to June 2019. Within this single document will be the content of NFPA 472: Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents which is an "organization-based" document and is written as a risk-based response text that identifies minimum core performance competencies for Awareness, Operations and Technician level hazardous materials responders. NFPA 472 language enhances the basic core hazmat competencies with mission-specific competencies that outline defined knowledge, skills, and abilities that a responder should have for a given hazard, container type, or needed tactical skill.

Also within the scope of the "new" NFPA 470, the committee will continue to maintain and develop new content for NFPA 473: Standard for Competencies for EMS Personnel Responding to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction IncidentsAnd NFPA 1072: Standard for Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Emergency Response Personnel Professional Qualifications which is classified as an individual-based document. NFPA 1072 is written as a Pro Qual standard outlining the minimum job performance requirements (JPRs) for Awareness, Operations and Technician level responders and includes Operations – Mission Specific and Hazmat Incident Commander criteria. Those organizations that have adopted NFPA 1072 as their certifying / accreditation standard should consult with their professional qualifications accrediting agency (ex. IFSAC or Pro Board) for guidance on how to adopt the new standard. 

Importantly, due to the ERRS consolidation process, the period to provide public input for the next revision cycle for these documents was suspended for a brief period while the document consolidation editing was occurring and has now reopened under NFPA 470. However, the input period closes on November 15. Feedback and suggestions from the hazmat response community are vital to the committee's work. All public inputs are considered and will guide the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD Response Technical Committee for the next revision of NFPA 470, which is scheduled to be published in Fall 2021. It is important that people who seek to propose changes or additions to the content of NFPA 470, get those submissions in prior to November 15, 2019. 

Regardless of the format or style of the NFPA hazardous materials response documents, the NFPA Hazardous Materials/WMD Response Technical Committee will continue to strive to produce the most up to date and exacting standards language to guide the training and responder competencies for safe and effective response to hazmat incidents. 

Read full here:

Oct 1, 2019

Supporting Farmers' Mental Health

Farming is more than just work for many; it's a way of life that is rewarding despite the tough physical work. But now it's becoming increasingly apparent that the unique challenges faced daily by farmers - from the long hours to the isolation to the many uncertainties beyond their control - can also greatly impact their mental health and well-being.

On farms and ranches across the country, struggles are taking their toll, leading to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic disorder, and even suicide. Although there are no Canadian statistics to assess the extent of mental health issues among farmers, a survey of more than 1100 farmers in Canada conducted by Guelph University professor Andria Jones-Bitton found that 35% of respondents met the criteria for depression. 58% met the criteria for anxiety and 45% were highly stressed - far higher than the general population.

The same survey found that 40% of farmers were uneasy seeking professional help, largely out of fear for what others would think. The traditional image of the hardy farmer who overcomes adversity is indeed hard to shake.

In Canada, the agriculture and agri-food industries support 1 in 8 jobs (2.3 million workers) and contributes over $100 billion to the country's economy. It makes good sense to build resilience among farmers to help them thrive in times of uncertainty or stress.

Unique stressors

From June 2018 to January 2019, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food conducted a study on the mental health challenges facing Canadian producers. Their Mental Health: A Priority for our Farmers report identifies many stressors that make producers particularly vulnerable to mental health issues.

Farmers live with many uncertainties that put them under pressure. Weather can make or break their livelihood yet is completely out of their control. Financial challenges from running a business and economic volatility are major stressors. Uncertain crop yields, machinery breakdowns, handling dangerous goods, and concerns over the well-being of livestock are also ongoing stressors. Long hours working on the land, away from people and community supports, can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness which adds to their stress.

Supporting farmers

The Committee's report looked at existing initiatives across the country to support producers facing mental health challenges, including telephone help lines, consultations with mental health and agricultural professionals, and funding from the federal government and agricultural producers' associations.

Farm Credit Canada offers online resources and an assessment tool through their "Rooted in Strength" program. The Do More Agriculture Foundation is piloting a project that offers mental health first aid training for agricultural communities in Canada. The Union des producteurs agricoles, in partnership with the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide, created a network of "Sentinels" across Quebec, who regularly interact with farmers and are trained to identify people vulnerable to mental illness.

But existing resources can be difficult to access due to unpredictable working hours, remote locations, and lack of reliable Internet. And not all health professionals are experienced with the specific challenges faced by agricultural workers. The report calls for more to be done, listing ten recommendations. It suggests the federal government consider the impacts that regulatory changes, labour reviews and audits may have on farmers. As well, the report recommends help to combat the growing violence against agricultural workers through public awareness campaigns and strategies. The report also calls for education and capacity building, more help lines, e-mental health services, funding for recognized organizations to provide mental health assistance to farmers and their families, and national co-ordination of further research targeting the mental health of farmers.

View and download infographic


Sep 12, 2019

New England States Ammonia Safety Day, Friday October 25, 2019 (Free Tickets)

Keene State College will host the first New England States Ammonia Safety Day on Friday October 25, 2019. The event is being organized by Ammonia Safety & Training Institute ( and will cover topics such as ·  Strengthen the Tripod: Industry, Government, and Public Safety ·  Value of prevention, protection, and preparedness ·  Understand hazards, mitigate risks, and prepare for threats ·  Evacuation, decontamination, and medical care ·  Valve and pipeline problems that lead to emergency events ·  Engaging emergency shutdown procedures ·  Command and control plan ·  Integrating Industrial response with public safety command ·  Pre-entry hazard assessment ·  Terminating command, initiating recovery, and restart ·  Basic refrigeration cycle components ·  Lessons learned from accidents and emergency events

The principles discussed will apply to industrial chemical safety in general as well as ammonia safety in particular. There is no registration cost; a detailed agenda and information for registering will be available soon.

Let me know if you have any questions about this.

Free Attendance Ticket, includes training materials, beverages, breakfast snack and lunch.

First Human Case of West Nile Virus Reported in Wisconsin This Year

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is advising residents to continue to protect themselves against mosquito bites as it announces this year's first confirmed human case of West Nile virus (WNV) in a resident of Northeastern Wisconsin.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito and is not spread person to person. Mosquitoes get the virus by feeding on infected birds.

The majority of human WNV cases occur during the months of August and September. However, the risk of contracting WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Jamestown Canyon virus, La Crosse encephalitis virus, or eastern equine encephalitis virus, is present any time mosquitoes are active, so it is important for people to be vigilant about preventing mosquito bites throughout the rest of the summer and into early fall.

The chances of a person contracting WNV are very low, and most people infected with WNV will not get sick. Those who do become ill may develop a fever, headache, and rash that lasts a few days. Symptoms typically begin between three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. In rare cases, WNV can cause severe disease with symptoms such as disorientation, tremors, paralysis, inflammation of the brain, and coma. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at an increased risk of severe disease from the virus.

There is no specific treatment for WNV other than to treat symptoms. If you think you have a WNV infection or another illness spread by mosquitoes, contact your health care provider. Although few mosquitoes actually carry the virus, there are several things you can do to reduce contact with mosquitoes and to get rid of areas where they breed.

DHS recommends the following:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Apply an insect repellant with DEET, IR3535, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin and clothing.
  • Make sure window and door screens are intact to prevent mosquitoes from getting into your home.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from breeding by removing stagnant water from items around your property, such as tin cans, plastic containers, flower pots, discarded tires, roof gutters, and downspouts.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
  • Change the water in bird baths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas, and trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.

Sep 10, 2019

Free 4 hour Machinery and Machine Guarding

Susan Harwood Training Grants provide training and education for workers and employers on workplace safety and health hazards, responsibilities and rights. Target audiences include underserved, low-literacy, and high-hazard industry workers and employers.

NIU is proud to be a recipient of the Susan Harwood Training Grant. This grant provides training and education for workers and employers on workplace safety and health hazards, responsibilities, and rights. NIU will provide two to eight hours of machinery and machine guarding training to approximately 350 workers in new and small businesses. The targeted audience includes youth, minorities, hard-to-reach, and limited English proficiency workers. Training will include machinery such as augers, conveyor, mixers, roll formers, robots, and other basic machinery in general industry.

As part of the grant program, NIU will be offering two, four or eight hours of machinery and machine guarding training, for free.

Register here:

Aug 21, 2019

The NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding Process for Chemical Risk Management

Thumbnail image of NIOSH Publication 2019-132

Occupational exposure limits (OELs) play a critical role in protecting workers and emergency response personnel from exposure to dangerous concentrations of hazardous materials [Cook 1987; Deveau et al. 2015; Paustenbach 1998; Nikfar and Malekirad 2014; Schulte et al. 2010; Skowroń and Czerczak 2015]. In the absence of an OEL, determining the appropriate controls needed to protect workers from chemical exposures can be challenging. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory currently contains over 85,000 chemicals that are commercially available [US EPA 2015], yet only about 1,000 of these have been assigned an authoritative (government, consensus, or peer reviewed) OEL. Furthermore, the rate at which new chemical substances are being introduced into commerce significantly outpaces OEL development, creating a need for guidance on thousands of chemical substances that lack reliable exposure limits [OSHA 2014].

Occupational exposure banding, also known as hazard banding or health hazard banding, is a systematic process that uses qualitative and quantitative hazard information on selected health-effect endpoints to identify potential exposure ranges or categories. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) occupational exposure banding process seeks to create a consistent and documented process with a decision logic to characterize chemical hazards so that timely, well-informed risk management decisions can be made for chemical substances that lack OELs. Users can band a chemical manually or by using the occupational exposure banding e-Tool. Overall, this document provides the background, rationale, and instructions for the occupational exposure banding process and gives guidance for risk managers to identify control levels for chemicals without authoritative OELs.

The NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding Process for Chemical Risk Management [PDF – 3 MB]

Aug 1, 2019

Russian Titanic released 100 times more radiation in Europe than 2011’s Fukushima disaster.

Mysterious radioactive leak that swept Europe came from Russia, study confirms despite Kremlin denial

The source of a mysterious radioactive leak that swept Europe in 2017 has been traced to a nuclear processing plant in the southern Ural mountains in Russia, a new study confirms. 

Scientists analysed more than 1,300 data points all over the world to find the source of the enormous leak, which released 100 times more radiation in Europe than 2011's Fukushima disaster. 

The source – which is believed to be the Russian Mayak facility – was not a reactor accident but an incident in a nuclear reprocessing plant, researchers found.  

Russia has always denied the facility was the source and no official statement has been released in response to this latest research. 

The alarm bell was raised in October 2017 by Italian scientists who noticed a spike of the radioactive ruthenium-106. It was then detected in many European countries as well as in Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and even in the Caribbean.

The fact that ruthenium was the only radioactive material detected strongly suggested the source was a nuclear reprocessing plant, as reactor accidents typically release a number of different elements. 

Scientists could pinpoint the release to between 6pm on 25 September 2017 to noon the following day. 

Jul 16, 2019

Scientists Have Discovered a Sea of Fresh Water Under the Ocean

Quartz: Thousands of years ago, glaciers covered much of the planet. Oceans receded as water froze in massive sheets of ice blanketing the North American continent. As the ice age ended, glaciers melted. Massive river deltas flowed out across the continental shelf. The oceans rose, and fresh water was trapped in sediments below the waves. Discovered while drilling for oil offshore in the 1970s, scientists thought these "isolated" pockets of fresh water were a curiosity. They may instead prove to be a parched world's newest source of fresh water.

As told in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports, scientists from Columbia University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution spent 10 days on a research ship towing electromagnetic sensors from New Jersey to Massachusetts. By measuring the way electromagnetic waves traveled through fresh and saline water, researchers mapped out fresh-water reservoirs for the first time.

It turns out the subterranean pools stretch for at least 50 miles off the US Atlantic coast, containing vast stores of low-salinity groundwater, about twice the volume of Lake Ontario. The deposits begin about 600 ft (183 m) below the seafloor and stretch for hundreds of miles. That rivals the size of even the largest terrestrial aquifers.

Jul 15, 2019

Federal Black Lung program is failing to prevent new illnesses AND running out of money.

By Joe Davidson

Like the miners who work underground in dark and dangerous conditions, black lung disease is, for many, largely out of sight, out of mind.

But for folks such as Gary Hairston, who spent more than 27 years in the mines around his Beckley, W.Va., home, the ailment is ever-present. He lives with it. Many have died of it.

Now, the number of black lung cases is growing. At the same time, funding for a federal program to care for those with the disease has fallen sharply.

While the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund has been in debt regularly since 1979, its financial situation is increasingly bleak. Even with the debt, the fund provides medical and financial assistance to certain miners who are totally disabled by the disease. About 25,600 people, including dependents, received black lung benefits in fiscal 2018. The average annual cost for medical treatment was $9,667.

A Government Accountability Office report says the trust fund's penury is exacerbated by this year's 55 percent decrease in the coal tax rate, declining coal production and coal company bankruptcies. The tax is levied on coal produced and sold domestically. When coal companies go broke, their responsibility to fund the black lung program is transferred to taxpayers.

The GAO predicts that the fund's debt could grow from less than $5 billion last year to more than $15 billion by 2050.

What matters more than money is the coal miners' misery.

Hairston's doctor initially thought the mass on his lung was cancer. A biopsy showed the Fayette County Black Lung Association vice president had a complicated form of black lung.

"I was 48 years old when I had to quit work. I can't play with my grandkids," Hairston told a hearing of the House Education and Labor subcommittee on workforce protections. With his large gray goatee and broad shoulders, Hairston is a distinguished-looking man, but he nearly broke down while delivering passionate testimony.

"I never did think at a young age that I wouldn't be able to take care of my family," he said. He wiped away tears before subcommittee Chairwoman Alma Adams (D-N.C.) allowed Hairston, almost overcome with emotion, to cut his testimony short.

Recent research indicates "an unprecedented increase" in the most severe form of black lung disease, according to a July 2018 update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The update does not provide a reason for the increase.

A 2016 CDC document said the factors leading to an increase of black lung in Kentucky are unknown, but it did offer some suggestions. Among the possibilities are new or modified mining practices, including slope mining and continuous use of mining machines. More miners seeking X-rays to determine whether they are eligible for state or federal programs also could be a factor.

Please read full By Joe Davidson at:

550,000 Acres on Fire in Alaska

Two small communities near Anderson, Alaska were ordered to evacuate late Thursday due to a wildfire, as the state's summer of heat and smoke continues.

The Kobe Fire was reported at 6:45 p.m. Thursday and by 10:50 p.m. had grown to 600 acres, The Alaska Division of Forestry reported. There are no reports that anyone was burned, but multiple buildings were threatened, prompting the evacuation of the Kobe and Anderson subdivisions. The residents of the City of Anderson, around 10 miles northeast of the blaze, were told to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

The fire is the latest to ignite in Alaska, where 1.2 million acres have burned so far this year, making 2019 one of the state's three biggest wildfire years.

Jul 12, 2019

Updated Consolidated List of Lists under EPCRA/CERCLA/CAA 112(r)

EPA revised the consolidated list of chemicals subject to the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA); Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); and Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act; also known as the List of Lists. The List of Lists is available as a PDF file and as an Excel spreadsheet.

Jun 26, 2019

Protecting pregnant employees who work with chemicals

Lists for pregnant employee chemicals to avoid.  

When reviewing (SDS) safety data sheet's, in addition to Section 11, Toxicology,
Also review the hazard statements in Section 2,
Hazards Identification, where you may see something like "H360 May damage fertility or the unborn child."

While there is not ONE definitive list of reproductive toxinS, here are some lists of reproductive toxins:

Japan has a list

EU does too,_mutagenic,_reprotoxic_(CMR)_substances

SDS NOTE: An issue with products used in the workplace is that they are often mixtures of chemicals. Maybe a chemical that is a reproductive toxin will be 10 percent of the contents of a mixture. The manufacturer needs to write a safety data sheet. That doesn't mean that they will write a good one. For example, at least in the past, many products that contained bis-phenol A did not include any information on endocrine disruption, although bis-phenol A was a well-known estrogen mimic. In the absence of time-consuming research, you can be at the mercy of the manufacturer.

Jun 25, 2019

Study: fertilizer is root cause for increased global methane emissions, not cows

While the cattle industry is repeatedly accused of being the main culprit for increased global methane emissions (and a leading cause for climate change), a new study shows that the fertilizer industry is the root cause.

The report by researchers from Cornell, published in Elementa, shows that emissions of methane from the industrial fertilizer industry have been ridiculously underestimated (and, it turns out, based on self-reporting) and the production of ammonia for fertilizer may result in up to 100 times more emissions than previously estimated for this sector. What's worse is that these newly calculated emission amounts from the industrial fertilizer industry are actually more than the total amount the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated for all industries to emit across the U.S.

Full study here:

Anesthetic Gas: A Risk for Veterinary Workers

There is increasing evidence that exposure to isoflurane, the anesthetic gas commonly used in veterinary practice, may pose health risks, including nervous or reproductive system harm.

A new Workplace Hazard Update, Isoflurane May Harm Veterinary Worker Health (PDF), details how staff are exposed. It also provides guidance for minimizing exposure.

A California Department of Public Health investigation found high levels of isoflurane in workers' breathing zones during common veterinary procedures. Staff at veterinary practices were often unaware of the dangers of isoflurane, Cal/OSHA requirements, and ways they can protect themselves from the hazard.

Did you know?

Cal/OSHA has set a legal limit on the maximum level of isoflurane that can be in the air workers breathe. This Permissible Exposure Limit, or PEL, for isoflurane is 2 parts per million (ppm). CDPH found that many veterinarians, clinic owners, and workers were unaware of this regulation.

Email Occupational Health Watch with feedback about this update or change of address.

Two veterinary workers wearing masks, surgical gloves, and hats operate on a dog in a clinic.

Veterinary staff may be unaware that anesthetic gas is getting in the air they breathe.



Isoflurane May Harm Veterinary Worker Health (PDF) – OHB workplace hazard update
Recommendations on Control of Waste Anesthetic Gases in the
Workplace (PDF) – American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia
Guidelines for Workplace Exposures to Anesthetic Gases – OSHA

May 30, 2019

DOE Releases New Study Highlighting the Untapped Potential of Geothermal Energy in the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy released a
groundbreaking analysis detailing how the United States can benefit
from the vast potential of geothermal energy.

The analysis culminated in a report, GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat
Beneath Our Feet, which summarizes findings showing that geothermal
electricity generation could increase more than 26-fold from
today—reaching 60 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2050. In
addition to describing electricity-generation opportunities, the
GeoVision analysis also shows how geothermal can enhance heating and
cooling solutions for American residential and commercial consumers
through direct-use and heat-pump technologies.

"There is enormous untapped potential for geothermal energy in the
United States," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. "Making
geothermal more affordable can increase our energy options for a more
diverse electricity generation mix and for innovative heating and
cooling solutions for all Americans."

The GeoVision analysis represents a multiyear collaboration among
industry, academia, the National Laboratories, and federal agencies to
evaluate the potential for different geothermal resources. The effort
assessed opportunities to expand nationwide geothermal energy
deployment through 2050 by improving technologies, reducing costs, and
addressing project development barriers such as long permitting

In the electric sector, under business as usual, geothermal generation
capacity will grow to 6 GW by 2050. By accelerating geothermal
development timelines, geothermal capacity could more than double from
business as usual, to 13 GW. Geothermal capacity could increase even
further—to 60 GW—by combining faster development timelines with
technology improvements.

In the non-electric sector, technology improvements could enable more
than 17,500 geothermal district-heating installations nationwide, and
28 million U.S. households could realize cost-effective heating and
cooling solutions through the use of geothermal heat pumps.

The analysis also examined economic benefits to the U.S. geothermal
industry; investigated opportunities for desalination, mineral
recovery, and hybridization with other energy technologies for greater
efficiencies and lower costs; and quantified potential environmental
impacts of increased geothermal deployment.

In addition to summarizing opportunities for geothermal energy in the
United States, the GeoVision analysis includes a roadmap of actionable
items for stakeholders to reduce technology costs and speed up
project-development timelines.

For more information on the Energy Department's Office of Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy, or the Geothermal Technologies
Office, visit the EERE website. To learn more about the GeoVision
report, visit the Energy Department's GeoVisionanalysis webpage.


May 24, 2019

In case you forgot...60,000 tons of dangerous radioactive waste still sits on Great Lakes shores

More than 60,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel is
stored on the shores of four of the five Great Lakes — in some cases,
mere yards from the waterline — in still-growing stockpiles.

"It's actually the most dangerous waste produced by any industry in
the history of the Earth," said Gordon Edwards, president of the
nonprofit Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

The spent nuclear fuel is partly from 15 current or former U.S.
nuclear power plants, including four in Michigan, that have generated
it over the past 50 years or more. But most of the volume stored along
the Great Lakes, more than 50,000 tons, comes from Canadian nuclear
facilities, where nuclear power is far more prevalent.

It remains on the shorelines because there's still nowhere else to put
it. The U.S. government broke a promise to provide the nuclear power
industry with a central, underground repository for the material by
1998. Canada, while farther along than the U.S. in the process of
trying to find a place for the waste, also doesn't have one yet.

Read more from source:

May 23, 2019

Work-Related Asthma in the ER

Most people who go to work don't expect to end up at the emergency
room for asthma. According to a Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program
(WRAPP) pilot study, an estimated 1 in 4 adults who wound up in the ER
for asthma in 2016 were there because of their exposures from work.

The study also found that 60% of people surveyed by phone after ER
visits experienced asthma symptoms due to work at some point in their

During Asthma Awareness Month in May, workplaces can share information
in multiple languages about preventing work-related asthma by
decreasing or eliminating exposures. Examples include having a
fragrance-free policy, using asthma-safer cleaning products, cleaning
with microfiber, and minimizing wood dust in the air.

Photo: Hospital workers can be exposed to disinfectants that can
trigger or cause asthma.


Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program (WRAPP) - OHB website

Cleaning Products, Disinfectants, and Work-Related Asthma - OHB topic page

Fragrances and Work-Related Asthma - OHB topic page

Pool Chemicals and Work-Related Asthma - OHB topic page

Wood Dust and Work-Related Asthma - OHB topic page


May 21, 2019

Improvements to New Chemicals Website Increase Transparency

EPA has updated its new chemicals statistics webpage to make it easier
to find and understand how many chemicals are in each stage of the new
chemical review process. The page now includes a flow chart showing
the number of new chemicals cases (PMNs, SNUNs and MCANs) at each
stage of review and detailed descriptions of each step in the process.

These changes are the first step in a larger effort to increase the
transparency of the new chemicals program and ensure stakeholders and
the public can quickly and easily view EPA's progress in reviewing new
chemicals submissions as the Agency receives them.

For more information visit:

May 14, 2019

​EPA to Hold First Meeting of the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will hold the first meeting of the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act), for Pigment Violet 29 (PV29), the first chemical of the initial 10 chemicals undergoing review.

"This will be an important opportunity for the science experts on this new committee to provide their scientific and technical advice to EPA," said EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. "This peer review ensures scientific rigor and enhances transparency of the risk evaluation process."

The purpose of the June 18-21, 2019, SACC meeting is for EPA to get the independent review of the science underlying the PV29 risk assessment, including the hazard assessment, assessment of dose-response, exposure assessment, and risk characterization. Additionally, this meeting will include an orientation on TSCA and how EPA is evaluating chemicals in commerce as prescribed in the Lautenberg Act. EPA will use the scientific advice, information and recommendations from the SACC, as well as public comments, to inform the final risk evaluation.

The public has an opportunity to provide comments before and during the meeting. In March 2019, EPA re-opened the public comment period on the draft risk evaluation. The public has from April 17, 2019 until May 17, 2019 to provide comments in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0604 on

This peer review meeting was rescheduled from an earlier meeting that was previously canceled due to the lapse in appropriations.

May 2, 2019

EPA to Propose Revisions to Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) Rule

(PAINT.ORG), EPA provided notice in the Federal Register that it will be releasing a proposed rule to revise its Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule. The agency said the proposed amendments would support Agency data collection efforts, align reporting with amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by requiring that confidentially claims be substantiated, and make chemical reporting easier by streamlining complex submissions.

EPA aims to amend the CDR rule to update the definition of small entities (small manufacturers), who are exempt from reporting; add exemptions for specific types of byproducts; simplify reporting, including allowing manufacturers to use certain processing and use data codes already in use as part of international codes developed through the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; and remove outdated rule text and consolidate exemptions.

EPA noted that the proposed revised definition for small entities may reduce the burden on chemical manufacturers by increasing the number of manufacturers considered small.

TSCA Section 8(a) authorizes EPA to require, by rulemaking, manufacturers (including importers) and processors of chemical substances to maintain records and/or report such data as EPA may reasonably require to carry out the TSCA mandates. Information that can be required to be reported may include the following:

  • Chemical or mixture identity
  • Categories of use
  • Quantity manufactured or processed
  • By-product description
  • Health and environmental effects information
  • Number of individuals exposed
  • Method(s) of disposal

The current CDR rule requires manufacturers (including importers) of certain chemical substances listed on the TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory (TSCA Inventory) to report data on chemical manufacturing, processing, and use every four (4) years.

Once the official rule EPA proposal is published in the Federal Register, the agency will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days.

​EPA and federal partners seek public input on draft GLRI Action Plan III

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its federal partners are seeking additional input from the public on developing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan III. The plan will outline priorities and goals for the GLRI for the years 2020-2024. Input will be received until May 24, 2019.

Last summer, EPA received input on priorities for Action Plan III through six public engagement sessions convened across the Great Lakes basin. Feedback was received from the general public and representatives of agriculture, industry, academia, local government, non-profits, and metropolitan planning organizations. EPA also consulted with the Great Lakes states and tribes throughout the draft plan's development.

The draft plan and a link to provide input are available at:

CSB Calls on EPA to Update HF Study in Wake of the 2017 Husky Refinery Fire

Washington, D.C. April 24, 2019 - Today, the US Chemical Safety Board released a letter calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to review its existing Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) study to determine the effectiveness of existing regulations as well as the viability of utilizing inherently safer alkylation technologies in petroleum refineries.

CSB Interim Executive Kristen Kulinowski said, "In the last 4 years, the CSB has investigated two refinery incidents where an explosion elevated the threat of a release of HF. Refinery workers and surrounding community residents are rightly concerned about the adequacy of the risk management for the use of hazardous chemicals like HF. The EPA should review its 1993 HF study to ensure the health and safety of communities near petroleum refineries utilizing HF."

HF is a highly toxic chemical that can seriously injure or cause death at a concentration of 30 parts per million (PPM), which is used in about fifty of the U.S.'s approximately 150 refineries, as well as many other industries. In a refinery, the chemical is used as a catalyst in the creation of a blending agent for high octane gasoline. In both of its investigations, the CSB conducted a public hearing in which members of the surrounding communities expressed their concerns about the adequacy of the risk management strategies for the use of HF and the effectiveness of community notification procedures in the event of a catastrophic release.

Kulinowski said, "The EPA is the appropriate agency to assess the adequacy of risk management for the use of chemicals like HF. Refiners, their workforce and communities that surround the refineries need assurances that the risk plans are adequate to prevent a catastrophic release."


Apr 17, 2019

The rise of Candida auris embodies a serious and growing public health threat: drug-resistant germs.

(NewYorkTimes) Last May, an elderly man was admitted to the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai Hospital for abdominal surgery. A blood test revealed that he was infected with a newly discovered germ as deadly as it was mysterious. Doctors swiftly isolated him in the intensive care unit.

The germ, a fungus called Candida auris, preys on people with weakened immune systems, and it is quietly spreading across the globe. Over the last five years, it has hit a neonatal unit in Venezuela, swept through a hospital in Spain, forced a prestigious British medical center to shut down its intensive care unit, and taken root in India, Pakistan and South Africa.

Recently C. auris reached New York, New Jersey and Illinois, leading the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add it to a list of germs deemed "urgent threats."

Read full: NewYorkTimes

Apr 12, 2019

Post Fukushima - 23 countries still have bans on food imports from Japan because of the nuclear incident.

In 2015, the Japanese government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

Japan said all the seafood it ships is safe because it meets strict standards on radioactive substances.

Japan called South Korea's actions unfair and discriminatory.

A WTO dispute panel supported Japan in February last year and recommended South Korea correct its restrictions.

South Korea appealed that decision.

According to Japan's Agriculture Ministry, a total of 23 countries and territories still have bans on food imports from Japan because of the nuclear incident.


Apr 10, 2019

U.S. Green Building Council Launches LEED v4.1

On April 2,  the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that the new version of the LEED green building program – LEED v4.1 – is now available for cities, communities and homes. According to USGBS, LEED v4.1 certification recognizes leadership by emphasizing performance monitoring, fully integrated design, social equity and human health factors.

Green building standards and codes contain specific restrictions and indoor air quality requirements for paint, coatings, adhesives, and sealants. LEED is one of the most prominent green building standards, alongside the International Green Construction Code, also known as the International Code Council (IgCC). Although LEED is the most dominant rating system in the United States, there is growing competition among rating systems, heightened by an interest in environmentally-friendly building materials. The implementation of these standards by jurisdictions and individuals are driving down volatile organic compound (VOC) limits. There are further efforts toward mandatory emissions testing for interior products to improve indoor air quality and the restriction of chemicals used in building materials.

The updated LEED v4.1, builds on new methodologies for measuring building performance. This includes changes to the Material and Resources (MR) categories and the Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) categories. The VOC Content standards for adhesives and sealants were updated to the most recent South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule 1168. Points for low-emitting materials are now awarded on a scale based on the number of product categories that meet the requirements. The emission evaluation requirement for Paints, Coatings, Adhesives, and Sealants has been reduced to 75% from 90%. There have also been weighting changes for how environmental product declarations are counted under the new v4.1.  These are a few of the changes made under the new rating system which will impact how member companies can maximize LEED credits to their products. The smaller green building standard WELL, has released WELL V2 the Association will continue to track the standard and comment when applicable. The intent of this update was to more align with LEED where possible.

For the residential market, LEED v4.1 combines the familiar and relevant aspects from four previously-existing LEED for homes rating systems (LEED for Low-rise homes, LEED for Midrise Homes, LEED for Core and Shell and LEED for New Construction) to deliver three rating systems – LEED v4.1 Residential: New Single-family homes, LEED v4.1 Residential: New Multifamily homes and LEED v4.1 New Multifamily homes core and shell. According the USGBC, the updated rating system is designed to make the decision to implement LEED easier for residential projects and revitalize the council's approach to the housing market.

For the LEED for Cities and LEED for Communities rating systems, LEED v4.1 expands on the earlier performance based approach to deliver a comprehensive framework to support plan, design, operation and performance management phases of both new and existing cities and communities. The rating systems align with all the UN Sustainable Development Goals and incorporate leadership standards and best practices from complementary systems, like the previously integrated STAR Community Rating System, as well as the PEERTRUEEDGE and SITES programs. According to USGBC, More than 90 cities and communities around the world, representing more than 45 million people, are LEED-certified based on several factors, including water efficiency, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, materials and resources, quality of life, innovation and regional priorities.

Update: Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule

In response to a number of Supreme Court cases that have complicated what constitutes WOTUS, or the "waters of the United States," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers pursued a rulemaking during 2014 and 2015 to revise the regulatory definition of WOTUS. In May 2015, EPA released the final WOTUS rule which disregarded many concerns expressed by industry, including ACA. The 2015 WOTUS rule gave the federal government jurisdiction over some of the smallest waterways in the country, including authority over smaller bodies of water that EPA doesn't already regulate. Since promulgation, the 2015 WOTUS rule was subject to extensive litigation leading up to the eventual stay of the 2015 rule by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

On February 28, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13778 which directed EPA and the Army Corps to review and rescind or revise the 2015 WOTUS rule. As a result, EPA and the Army Corps initiated a comprehensive, two-step process intended to repeal (step one) and revise (step two) the definition of WOTUS.

Since then, the agencies issued three rulemakings pertaining to step one of the process that attempt to: (1) repeal the 2015 WOTUS definition, (2) recodify of the pre-2015 WOTUS definition and regulation, and (3) delay the effective date of the 2015 WOTUS rule to provide additional time and regulatory certainty while the agencies complete their two-step process. These efforts were met with legal action by various entities, though, and several district courts ruled that the agencies did not follow proper procedures to delay implementation of the 2015 WOTUS rule. On March 8, 2019, the Trump administration abandoned its bid to use the courts to delay implementation of the 2015 WOTUS rule. This means that the 2015 WOTUS rule will remain in effect for the foreseeable future in more than 20 states across the country (the other states do not have to follow the 2015 rule because of prior legal rulings in their jurisdictions). Additionally, on March 26, a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio didn't grant an injunction sought by Ohio and Tennessee that would have effectively nullified the 2015 WOTUS definition. According to the judge, those states couldn't substantiate claims that the rule's enforcement would cause irreparable harm to the states.

Despite this setback, EPA and the Army Corps still intend to proceed with their two-step process to repeal and revise the definition of WOTUS through regulatory action. The agencies' June 2018 proposed rule to repeal the 2015 WOTUS rule in its entirety and recodify the pre-2015 regulation is still slated to be finalized sometime in mid-2019. Also, in anticipation of this final rule, EPA and the Army Corps published a proposed rule in February 2019 that formally initiated step two of their process which revises the definition of WOTUS. Of note, the agencies are proposing a baseline concept that "waters of the United States" are waters within the ordinary meaning of the term, such as oceans, rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands, and that not all waters are "waters of the United States."

EPA Publishes List of 40 Chemicals for Prioritization Review under Amended TSCA

On March 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register its list of 40 candidate chemicals for high and low priority under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The list designates 20 high priority and 20 low priority candidates. Several of the high priority chemicals are used in the manufacture of paints, coatings, sealants or adhesives.

EPA must complete the 9-month prioritization process and begin risk evaluations by December 22, 2019.

Under the amended TSCA and related implementing regulations, EPA is required to prioritize 20 chemical substances as candidates for designation as High Priority Substances for risk evaluation and 20 chemical substances as candidates for designation as Low Priority Substances for risk evaluation.

EPA is accepting comments and information germane to the chemical substances through June 19, 2019. EPA is seeking information about the following:

  • The chemical substance's hazard and exposure potential;
  • The chemical substance's persistence and bioaccumulation;
  • Potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations which the submitter believes are relevant to the prioritization;
  • Whether there is any storage of the chemical substance near significant sources of drinking water, including the storage facility location and the nearby drinking water source(s);
  • The chemical substance's conditions of use or significant changes in conditions of use, including information regarding trade names;
  • The chemical substance's production volume or significant changes in production volume; and
  • Any other information relevant to the potential risks of the chemical substance that might be relevant to the designation of the chemical substance's priority for risk evaluation.

Update: AIM VOC Rulemakings in New York, Colorado and California

Colorado and New York are proposing to adopt the Northeast Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) Phase II model rule limiting volatile organic compound (VOC) content for AIM (Architectural and Industrial Maintenance) coatings. In addition, the OTC states will likely begin working on the OTC Phase III AIM model rule in the next year or two, which will be based on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) AIM Suggested Control Measure (SCM) that is likely to be adopted in May 2019.

On Jan. 11, 2019, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment proposed to adopt the OTC Phase II AIM model rule for Colorado. Given that Colorado is currently complying with the federal AIM Rule limits combined with potential climate concerns with the mountainous portions of the state, ACA suggested Colorado instead adopt the more reasonable OTC Phase I Aim model rule limits, or at least first adopt the OTC Phase I limits and then phase in the OTC Phase II limits after two years. Notably, Colorado intends to adopt the AIM rule in July 2019 and include a May 1, 2019 compliance date in its final rule. ACA typically requests at least a one-year compliance date to allow manufacturers and users to prepare for the new limits.

On March 6, 2019, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) also proposed to adopt the OTC II AIM model rule. However, the NYSDEC is also proposing to potentially eliminate the small container exemption and provide only a two-year sell through; every other AIM rule includes at least a three-year sell through period. ACA is preparing comments for NYSDEC's comment deadline of May 20. The department will conduct public hearings on its proposal on May 6, 13 and 14.

As aforementioned, CARB is scheduled to adopt a new AIM coatings SCM in May 2019. The SCM is important since the various California Air Districts will use it to develop their future AIM rule revisions. In addition, the OTC states will likely utilize the SCM in the development of the OTC Phase III AIM model rule in the next year or so.