Aug 17, 2017

New California law gives air quality officials the power to quickly shut down polluters

The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, follows years of frustration in communities such as Paramount, Boyle Heights and Maywood — where regulators have struggled to stop highly polluting operations after discovering hot spots of Chromium-6, lead and other dangerous pollutants.

Currently, air regulators seeking orders to curtail operations that violate rules and threaten public health must go through an administrative hearing board. The process can take months, while the pollution continues unabated.

As a result, residents "were being told: 'You are in grave danger, but we can't do anything about it,' " said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), who wrote the legislation.

"What we're saying today is that when we have imminent health threats, that trumps the right to do business," Garcia said.

The new law will give pollution control officers the power to issue immediate orders to stop polluting operations when violations pose an "imminent and substantial" danger. The orders are temporary, pending a hearing before an administrative board.

South Coast Air Quality Management District Executive Officer Wayne Nastri welcomed the legislation as "an important new tool to protect public health."

The district, which sponsored the legislation, has pointed to five recent cases where inadequate enforcement authority prevented it from taking swift action to stop a facility's harmful emissions.

Questions remain as Gov. Brown signs legislation to address neighborhood-level air pollution

At Anaplex Corp., a metal-finishing facility in Paramount, it took the South Coast air district months to secure an administrative order to curtail operations after the carcinogen Chromium-6 was detected last fall at levels up to 350 times normal. The district has said it would have used the new authority to stop dangerous levels of lead from the now-shuttered battery recycler Exide Technologies in Vernon and Chromium-6 from Hixson Metal Finishing in Newport Beach, among other cases.

Some industry groups opposed the legislation, while cities backed it as giving air districts the tools they need to protect residents.

Nastri said the law "provides additional protection for the breathing public and also ensures due process for any affected businesses."

The new powers come as state lawmakers are imposing requirements that local air districts do more to monitor and reduce toxic pollutants. Brown last month signed legislation aimed at improving neighborhood-level air quality as part of a deal to extend the state's cap-and-trade program to fight climate change.

Stronger enforcement authority also is key to a $47-million air toxics plan that the South Coast district announced earlier this year to find and reduce emissions from the worst-polluting facilities over the next seven years. The initiative targets an estimated 1,100 metal-processing facilities that may be releasing toxic pollutants such as Chromium-6, lead, arsenic, cadmium and nickel.

Researchers creating warning system for toxic algae in lakes

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Satellites in space and a robot under Lake Erie's surface are part of a network of scientific tools trying to keep algae toxins out of drinking water supplies in the shallowest of the Great Lakes.

It's one of the most wide-ranging freshwater monitoring systems in the U.S., researchers say, and some of its pieces soon will be watching for harmful algae on hundreds of lakes nationwide.

Researchers are creating an early warning system using real-time data from satellites that in recent years have tracked algae bloom hotpots such as Florida's Lake Okeechobee and the East Coast's Chesapeake Bay.

The plan is to have it in place within two years so that states in the continental U.S. can be alerted to where toxic algae is appearing before they might detect it on the surface, said Blake Schaeffer, a researcher with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"You don't have to wait until someone gets sick," said Schaeffer, one of the leaders of the project.

Across the nation, farm runoff, sewage overflows and lawn fertilizers have washed into lakes and rivers and left behind unsightly algae blooms that can sicken people and pets and harm wildlife.

But often the first reports of harmful algae on a lake come from boaters seeing something strange in the water, said Rick Stumpf, of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

He began using satellites in 2008 to monitor algae on Lake Erie. That work took on a new urgency after a bloom near Toledo's shoreline contaminated the drinking water for more than 400,000 people three years ago.

The EPA in recent years has been testing using the satellite data to watch for algae in lakes in California, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Earlier this year, the data helped detect an algae bloom in a Utah Lake near Salt Lake City before officials on the ground knew about it.

"That's exactly what we we're trying to accomplish," Schaeffer said.

The system in development will cast a wider net at a time when many states can't afford to monitor every lake threatened by harmful algae. The goal is to use the satellite data to watch for algae on 1,800 lakes across the nation and provide four different types of water quality measurements on close to 170,000 lakes.

What satellites can't measure is the amount of toxins in the water. That's where samples gathered by researchers come into play. That too can be expensive so researchers have developed an underwater lab that sits at the bottom of Lake Erie and both collects water and tests the levels of toxins before sending the results back remotely.

The whole process takes four hours — much less than the day or two it takes to test samples from a boat.

"We call it the 'lab in a can,'" said Tim Davis, a Great Lakes researcher with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

The first robotic lab was launched this summer and two more are in the works. While it's still in the early stages, Davis said it could work in other lakes plagued by algae.

Other researchers are testing drones on Lake Erie to see if digital images they capture can be effective monitoring the algae blooms. Already in use on the lake are buoys that measure algae in the water.

Those leading all of these research efforts say the key is provide as much information as possible. "It's really about using a combination of all of these," Schaeffer said.

Aug 16, 2017

One-Third of American Adults Prescribed Opioids Each Year, and Opioid Deaths Now Leading Cause of Death for People Under 50

MERCOLA - Opioids kill patients more frequently than any other medication used for nonfatal conditions,1 yet disturbing statistics reveal more than one-third of American adults were prescribed these dangerous drugs in 2015.2 Even more shocking, opioid overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.3

More than half of all opioid prescriptions in the U.S. are also issued to patients suffering from anxiety and depression,4 despite the fact that this increases their risk for addiction. Overall, studies show addiction affects about 26 percent of those using opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.5

While back pain is one of the most common reasons for receiving a prescription for a narcotic pain reliever,6 a surprising number of people — especially teens and young adults — receive these potent drugs from their dentist. Women are also increasingly being prescribed opioids during pregnancy and after delivery,7 creating addicts in the womb and destroying families by creating drug-dependent mothers and infants.

Of the 1.1 million pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid in 2007, nearly one-quarter of them filled a prescription for an opioid drug.8 Not surprisingly, statistics9 reveal a disconcerting rise in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Between 2000 and 2009, the prevalence of NAS increased from 1.2 to nearly 3.4 per 1,000 live births.

1 in 3 American Adults Prescribed Opioids Every Year! 

According to Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland, 38 percent of adults (about 92 million people) in the U.S. were prescribed an opioid drug in 2015.10,11,12,13 Women, people over the age of 49 and those without college degrees were most likely to receive a prescription, and the unemployed, uninsured and adults with an annual family income below $50,000 had the highest prevalence of opioid misuse and addiction.

An estimated 5 percent of adults (11.5 million people) misused the drugs, and nearly 1 percent (some 1.9 million people) reported addiction. Interestingly, while women are prescribed opioids more frequently than men, men have a higher rate of misuse — 13 percent compared to 9 percent respectively. Of those misusing the drug:

  • 41 percent reported getting leftover medication from family or friends14,15
  • 64 percent said their use of the drug was motivated by need for physical pain relief
  • 11 percent said they took the pills to relax or get high

According to Compton:16

"Overall, the results indicate that the medical profession is doing a poor job of appropriately prescribing opioid painkillers. Even though the rates have leveled off, we have a long way to go in improving medical care so these are not as overprescribed as they are currently … [T]here are a lot of leftover medications. In many cases, physicians could write smaller prescriptions, or avoid them completely for those who benefit from ibuprofen or acetaminophen."

Nearly 70,000 Physicians Were PAID to Prescribe Opioids

A recent paper17 hints at one of the reasons why opioids are still so vastly overprescribed. Between 2013 and 2015 alone, 68,177 physicians received in excess of $46 million in payments from drug companies marketing narcotic pain relievers.18 In all, that amounts to 1 out of every 12 doctors in the U.S. As noted by pediatrician Scott Hadland, who led the study, "The next step is to understand these links between payments and prescribing practices and overdose deaths."

Conventional Pain Management Needs Radical Overhaul

Dr. Karen Lasser, associate professor of medicine and public health at the Boston University School of Medicine's Clinical Addiction Research & Education (CARE) Unit, told CBS News pain management needs significant revision:19

"Doctors need to adopt a stepped-care approach to pain management. With this approach, doctors would first try to manage pain using nondrug means — such as physical therapy, yoga or acupuncture — or prescribe milder pain medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

There would be guidelines for all the medications you should try before you get to opioids. In addition, patients should have to sign an opioid treatment agreement outlining the risks and benefits of such therapy, so they understand the potential for addiction."

Oral Surgeons and Dentists Are Major Opioid Prescribers

Oral surgeons and dentists, in particular, need to reconsider their prescribing habits. Each year, about 3 million Americans, most under the age of 25, have their wisdom teeth removed, and most if not all receive a prescription for opioids. This, despite research20,21 showing a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen actually works better than opioids for the treatment of pain following wisdom tooth extractions.

As noted by The New York Times,22 "dentists and oral surgeons are by far the major prescribers of opioids for people ages 10 to 19," and even short-term use is associated with future opioid misuse and addiction among teens and young adults.

In fact, children who receive an opioid have a 1 in 3 chance of "lifetime illicit use." According to recent research,23 of the people who received a mere 12-day supply of an opioid, 1 in 4 were still taking the drug one year later, and that includes all age groups. Children and teens are at higher risk for continued use once they're exposed.24

Overdose Deaths Continue to Climb

While you certainly hear more about the dangers of opioids these days, growing awareness has yet to impact death statistics. According to the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics, more Americans died from opioid overdoses in the first nine months of 2016 than in the first nine months of 2015. When broken down into quarters, you can see the death toll from drug overdoses steadily climbing, quarter by quarter.25

  • First quarter of 2015: 16.3 overdose deaths for every 100,000 people
  • Second quarter of 2015: 16.2 overdose deaths per 100,000
  • Third quarter of 2015: 16.7 overdose deaths per 100,000
  • First quarter of 2016: 18.9 overdose deaths per 100,000
  • Second quarter of 2016: 19.3 overdose deaths per 100,000
  • Third quarter of 2016: 19.9 drug overdose deaths per 100,000

Other recent research drives home the severity of the problem, showing opioid deaths have been significantly underestimated. According to this report,26 published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, mortality statistics involving drug overdoses from 2008 through 2014 underestimated opioid-related deaths by 24 percent. Overdose deaths involving heroin was underestimated by 22 percent.

Spike in Fatal Car Crashes Linked to Opioid Use

Overdose deaths are not the only problem associated with skyrocketing opioid use. It's also causing people to die on our roadways. Statistics reveal driving under the influence of drugs now causes more fatal car crashes than drunken driving.

According to a report27,28,29 compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, prescription and/or illegal drugs were involved in 43 percent of fatal car crashes in 2015, while 37 percent involved illegal amounts of alcohol.

Another recent report30 found drivers killed in car crashes while under the influence of opioids specifically rose sevenfold between 1995 and 2015. Among male drivers killed, the prevalence of prescription narcotics in their system increased from 1 percent in 1995 to 5 percent in 2015. Among women, narcotic pain relievers were implicated in 1 percent in 1995 and 7 percent in 2015.

According to lead author Stanford Chihuri, staff associate in the department of anesthesiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, "The significant increase in proportion of drivers who test positive for prescription pain medications is an urgent public health concern.31 "

Co-author Dr. Guohua Li, professor of epidemiology at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, added,32 "The opioid epidemic has been defined primarily by the counts of overdose fatalities. Our study suggests that increases in opioid consumption may carry adverse health consequences far beyond overdose morbidity and mortality."

Avoid Driving Under the Influence of Narcotics

It's important to realize that illegal drugs are far from the only drugs capable of impairing your judgment behind the wheel. Hundreds of medications can impair your driving ability, including some sold over-the-counter. Opioids are certainly part of that list. Drugs — both prescription and illegal — in combination with alcohol is particularly risky.

So, please, if you absolutely must take a prescription painkiller, carefully assess your ability to drive safely. Ideally, let someone else drive. And, if you know someone who is using an opioid, remember that just as with alcohol, "friends don't let friends drive impaired."

President Trump Declares State of Emergency

In related news, a government opioid commission recently called for President Trump to declare a state of emergency to force Congress to fund strategies to curtail and treat opioid addiction.33,34,35

The commission is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Other members include Charlie Barker, governor of Massachusetts, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Bertha Madra, a psychobiology professor at Harvard Medical School. In their White House report, the commission states:36

"According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) … 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose … The opioid epidemic we are facing is unparalleled. The average American would likely be shocked to know that drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined. In fact, between 1999 and 2015, more than 560,000 people in this country died due to drug overdoses — this is a death toll larger than the entire population of Atlanta …

In 2015, nearly two-thirds of drug overdoses were linked to opioids like Percocet, OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl … [H]ere is the grim reality: Americans consume more opioids than any other country in the world. In fact, in 2015, the amount of opioids prescribed in the U.S. was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks.

Since 1999, the number of opioid overdoses in America have quadrupled … Not coincidentally, in that same period, the amount of prescription opioids … quadrupled as well. This massive increase in prescribing has occurred despite the fact that there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain Americans have reported in that time period.

We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor's offices and hospitals in every state in our nation."

President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency on August 10, saying, "The opioid crisis is an emergency … It is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had … We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis."37

Pain and Hopelessness Fuel Opioid Crisis

According to recent research, half of all Americans are living with chronic illness,38 and many addiction specialists believe pain and hopelessness are driving the opioid crisis in the U.S. As noted in The Washington Post:39

"Fatal overdoses from prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999 and heroin overdoses have gone up about six-fold since 2001. But other drugs also play a role. A Post analysis of federal health data found that white women are five times as likely as white men, for example, to be prescribed drugs for anxiety in tandem with painkillers, a potentially deadly combination.

Meanwhile, the suicide rate among middle-aged white women has risen in parallel with prescriptions for often-ineffectivepsychiatric drugs. Both have roughly doubled since 1999 … According to federal health officials, nearly 1 in 4 white women ages 50 to 64 are [sic] being treated with antidepressants. Binge drinking is also on the rise, as women close the gap with heavier-drinking white males."

Limiting the availability of opioids and making overdose-reversal drugs (naloxone) and treatment for drug addiction more readily available are certainly part of the answer. But it's not enough. We have to take a much deeper look at the root of the problem. What is causing all this physical and emotional pain in the first place?

Clearly, the U.S. health care system is blatantly ineffective at treating chronic health problems. Whether ill health is promoting hopelessness or the other way around is difficult to ascertain, but the two appear to be closely intertwined and need to be addressed together. Somehow or another, we need to refocus our efforts to create lives worth living, and improve access to and information about basic disease prevention, such as healthy foods and foundational health-promoting lifestyle strategies.

Nondrug Solutions for Pain Relief

It's important to realize that in addition to the risk of addiction, opioids can also severely impair your health by suppressing your immune function. In fact, several studies show that one primary risk for HIV and AIDS is opiate exposure.40,41,42,43 In cancer patients, opiates have a tendency to produce a rapid decline in health as the drug causes their immune system to falter.

So please remember, opiates are highly immunosuppressive drugs that raise your risk of any number of diseases, as your immune system is your frontline defense against all disease. It's particularly important to avoid opioids when trying to address long-term chronic pain, as your body will create a tolerance to the drug.

Over time, you may require greater doses at more frequent intervals to achieve the same pain relief. This is a recipe for disaster and could have lethal consequences. Following is information about nondrug remedies, dietary changes and bodywork interventions that can help you manage your pain.

Read more from source:

Aug 10, 2017

Marijuana use holds three-fold blood pressure death risk: study

The findings, from a study of some 1,200 people, could have implications in the United States among other countries. Several states have legalized marijuana and others are moving toward it. It is decriminalized in a number of other countries.

"Support for liberal marijuana use is partly due to claims that it is beneficial and possibly not harmful to health," said Barbara Yankey, who co-led the research at the school of public health at Georgia State University in the United States.

"It is important to establish whether any health benefits outweigh the potential health, social and economic risks. If marijuana use is implicated in cardiovascular diseases and deaths, then it rests on the health community and policy makers to protect the public."

Marijuana is also sometimes used for medicinal purposes, such as for glaucoma.

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, was a retrospective follow-up study of 1,213 people aged 20 or above who had been involved in a large and ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In 2005–2006, they were asked if they had ever used marijuana.

For Yankey's study, information on marijuana use was merged with mortality data in 2011 from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, and adjusted for confounding factors such as tobacco smoking and variables including sex, age and ethnicity.

The average duration of use among users of marijuana, or cannabis, was 11.5 years.

The results showed marijuana users had a 3.42-times higher risk of death from hypertension than non-users, and a 1.04 greater risk for each year of use.

There was no link between marijuana use and dying from heart or cerebrovascular diseases such as strokes.

Yankey said were limitations in the way marijuana use was assessed -- including that researchers could not be sure whether people had used the drug continuously since they first tried it.

But she said the results chimed with plausible risks, since marijuana is known to affect the cardiovascular system.

"Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen demand," she said.

Experts not directly involved in the study said its findings would need to be replicated, but already raised concerns.

"Despite the widely held view that cannabis is benign, this research adds to previous work suggesting otherwise," said Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in mental health at Britain's York University.

Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Jeremy Gaunt


Major-General Igor Kirillov told local media Monday that Russia's Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Troops would soon be equipped with the latest generation of robots capable of operating in environments too deadly for their human comrades. The force already uses militarized, mechanical cleanup crews designed to decontaminate sites poisoned by accident or by enemy action; the latest planned deployment is set to help Russia deal with contemporary chemical, nuclear and biological threats.

Related: Russia built a robot that can shoot guns and travel to space

"By 2020, the emergency units whose task is to eliminate the effects of accidents at hazardous facilities will be equipped with new-generation robots," Kirillov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

"The robots currently available to Russia's armed forces are capable of coping with the whole range of tasks by and large, but they already fail to meet the requirements posed to robots of the future," Kirillov said.

Cadets wear gas masks as they take part in exercises at Serpukhov Military Institute of Rocket Forces in April 2010. The Soviet-era Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Troops are set to receive new robots that specialize in decontaminating hazardous sites by 2020.

Russia's Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Troops were first introduced as the Chemical Warfare Troops under the Soviet Union. In 1977, NATO estimated that each Soviet regiment was fitted with one chemical company, according to The New York Times, and the U.S. Army estimated the branch's numbers at between 70,000 and 100,000 in 1984. The force was doubled in 1996 and operates as an independent branch supporting the entire Russian military, though mostly ground forces, according to a report by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Chemical Warfare Troops worked in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant incident in Ukraine. Considered the worst nuclear incident in history, the 1986 meltdown killed dozens of people, affected hundreds of thousands more and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Much of the site remains restricted to the public, and the disaster inspired the military to develop remote-controlled robots capable of entering such hazardous environments.

One of the current models, the RD-RHR, was commissioned in 2005. It stands a little over two feet tall, weighs about 441 pounds and can travel up to 2.3 miles per hour on difficult terrain using tracks.

Read more from: NewsWeek

UT Helps First Responders Prepare for Nuclear Incident

East Tennessee's first responders—paramedics, police, firefighters and the like—got a boost in preparing for the unthinkable recently, as the Institute for Nuclear Security at UT trained them on response efforts following a nuclear incident. 

As reported by the News Sentinel, the course was the first of its kind offered in Tennessee, and quickly filled up due to an overwhelming response.

Howard Hall, head of the Institute and the UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor's Chair for Global Nuclear Security, said the course came out of an observation made by the legislature. 

"We've been teaching folks outside the U.S. for a number of years on behalf of the State Department," Hall told the KNS. "We were asked a very good question earlier this year by some of our colleagues in the legislature who said, 'Well, that's really cool. Why aren't you doing that for Tennessee?' and that was an awfully good question."

Hall, who works in the Department of Nuclear Engineering in UT's Tickle College of Engineering as well as the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, focused the he course on lessons learned from real-life incidents, including Chernobyl and Fukushima. 

The main takeaway?

Communication, time, and distance are the three most critical factors following such disasters. 

More on the story can be read at Knoxnews.Com

Aug 9, 2017


EPA Administrator Pruitt Strengthens TSCA New Chemical Review Program to Ensure Safety, Transparency and Continuous Improvements    WASHINGTON (August 7, 2017) – Following through with Administrator Pruitt's commitment to eliminating the backlog of new chemical cases that were stuck in EPA's review processes upon his confirmation, Administrator Pruitt is reporting that the backlog is eliminated.  "EPA has a tremendous responsibility to review new chemicals intended to enter the U.S. market for safety," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.  "EPA can either be a roadblock to new products, or it can be supporter of innovation and ever-improving chemical safety. I am happy to report that the backlog of new chemical reviews is eliminated. With the ongoing commitment of the staff working on TSCA reviews, and input from stakeholders, our goal is to ensure a new chemicals program that is both protective of human health and the environment, while also being supportive of bringing new chemicals to market."    The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), amended by the 2016 Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, ensures that EPA must make an affirmative safety determination before a new chemical can come to market.  EPA can request more information from chemical companies if it needs more information to make a safety determination.    When Administrator Pruitt was confirmed, over 600 new chemicals were 'stuck' in the EPA review process. The current caseload is back at the baseline and now in line with the typical active workload. Administrator Pruitt committed to being a partner in the regulatory process, and ensuring safety for health and the environment, while also seeking ways to allow new chemicals to enter the market quickly, once EPA is assured that the chemical is not likely to present unreasonable risk for the intended and reasonably foreseen uses.  In addition to announcing the elimination of the backlog, EPA Administrator Pruitt is committing the Agency to a more predictable and transparent process for making safety determinations through a commitment to following operating principles; continuously improving; and, increasing the transparency in the decision-making for new chemical safety determinations.    "Not only do I support reducing the backlogs that have built up at this Agency, I also encourage continuous improvement and increased transparency," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.    Additional Details of New Measures to Strengthen EPA's New Chemicals Review    EPA is committing to the following operating principles in its review of new chemicals:    Where the intended uses in premanufacture notices (PMNs) or other Section 5 notices (such as low volume exemption (LVE) requests) raise risk concerns, EPA will work with submitters, and, if the submitters submit timely amended PMNs addressing those concerns, EPA will generally make determinations based on those amended submissions.    Where EPA has concerns with reasonably foreseen uses, but not with the intended uses as described in a PMN or LVE application, as a general matter, those concerns can be addressed through significant new use rules.    As described in the risk evaluation rule EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed on June 22, 2017, identification of reasonably foreseen conditions of use will be fact-specific. It is reasonable to foresee a condition of use, for example, where facts suggest the activity is not only possible, but, over time under proper conditions, probable.    The purpose of testing in a Section 5 order is to reduce uncertainty in regard to risk.  Specifically, it is to address risk concerns that gave rise to a finding of "may present unreasonable risk" or another Section 5 finding other than "not likely to present unreasonable risk." In addition, consistent with the statute, any request for testing by EPA will be structured to reduce and replace animal testing as appropriate.    EPA supports continued improvement of EPA's TSCA new chemicals program, including:    Redeploying staff to increase the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff working on new chemicals.    Initiating a LEAN exercise to streamline work processes around new chemicals review.    Institutionalizing a voluntary pre-submission consultation process so that submitters have a clear understanding of what information will be most useful for EPA's review of their new chemical submission, and of what they can expect from EPA during the review process. While such engagement prior to submission is an additional up-front time and resource commitment by submitters and EPA, it should more than pay for itself with faster, better-informed  EPA reviews.EPA needs to be more transparent in how it makes decisions on new chemicals under TSCA:    In Fall 2017, EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) intends to release, for public comment and stakeholder engagement, draft documents that will provide the public with more certainty and clarity regarding how EPA makes new chemical determinations and what external information will help facilitate these determinations.    EPA will facilitate a public dialogue on the Agency's goal of continued improvement in the new chemicals review program.    EPA will continue posting weekly web updates of program statistics, so that manufacturers and the public can determine the disposition of cases as quickly as possible.    For more information on the TSCA program, please visit:  

Aug 7, 2017

13 Injured, Including 2 Hospitalized, After Long Beach Container Leaks Chemical Substance in Hazmat Incident

There was a hazmat incident on a ship in the Port of Long Beach (CA) yesterday. It has a couple of interesting issues.

13 workers were injured including one exposed to the vapor from the leaking product.

One of the people injured was a firefighter. (He tripped and fell.)

The substance was propyl acetate. None of the articles I looked at said anything about the size of the leak. 
One article said the container held about 6,000 gallons.

Aug 3, 2017

Hazards of high oxygen concentration, mixing incompatible materials, and more in process safety newsletters

From AIChE's "Process Safety Beacon" newsletters:

Hazards of high oxygen concentration – "Autoignition temperature (AIT) and minimum ignition energy (MIE) are lowered markedly by higher oxygen content. Substances ignite more readily, burn faster, generate higher temperatures, and are difficult to extinguish."

Mixing incompatible materials in storage tanks – "Understand potential hazardous interactions among different materials that you unload into your plant's storage tanks. The July 2016 "Beacon" describes the "Chemical Reactivity Worksheet," a tool which your engineers and chemists can use to help understand chemical interactions."

…but the temperature was below the flash point! – "Because the vessel was operating below the flash point of the contents, the concentration of fuel vapor in the vessel atmosphere was too low for ignition. There should not have been an explosion hazard. But the fuel may not only be present as a vapor (remember dust explosions). The investigation determined that the vessel agitator created a fine mist of liquid droplets (Fig. 2). The tiny droplets were estimated to have an average size of about 1 micron. … Flammability testing demonstrated that the mist could be ignited at room temperature in air – and the mist would be ignited even more easily in a pure oxygen atmosphere."

Are you sure that vessel is empty? – "When returning equipment to service following maintenance, make sure that it is completely clean and does not contain anything that could be incompatible with process materials or operating conditions."

Corroded tanks! – "Holes in tanks can allow toxic or flammable vapors to escape into the surrounding environment. Corrosion can weaken tanks, pipes, or other equipment so they can fail under normal operating conditions."

Incident investigation of a steam pipe failure – "There is a reason for including a team of people with different expertise in an incident investigation… In this incident, the engineers and other experts did not recognize the machine tool marks on the failed pipe, and yet it was immediately obvious to the expert, experienced machinist. His knowledge completely changed the conclusions of the investigation, and was essential for understanding the cause of the incident."


EPA to Clarify Definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army Corps of Engineer published in the Federal Register a proposed rule on July 27, initiating the first step in a two-step process intended to review and revise the definition of "waters of the United States," (WOTUS), which defines the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposal would retract the broad WOTUS definition issued by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers in 2015.

During the 2014-2015 rulemaking process, ACA opposed EPA and the Army's efforts to dramatically expand the scope of federal authority over water and land uses across the United States.

Because of the expanded WOTUS definition, the federal government was given jurisdiction over some of the smallest waterways in the country. On Feb.28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order, "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule," to begin the process to return to the previous WOTUS definition.

The agencies' initial step proposes to apply the definition of WOTUS as it is currently being implemented, that is informed by applicable agency guidance documents and consistent with Supreme Court decisions and longstanding practice. According to EPA, "proposing to re-codify the regulations that existed before the 2015 Clean Water Rule will provide continuity and certainty for regulated entities, the States, agency staff, and the public."

In a second step, the agencies will pursue notice-and-comment rulemaking in which the agencies will conduct a substantive re-evaluation of the definition of WOTUS.

While EPA undertakes that effort, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on Oct. 11. The nation's highest court will consider whether a federal district rather than an appeals court should hear challenges to the 2015 WOTUS Rule.

On Oct. 9, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stayed the updated WOTUS rule. The decision was the result of several lawsuits consolidated into a multi-district case, including suits brought against EPA challenging the rule by Georgia, West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the American Petroleum Institute.

The appellate decision followed just weeks after Judge Ralph Erickson of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota granted a preliminary injunction for 13 states on Aug. 27, 2015, to prevent the rule from taking effect Aug. 28. Those 13 states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming — argued that EPA went outside its authority because the final rule violates state sovereignty, asserting jurisdiction over waters that are subject to state rather than federal control.

Those states prevailed because they sufficiently demonstrated that their claim is likely to succeed on the merits and that the states would suffer irreparable harm without injunctive relief. "The risk of irreparable harm to the states is both imminent and likely," Erickson was quoted in the Washington Post, and noted that the rule would require "jurisdictional studies" of every proposed natural gas, oil or water pipeline project in North Dakota.

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House Passes Bill to Delay Ozone Standards to 2025

On July 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, which would delay implementation of the 2015-set national ozone standards to 2025. The legislation, which ACA supported, passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 229-199. It now heads to the Senate for consideration, where a related measure, S.263, is pending.

The bill, if enacted, would give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) an additional eight years to determine which areas of the country do not meet the 70 parts per billion ozone standards set in 2015. The measure also would extend from every five years to every 10 years the requirement for EPA to review and, if necessary, update the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone and other pollutants.

EPA, in October 2015, lowered the National Ozone Standard from 0.75 parts per million (ppm) to 0.70 ppm. However, EPA's final rule on the ozone standard is forcing a significant number of states that are currently "in attainment" to "non-attainment" status, triggering a requirement to revise their State Implementation Plans and adopt even stricter volatile organic compound (VOC) emission regulations for coatings. This triggering event is being realized as ozone monitors across the country are demonstrating a marked improvement in air quality under the 2008 standard of 0.75 ppm.

"Our nation has worked hard to reduce ozone levels and improve air quality," said bill sponsor, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas). "As we continue this progress, we need to give states better tools to meet air quality goals efficiently. As we work to keep this trend moving in the right direction, my bill provides needed flexibility so that states and localities can adequately achieve new, lower standards with time for compliance. Health remains the first priority in setting standards and giving our local officials the tools they need make the Clean Air Act work. I'm proud that this common sense bill received bipartisan support in the House and I urge the Senate to act quickly as well."

On a related matter, a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on July 11 approved by voice vote a spending bill that proposes cuts for EPA and Department of Interior, would also further delay national ozone standards implementation until October 2025. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies passed the spending bill that goes beyond EPA's announcement in June that it would delay by one year — till October 2018 — implementation of the ozone standards. The spending bill will likely be conflated with other appropriations in an omnibus bill.

On June 6, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt notified governors that states would have an additional year to comply with the NAAQS for ozone promulgated in October 2015. EPA said that it is giving states more time to develop air quality plans, and the agency is looking at providing greater flexibility to states as they develop their plans. Pursuant to the language in the recently enacted FY2017 Omnibus funding bill, Administrator Pruitt is establishing an Ozone Cooperative Compliance Task Force to develop additional flexibilities for states to comply with the ozone standard.

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EPA to Publish Three Final Rules under TSCA

On June 22, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made three final rules available on its website, pending official publication. The rules guide the agency's path for assessing and regulating chemicals in commerce under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA's issuance of final rules for 'Prioritization," "Risk Evaluation," and "Inventory Reset," will impact how EPA evaluates chemicals used in the coatings industry. ACA has been actively developing coatings industry positions and comments on these important rulemakings since their proposal in January 2017. ACA is currently working to provide compliance materials for the industry.  Since the June 22 pre-publication, EPA officially published the prioritization and risk evaluation rules in the Federal Register on July 20.  The inventory reset rule is expected to be officially published soon.

In addition, EPA released its TSCA Risk Evaluation Guidance, outlining the expectations for draft risk evaluations provided by interested parties, and articulating the approach EPA will apply in risk evaluations conducted under the risk evaluation process rule under TSCA Section 6. EPA also published scoping documents that will shape evaluations of the first 10 chemicals for initial risk evaluation: asbestos; pigment violet 29; 1,4-dioxane; cyclic aliphatic bromides cluster; carbon tetrachloride; 1-bromopropane; methylene chloride; n-methylpyrrolidone; trichloroethylene; and tetrachloroethylene.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, signed into law on June 22, 2016, mandates the agency to restrict chemicals already in commerce that pose unreasonable risks to public health and the environment.

The following outlines the rule's evolution from proposal to finalization, with ACA's comments and the rule's final most salient changes summarized.

Inventory Reset Rule

This rule establishes a process to designate substances on the TSCA Inventory as "active" or "inactive," also known as the TSCA Inventory Reset. Once the TSCA Inventory has been "reset," no one would be permitted to manufacture or process an inactive chemical substance without first submitting a notification to EPA prior to manufacturing or processing the substance, provided that notification cannot be more than 90 days prior to the expected date of manufacture or processing.

Under TSCA, Sec. 8(b)(6), EPA is obligated to designate chemicals reported under the 2016 Chemical Data Reporting rule (CDR) as an interim list of active substances. In response to public comment, EPA expanded the interim list to include chemicals reported pursuant to the 2012 CDR rule, in addition to the 2016 CDR rule as required by statute.  In effect, manufacturers and processors of chemical substances listed on either the non-confidential or confidential portion of the TSCA inventory would not have to tell the agency that they made a chemical if they or another manufacturer had already reported information required under the 2012 or 2016 CDR rules. In the final rule, EPA determined that this exemption applies regardless of listing as confidential or non-confidential. The CDR rules required companies that produced certain volumes of a chemical (generally 25,000 pounds or more) submit to the EPA information such as the identity of the chemical they make, the volume made or imported, how the chemical was used, and the extent to which workers were exposed to it.  EPA issues the CDR rule every four years.  With inclusion of chemicals reported during the 2012 and 2016 CDR reporting period in the interim list of active substances, the list now covers substance reported for the last two CDR reporting periods, instead of just the most recent period as instructed in TSCA Section 8(b)(6).

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