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December 10, 2010
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National Chemicals Environmental Management
On 4 November, the Environment Protection and Heritage Council of Australia met in Sydney to discuss the progress of key issues of national interest. One of these issues was the implementation of COAG endorsed projects to improve the management of the environmental impacts of chemicals. The Ministers reported significant progress and noted the range of legislative options for establishing the proposed Environmental Chemicals Bureau and the opportunities for increased alignment with the related projects for environmental labelling of chemicals and a performance framework for the monitoring of chemicals in the environment.
Environmental Protection & Heritage Council, 4 November 2010 http://www.ephc.gov.au
Cosmetic products regulations updated
New Zealand’s Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has approved amendments to the rules around cosmetics. The Cosmetic Products Group Standard regulates cosmetics, including toiletries, sunscreens, oral hygiene and other personal care products in New Zealand that contain hazardous substances. It is based on the European Union’s Cosmetics Directive and is reviewed annually to take into account changes made to the EU Directive as well as consideration of any issues we are aware of in comparable jurisdictions such as the US, Canada and Australia and issues raised by interested parties. This year’s amendments include requiring additional warnings on the labels of some hair dyes, modifying the warning statements for fluorine-containing compounds, adding diethylene glycol, phytonadione and phytomenadione to the list of substances not allowed in cosmetic products, and extending the transition periods for some amendments to take effect. In addition, ERMA has added an exclusion clause to the group standard to clarify its scope. This relates to the definition of “cosmetic product”, and excludes substances intended to be ingested, inhaled, injected or implanted into the body. The decision follows an extensive reassessment of the substance by ERMA New Zealand, which considered the risks, costs and benefits of using methyl bromide and evaluated the positive and negative effects on human health, the environment, the market economy, Māori interests and the wider community. This definition is consistent with European regulations. A proposed amendment to include a requirement for sun protection factor (SPF) to be tested and indicated on the label was not adopted. The Authority said the Commerce Commission and Ministry of Consumer Affairs already regulated efficacy claims on products and the purpose of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act was to manage the adverse effects of hazardous substances, not their efficacy. Industry has until 31 October 2011 to comply with the changes. To read the amended Cosmetic Products Group Standard go to: http://www.ermanz.govt.nz/hs/groupstandards/standards/cosmetics/cosmetics.html
ERMA, 16 November 2010 http://www.ermanz.govt.nz
China faces challenge implementing food safety: FDA
China’s implementation of food safety standards is the country’s biggest hindrance in exporting high quality, trusted food products overseas, said an official with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Chinese government has made great strides in addressing food safety issues after a series of problems including a tainted milk powder scandal in 2008, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor told reporters in Shanghai. “It is a challenge to implement because we have to develop the expertise, the training of the inspectors and common approaches to inspection,” Taylor said. In February, China established a national food safety commission, headed by Vice Premier Li Keqiang, following tainted milk powder in 2008 sickened thousands of babies and destroyed the credibility of the country’s dairy industry. Food products from China, including dairy and seafood, are categorised with import alert systems on entry to the United States to ensure that products meet safety requirements. Taylor said it was hard to say the percentage of products that did not meet U.S. safety standards, but reiterated that Chinese officials were investing heavily to improve their regulatory system. “An important development is the new food safety law that was passed here in 2009 with a very high-level food safety committee. It just shows a forthright approach to making food safety an important priority, to creating more transparency in the food safety system,” he said. Globally, the “made in China” brand continues to be under close scrutiny due to the persistence of food and product safety breaches that have alarmed consumers and sparked criminal cases leading, in some cases, to executions. “The brand is in the eye of the beholder. The Chinese government is making serious efforts and moving in the right direction, so I think ultimately consumers will make that decision, but we are optimistic about the future of our partnership with China,” Taylor said
Reuters Health, 10 November 2010 http://www.reuters.com/news/health
EPA Releases Reports on Dioxin Emitted During Deepwater Horizon BP Spill/Reports find levels of dioxins created during controlled burns were below levels of concern
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released two peer reviewed reports regarding the dioxins emitted during the controlled burns of oil during the Deepwater Horizon BP spill. Dioxins are a category that describes a group of hundreds of potentially cancer-causing chemicals that can be formed during combustion or burning. The reports concluded that while small amounts of dioxins were created by the burns, the levels that workers and residents would have been exposed to were below EPA’s levels of concern. Controlled burning of oil on the surface of the ocean (also called in situ burning) was one method used by the Unified Command during the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, to reduce the spread of oil and environmental impacts at the shoreline. A total of 411 controlled burn events occurred of which 410 could be quantified, resulting in the combustion of an estimated 222,000 to 313,000 barrels of oil (or 9.3 to 13.1 million gallons). With the help of the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA conducted sampling of emissions at the source of the controlled burns in the Gulf of Mexico to determine if dioxins could be detected. The sampling was conducted to identify potential dioxin exposures and determine the potential risks from inhalation to workers in the vicinity of the fires, risks from inhalation to the general population and risks to the general population from consuming fish caught in the area. The first report summarising EPA’s sampling effort indicates that while dioxins were created from the burning of oil on ocean water, they were created at low levels – levels similar to the emissions from residential woodstoves and forest fires. The second report, co-authored with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), presents the results of a screening risk assessment for the dioxins emitted from the controlled oil burns. The results suggested that increased cancer risk due to exposure to the dioxins released from the controlled burning of oil was small - less than a 1 in 1,000,000 increased cancer risk. Furthermore, additional cancer risks for inhalation by workers and onshore residents and fish consumption by residents were lower than risk levels that typically are of concern to the agency. Typically, the agency has a concern when the risk is greater than 1 in 1,000,000. Had the spill of oil continued, the results of these measurements would have been used by the Unified Command to determine if burning should continue. However, the well was capped on 15 July 2010 and the last in situ burn occurred on 19 July 2010.Consequently, these results are most useful to inform and improve the agency’s ability to respond to future oil spills. EPA and other federal agencies have developed a broad set of questions and answers to provide the public with general information on dioxins, including what they are, where they can be found, and major sources of dioxins. The questions and answers explain the review process for the dioxin reassessment and discuss possible effects of dioxin exposure in humans, including advice about consumption of food that might contain dioxins. Both reports and questions and answers about the reports can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/research/dioxin/
Environmental Protection Agency, 12 November 2010 http://www.epa.gov
U.S. Policymakers Consider a National Renewable Electricity Standard
According to one of the main recommendations in a newly released report, Integrating Renewable Electricity on the Grid, by the American Physical Society’s Panel on Public Affairs (POPA), U.S. policymakers must focus more closely on developing new energy storage technologies as they consider a national renewable electricity standard. Establishing a national renewable electricity standard will help to unify the fragmented U.S. grid system — an important step in the wider adoption of using more wind and solar for energy generation. However, without the focus on storage devices, it will be difficult to meet proposed renewable electricity standards, the report states. Wind and solar energy are variable by nature: The sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. The amount of electricity a consumer has available to complete household chores could change in a matter of seconds, hours or days — placing great importance on the need for robust storage methods. Another challenge facing the grid involves the long-distance transmission of renewable electricity from places that receive a lot of wind and sun to those that do not. “We need to move faster to have storage ready to accommodate, for example, 20 percent of renewable electricity on the grid by 2020,” said George Crabtree, co-chairman of the POPA study panel and a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. “And, by devoting the necessary resources to the problem, I am confident that we can solve it.” The report addresses variability and transmission issues by urging the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to increase research on materials to develop energy storage devices and by encouraging the DOE to focus on long-distance superconducting direct current cables to bring renewable electricity to load centres, lessening the chance that power will be disrupted. Furthermore, the report calls for examining renewable electricity in light of a unified grid instead of one that is fragmented and improving the accuracy of weather forecasts to allow for better integration of renewable electricity on the grid. The APS report is unique among grid studies: Its recommendations cover both scientific and business perspectives.
The specific recommendations follow. For energy storage, DOE should:
Develop an overall strategy for energy storage in grid-level applications that provides guidance to regulators to recognise the value that energy storage brings to both transmission and generation services on the grid;
Conduct a review of the technological potential for a range of battery chemistries, including those it supported during the 1980s and 1990s, with a view toward possible applications to grid energy and storage; and
Increase its research and development in basic electrochemistry to identify materials and electrochemical mechanisms that have the highest potential use in grid-level energy storage devices.
For long-distance transmission, DOE should:
Extend the Office of Electricity program on High Temperature Superconductivity for 10 years, with a focus on direct current superconducting cables for long-distance transmission of renewable electricity from source to market;
Accelerate research and development on wide band gap power electronics for controlling power flow on the grid, including alternating to direct current conversion options and development of semiconductor based circuit breakers operating at 200 kilovolts and 50 kilo amperes.
In the business case, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation should:
Develop an integrated business case that captures the full value of renewable generation and electricity storage in the context of transmission and distribution; and
Adopt a uniform integrated business case as their official evaluation and regulatory structure, in concert with the state Public Utility Commissions.
While forecasting, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, the National Centre for Atmospheric Research and private vendors should:
Improve the accuracy of weather and wind forecasts on time scales from hours to days.
Forecast providers, wind plant operators, and regulatory agencies should develop uniform standards for preparing and delivering wind and power generation forecasts.
Wind plant operators and regulatory agencies should develop:
Operating procedures to respond to power generation forecasts.
Criteria for contingencies, the response to up-and-down-ramps in generation and the response to large weather disturbances, and
Response other than maintaining conventional reserve, including electricity storage and transmission to distant load centres
Environmental Protection News, 17 November 2010 http://www.epa.gov
OSHA will hold informal public hearing on proposed rule to prevent worker injuries on walking-working surfaces
OSHA will hold an informal public hearing commencing on 8 January 2011, on the proposed rule revising the Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards to improve worker protection from slip, trip, and fall hazards. ‘These public hearings will provide an important opportunity for stakeholders who will be impacted by the rule to share their concerns and provide input on the proposal,’ said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. The proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on 24 May, will prevent approximately 20 workplace fatalities and more than 3,700 injuries that are serious enough to result in lost work days annually. ‘Injuries and fatalities from fall hazards are a leading cause of work-related injuries and we need to have the best rule possible to ensure that we effectively address this serious hazard,’ said Michaels. Proposed revisions will include specific criteria for personal fall protection equipment that are consistent with industry voluntary consensus standards. Revisions will also better align OSHA’s general industry walking-working surfaces standards with the Agency’s construction and shipyard industry standards.
Environmental Expert, 18 November 2010 http://www.environmental-expert.com
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