On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act into law.  The Act is the first significant change to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act in 40 years and amends the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methods for reviewing chemical substances before they are marketed and allowed to be used in consumer products.

The Act has several new key features: Continue Reading Toxic Substances Control Act Revised for the 21st Century

On December 8, 2015, researchers at Harvard University announced that they had examined a small sample of flavored e-cigarette products and found that some contained diacetyl, a chemical suspected of causing respiratory illness. In the wake of this announcement, some news organizations reported that the Harvard paper established a “link” between e-cigarettes and bronchiolitis obliterans, a disease associated with diacetyl exposure.

But the Harvard study did not discuss any connection between diacetyl in e-cigarettes and respiratory illness. The researchers merely noted the presence of diacetyl in e-cigarettes and that diacetyl has been associated with respiratory disease in the industrial context. The study drew no conclusions about the possible health risks that vaping poses to consumers. Instead, the study’s authors recommended that this new potential source of exposure to diacetyl be further evaluated. Continue Reading Researchers Turn Their Attention to Diacetyl in E-Cigarettes

It’s not very often that manufacturers and many environmental groups agree on a chemical safety regulation. But that’s what’s happening with the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which passed the Senate late last week, and would reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Continue Reading Non-Toxic Reform: Senate Passes TSCA Revisions

“The dose makes the poison” is a maxim of toxicology. The phrase is attributed to Paracelsus, a true Renaissance Man and founder of the field who lived more than 500 years ago, long before the industrial, chemical/pharmaceutical, and technological revolutions.   In today’s society, we are exposed to various chemical substances on a daily basis. Some of those chemicals may be harmless and some may be harmful. Many of the chemicals we experience have none of the so-called “onion properties” – – you could be exposed and never know it. A recent USA Today article highlighted a new wearable technology that can detect the various chemical substances encountered in daily life. The technology has the potential to change how we understand and control individual exposures to potentially harmful substances. Continue Reading Monitoring Your Personal Environment with Wearable Technology

Recent reports purport to link certain chemicals used in nail salon products to serious health problems such as cancer, asthma, respiratory disease, and miscarriages.  Though past efforts to impose stricter regulations on these chemicals have been largely unsuccessful, a recent slew of New York Times articles have drawn significant attention to the issue.  In response, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a number of emergency regulations to protect salon workers, and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has announced his own efforts to address the issue.  These responses could indicate a willingness on the part of lawmakers to revisit the laws regulating the cosmetics industry. Continue Reading Scrutiny of Nail Salon Chemicals Raises Mass Tort Risk

In response to mounting pressure, the FDA issued warnings to five supplement companies last week regarding the risks associated with beta-methylphenethylamine, or BMPEA. BMPEA is widely used in weight loss and energy supplements, but has an ingredient similar to amphetamine.

Supplement makers claimed that BMPEA was allowed in dietary supplements because it occurred naturally in a shrub known as Acacia rigidula. Dr. Pieter Cohen of Harvard University, who has criticized the FDA’s slow action on BMPEA, conducted a study of products listing Acacia rigidula as an ingredient, suspecting it signified the presence of BMPEA.

In its letters to the supplement companies, the FDA stated that it was “aware of no evidence to support an assertion that BMPEA is, in fact, a constituent of this botanical [Acacia rigidula].”

Continue Reading UPDATE: FDA Speeds Up the BMPEA Battle

Whether you’re a bodybuilder trying to lose that last percentage of body fat or an average person looking to lose a few extra pounds, weight loss supplements can offer a quick fix. But a number of popular fat-burning weight loss supplements may contain the chemical known as Beta-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), a stimulant recently criticized for its “amphetamine-like” qualities. A recently published study led by Dr. Pieter Cohen of Harvard Medical School found BMPEA in eleven supplements on the shelves at various vitamin or supplement stores.

Continue Reading Bodybuilder Beware: Study Raises Concerns About Speed-Like Substance in Supplements

The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) Bureau of Land Management issued a long-awaited final rule for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. The rule was announced on Friday, March 20, 2015. According to the DOI’s press release these commonsense standards will improve safety and help protect groundwater by updating requirements for well-bore integrity, wastewater disposal and public disclosure of chemicals.” The new rule applies to hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian tribal lands across the United States. Approximately 100,000 wells will be affected by the rule which is set to be published in the Federal Register on March 26, 2015 (can be found here) and will become effective 90 days after its publication (June 18, 2015).

The new rule is the result of a multi-year process that included multiple draft rules, stakeholder meetings and regional public forums, as well as more than 1.5 million public comments. The rule met with immediate criticism upon release from both environmental groups (claiming the rule does not go far enough) and industry groups (claiming the rule goes too far). Continue Reading Federal Fracking Rule Announced

Two recent deaths allegedly resulting from the use of powdered caffeine has led to litigation and a public alert from the FDA, warning consumers of the dangers of the substance. One teaspoon of powdered caffeine is roughly equivalent to 25 cups of coffee. The product is not available in stores, but can be purchased in bulk over the internet.  According to Laura MacCleery, an attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer rights advocacy group, powdered caffeine is the most dangerous dietary supplement on the market.  The FDA reports that symptoms of caffeine overdose can include “rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures and death. Vomiting, diarrhea, stupor and disorientation are also symptoms of caffeine toxicity.” Continue Reading Lawsuits Fuel Debate About Powdered Caffeine

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) recently released new revisions to Proposition 65’s “safe harbor” warning language regulations.  Under OEHHA’s proposal, businesses selling goods in California will no longer be able to rely on the standard simple warning language that has been used for decades.  Instead, business will be required to issue new Prop 65 warnings.  A public hearing will be held on March 25, 2015 to discuss the new revisions. 

The new warning language includes: Continue Reading Proposed Changes To Prop 65 Warning Requirements Will Increase Burden on Manufacturers