On November 29, EPA announced that it will review the hazard and exposure risks caused by asbestos. Asbestos will be one of the first ten substances to be evaluated under the TSCA amendments commonly referred to as the Lautenberg Act. As we have discussed elsewhere, TSCA now requires EPA to produce a risk evaluation work plan for these substances by June 2017 and complete its evaluation within three years following. If EPA determines any of these substances pose unreasonable risks, then EPA must take further action to mitigate any risks.
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After considering them for more than a year, California’s Office of Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has finally issued new “Safe Harbor” warning regulations for Proposition 65. The new regulations intend to provide consumers “more specificity” about the chemical content of products sold in California.  They take effect on August 30, 2018 and are set forth in California Health and Safety Code sections 25600, et seq.
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Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned 19 chemicals found in antibacterial hand and body washes. Included in this list is triclosan, a widely used ingredient in antibacterial soap.

The FDA’s new rule has been in the works for nearly four decades. The FDA proposed its first triclosan regulation in 1978 but never moved forward. Then, in 2013, the FDA called for a re-evaluation of over-the-counter antibacterial products. It asked companies to conduct additional studies and provide information on the safety and effectiveness of their antibacterial products containing any of one of 22 different ingredients.
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Talc—the softest mineral on earth—historically had been a key ingredient in baby powder. Because baby powder is a cosmetic product, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate it. But talc has faced recent legal challenges by long-time baby powder users, alleging that talc may have caused ovarian cancer.
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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:
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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.
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“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.
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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.
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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].”


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