Toxic Chemicals Found in Carpets

Scientists at three research institutions – Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; U.S. Ecology Center, Michigan; and the University of Notre Dame, Indiana – have analyzed carpet samples and found phthalates and per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFASs). Researchers rated 12 of the 15 samples studied as toxic.

In the 12 samples, the scientists found 3 types of phthalates, including DEHP. In individual samples, they also found flame retardants TCPP and TDCPP along with 8 PFASs. In preliminary measurements, they detected antimicrobials, bisphenol A (BPA), isocyanates, and nonylphenol. But according the report, Testing for Toxics, these findings must be verified by additional examinations.

Nevertheless, the authors regard the results as unsettling. The carpets are sold by the largest manufacturers in Europe. The researchers find the presence of DEHP as particularly critical, given that it was prohibited by the EU in 2015. The law does exempt carpets manufactured from recycled PVC, however. The authors feel that the results show how difficult it is to ban toxic substances from raw materials during the transition to the circular economy.

In March of this year, NGOs demanded that the EU Commission provide EU product guidelines for carpets to enable better monitoring of their contents.

The European Carpet and Rug Association (CRA) sees no need for action. On the contrary, its leaders questioned the methodology used and the interpretation of results and rejected the study.

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Chile About to Implement GHS

The Chilean environmental and health ministries have approved a draft regulation for the classification, labeling, and notification of chemicals and mixtures.

The approval implements the UN’s Global Harmonized System (GHS) and creates a transition period to align labeling and safety data sheets with the UN system.

The announcement on October 26 (only in Spanish) indicates that the notification and evaluation of chemicals will be handled much as they are in the EU. Companies that manufacture hazardous chemicals must notify the appropriate agency about the exact substance involved and about how and in what quantity it is used.

As soon as the final draft is approved, it will appear in Chile’s official journal.

Latin American countries are moving forward with GHS these days. Mexico implemented the law on October 9. Columbia introduced GHS in August. Both countries are responding to the demand of the OECD that all member states implement GHS in their national law.

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Microplastics Found in Human Stool

As part of a pilot study directed by Bettina Liebmann of the Environment Agency Austria and Philipp Schwabl of the Medical University of Vienna, scientists have discovered microplastics in human stool for the first time. The scientists presented their findings at the end of October at the International UEG Gastroenterology Congress in Vienna.

The researchers examined a total of 8 subjects between 33 and 65 years of age. The subjects came from various continents and countries. All of them maintained a nutrition diary and submitted a stool sample. The result of the study? The scientists found microplastics in the stool of all 8 persons, an average of 20 microplastic particles per 10 grams of stool. “In our laboratory, we were able to detect nine different types of plastics ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometers,” explains Bettina Liebmann. PP (polypropylene) and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) were the plastics found most frequently. Exactly how nutrition and the presence of microplastics are related cannot be determined from the small group of subjects. That work should occur as part of a larger study, which should also be able to determine the risks to human health more exactly.

“Although there are initial indications that microplastics can damage the gastrointestinal tract by promoting inflammatory reactions or absorbing harmful substances, further
studies are needed to assess the potential dangers of microplastics for humans,” says Philipp Schwabl.

About 330,000 tons of microplastics are released every year in Germany. That’s the finding of a study conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) (German only) and sponsored by chemical companies, cosmetics manufacturers, water authorities, waste management firms, and universities. The study showed that most microplastic comes from tire wear, emissions from waste treatment, and the abrasion of polymers and bitumen in asphalt.

But microplastics are also created by the weathering and decay of larger plastic elements. However, knowledge about the origin and spread of these secondary microplastics is quite fragmentary. A series of projected research projects based on the initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) should shed some light here.

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Canada Publishes Final Asbestos Regulations

The Canadian government has published its final regulations on asbestos (Prohibition of Asbestos and Products Containing Asbestos Regulations: SOR/2018-196) in the Canada Gazette and introduced new export limitations.

The regulations prohibit the import, sale, and use of asbestos and products containing asbestos. Only the chlor-alkali industry is exempted until 2030.

The regulations take effect on December 30, 2018 and are part of Canada’s strategy to limit asbestos, as announced in December 2016. The government considers it proven that asbestos causes and promotes illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. The government seeks to protect its citizens from such risks.

The chlor-alkali industry is exempted from the regulations until the end of 2029. In that industry, asbestos is an element of cell diaphragms that serve as a filter in the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda. Other products used for military purposes and for occupational safety in nuclear facilities are also exempt.

Along with the asbestos regulations, the Canadian government has also modified the Export Control List Regulations (ESECLR), which defines the conditions for the export of asbestos.

You can find additional information on this topic here.

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UK REACH: British Industry Sounds the Alarm

The implementation of EU REACH into national law in Great Britain (UK REACH) has unpleasant consequences for companies in the UK that have been jointly registering chemicals within the context of SIEF and that do not have full access to substance data. UK REACH now requires a complete data package from these companies. That costs time and money.

According to information platform Chemical Watch, numerous associations and corporate representatives expressed disappointment and criticism at the second Brexit workshop sponsored by the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) held in mid-October in London. The criticism was triggered by the announcement from the British Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) that companies must present complete data within two years to be able to register and market their chemicals legally. The ministry representative in charge, James Dancy, admitted that doing so is likely to be difficult and advised the affected companies to inspect their SIEF agreements in a first step.

The two-year period ignited the most criticism because it’s much too short, especially when studies must be repeated. It would also be complicated, said Jo Lloyd of the consulting firm Environmental Resources Management (ERM), when data from Asian countries like Taiwan and South Korea is to be transferred. These countries have much longer transition periods.

Some representatives, like David Ashworth of the British Association for Chemical Specialities (BACS), also see that in addition to the time problem, it is unclear exactly what data is being demanded when one speaks of a complete data package.

The scope of the uncertainty and the need for information is seen in the number of attendees at the workshop. More than 100 representatives took part, and the event was fully booked within a few hours. A third workshop is to be held in early 2019.

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Amazon Begins a Chemicals Management Program

Amazon, the online retailer with the world’s highest revenue, wants to ban hazardous substances from its products. It has therefore begun its own Chemicals Management Program.

A central part of the program is the collation of a list of hazardous chemicals whose use is already strictly limited (Restricted Substance List: RSL). The list includes 54 substances, among them phthalates, nonylphenol (NP) and nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) surfactants, parabens, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, toluene, and triclosan. All these substances are carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic to reproduction or are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.

The company’s primary focus will first be on Amazon-branded products for baby care, household cleaning, body care, and beauty. In later stages, the company will expand its safety standard to all products.

Amazon has also moved ahead in terms of transparency. Customer access to information about product ingredients should be as simple as access to price data and customer reviews. It will also locate certifications and quality indicators from third parties, such as Safer Choice, Made Safe, Green Seal, and Cradle to Cradle more prominently on its Web site to direct customers’ attention to products that are friendlier to the environment.

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GHS Is Now Mandatory in Mexico

As of October 9, chemicals in Mexico must be classified and labeled according to uniform criteria, those of GHS Revision 5.

In October 2015, the Mexican Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS) published regulations (NOM-018-STPS-2015, only in Spanish) that gave the chemicals industry a three-year transition period, which just ended. Companies must comply with regulations at all workplaces where employees deal with hazardous chemicals.

The OECD made national implementation of GHS mandatory for all member states in July.

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