How the EU’s new ‘toxic-free’ vision could shape your safer chemicals strategy

January 14, 2021 by  
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How the EU’s new ‘toxic-free’ vision could shape your safer chemicals strategy Bob Kerr Thu, 01/14/2021 – 01:00 For the last two decades, the European Union has played a leadership role in tackling the risks hazardous chemicals pose to our health and environment. It has now proposed a new vision for a “toxic-free environment” and published a strategy for moving the EU towards that goal. Just as its current policies have inspired imitation, it’s likely that these new policies will drive significant changes in the U.S. and elsewhere. While EU chemical restrictions have gained limited traction in U.S. federal statutes and regulations, many state laws increasingly rely on the chemical hazard criteria and analyses from REACH (the principal European chemical regulation) and other EU laws and regulations. California legislation, for example, prohibits sale of electronic products that would be subject to the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive if amounts of cadmium, lead, mercury or hexavalent chrome in those products exceed EU RoHS limits . Many U.S. companies base their restrictions on hazardous chemicals on EU lists or restrictions such as the Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) under REACH — even where unregulated in the U.S. The EU plans to promote safer substitutes or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce. The EU chemical regulation footprint is also strong in the rest of the world. Several countries in Asia, including China, the world’s largest chemical producer, have developed national chemical regulatory programs strongly influenced by the EU’s design. As the EU moves toward adopting specific legal and regulatory measures to begin to realize its vision, government agencies in the U.S. will look closely at the potential for adopting elements of the new EU programs. Beyond the regulatory world, many leading companies already at the forefront of looking to provide safer chemicals — including Walmart , Apple and Ahold Delhaize USA  — are likely to move toward adoption of components of the new EU policies, with ramifications for supply chains and potential competitive benefits in the consumer marketplace. EU’s new chemical policy vision Despite the successes of its current regulatory framework, the European Commission has found that “the existing EU chemicals policy must evolve and respond more rapidly and effectively to the challenges posed by hazardous chemicals.” In October, the commission published ” Chemical Strategy for Sustainability: Towards a Toxic-Free Environment .” To meet that vision, the EU plans a fundamental change in how chemical regulations manage the production and use of chemicals.  As explained by Frans Timmermans, commission vice president responsible for EU’s Green Deal, the EU intends to move away from an approach to chemical regulation that depends primarily on tracking down substances that are hazardous only after they’re already being used in products, even when similar to previously restricted substances. Rather, it will focus on prohibiting their use in the first place: One of the first actions we will take is to ensure that the most harmful chemicals no longer find their way into consumer products. In most cases, we now assess these chemicals one-by-one — and remove them when we find out that they are unsafe. We will just flip this logic on its head. Instead of reacting, we want to prevent. As a rule, the use of the most harmful substances will be prohibited in consumer products. Further, the new EU chemical strategy identifies a wide array of initiatives for realizing its goal of a toxic-free environment. Some are specific to the EU, including EU support for development of innovative green chemistry materials. Others are measures with general applicability for government regulatory agencies or company sustainable chemistry initiatives. Among the key measures are: Extending hazard-based approach to risk management for consumer products: The goal is to ensure consumer products, such as toys, cosmetics, cleaning products, children’s care products and food contact materials, do not contain chemicals that may cause cancer, gene mutations, neurological or respiratory damage or that may interfere with endocrine or reproductive systems. Grouping of chemicals for assessment of hazards and restrictions: Under most regulations, both in the EU and U.S., chemicals are usually assessed and regulated one-by-one. The European Commission plans to address PFAS and other chemicals of concern with a group approach. New hazard categories: The commission plans to finalize a legally binding hazard definition of endocrine disruptors and, to address classes of chemicals recognized as posing serious environmental risks, introduce two new categories of substances of very high concern (SVHCs): persistent; mobile and toxic (PMT); and very persistent and very mobile (vPvM) substances. Accounting for combinative impacts of multiple chemicals on health: Increasing evidence points to the risks from simultaneous exposure to multiple chemicals. The commission plans to integrate requirements for information on the impacts of chemical mixtures more formally into chemical risk assessment requirements. These above approaches are in some leading corporate safer chemical programs and, with clarity from the EU, they should be considered by more companies. IKEA , for example, bans use in its products of some chemical groups (PFAS, organic brominated flame retardants) and hazard classes of chemicals (carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and any REACH SVHCs). Beyond its direct effects on protecting health of consumers and reducing toxic chemicals in the environment, the chemical strategy is a key component in the EU’s path towards a circular economy that conserves materials and reduces waste. A critical barrier to circular production models for many products and materials is contamination with hazardous chemicals — either inadvertently added during sourcing and processing or intentionally added to change the product. Through the chemical strategy, the EU plans to promote safer substitutes (the replacement of ortho-phthalates with non-hazardous plasticizers) or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce.  The EU has outlined a leading safer chemicals strategy that companies can begin to apply to their own operations. Tools such as the Chemical Footprint Project survey and other benchmarking tools can help support these initiatives. Companies that take the lead in adapting their planning to the EU strategy will be ahead of EU requirements, mitigate future supply chain and product risks and operate in the best interest of consumers and the environment. Pull Quote The EU plans to promote safer substitutes or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Circular Economy Policy & Politics European Union Collective Insight The Right Chemistry Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How the EU’s new ‘toxic-free’ vision could shape your safer chemicals strategy

New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

May 28, 2020 by  
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Antarctica’s peculiar green snow is spreading, according to researchers who have created the first large-scale map of microscopic algae growing on the chilly, southernmost continent. As the climate warms, snow algae is becoming a more and more important terrestrial carbon sink. “This is a significant advance in our understanding of land-based life on Antarctica, and how it might change in the coming years as the climate warms,” study leader Matt Davey, faculty member of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences, said. “Snow algae are a key component of the continent’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.” Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature The study’s researchers, from University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey, explained the lay of the Antarctic land. “In the limited terrestrial ecosystems of Antarctica , all photosynthetic organisms will make a significant contribution to the ecology of their habitat,” the scientists wrote in their paper, which is published in Nature Communications . With only about 0.18% of Antarctica’s continental area ice-free, there’s very little exposed ground for traditional vegetation. Thus, evolution got creative and developed snow algae. Expeditions in the 1950s and 1960s first described the green and red patches on and below the snow surface. Since then, researchers have learned that Antarctica’s diverse algal species are important for nutrient and carbon cycling. “Considering that a single snow algal bloom can cover hundreds of square meters, snow algae are potentially one of the region’s most significant photosynthetic primary producers, as well as influencing nutrient provision to downstream terrestrial and marine ecosystems ,” the researchers wrote. Researchers combined their own measurements on the ground with satellite images taken between 2017 and 2019 to map the algae. They found that algae grows in “warmer” areas along the Antarctica coastlines and west coast islands, where temperatures in the continent’s summer months rise just a hair over 0 degrees Celsius. Marine birds and mammals also influence the algal distribution, as their excrement is a natural fertilizer. More than 60% of algal blooms were within 5 kilometers of penguin colonies. Lead author Andrew Gray explained, “As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae.” + Nature Communications Via University of Cambridge Images via Gray, A., Krolikowski, M., Fretwell, P. et al. / Nature Communications (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)

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New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

The Indian startup pioneering new battery swapping system for country’s electric buses

July 19, 2017 by  
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One of the hassles associated with electric vehicles is how long it takes to charge them. But in India , an energy infrastructure startup has partnered with the country’s second biggest truck manufacturer to pioneer a solution: a battery swapping system. They’ll start with electric buses , which could stop at stations reminiscent of today’s petrol pumps to swap out batteries and avoid having to spend a lot of time charging. Vehicle manufacturer Ashok Leyland has partnered with startup SUN Mobility to develop the battery swapping system first for intra-city buses, potentially followed by delivery trucks, inter-city buses, and long-haul trucks, according to Ashok Leyland CEO Vinod Dasari. Related: India to only sell electric cars by 2030 SUN Mobility has been working on the system with Stanford University-trained engineer Chetan Maini, who designed India’s first electric car Reva, at the helm. Their smart battery system can reportedly power a variety of electric vehicles. According to their website, they aim to shake up transportation with an “open-architecture ecosystem built around a smart network of quick interchange battery stations,” which Quartz India said will be powered by renewable energy . SUN Mobility’s ultimate goal is lofty: refuel electric vehicles even cheaper and faster than cars can fill up at gas stations today. The partnership follows India’s plan to sell only electric vehicles by 2030 , recently announced by energy minister Piyush Goyal. At that time, he said the government would invest in charging infrastructure, and even pointed to the potential of battery swapping systems. Government advisor Ashok Jhunjhunwala said in a June lecture swappable batteries would need to be a key component of India’s push to put more electric cars on the road. The expense of batteries is prohibitive for many, but he said, “…we’ll start buying vehicles without battery. For example, if I want to buy a bus or a three-wheeler, I’ll buy it without [the] battery but with enhanced [vehicle] efficiency.” In such a system, with high efficiency vehicles and swappable batteries, costs per kilometer could potentially be lowered until they’re on par with gas-guzzling cars. Via Quartz India Images via Wikimedia Commons and shankar s. on Flickr

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The Indian startup pioneering new battery swapping system for country’s electric buses

The corporate case for a healthy workforce

March 1, 2017 by  
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Why employee health and safety is a key component of business sustainability performance.

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The corporate case for a healthy workforce

Siemens Makes Major Move in Natural Gas Market with ‘Energy Hub’

November 16, 2011 by  
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Siemens makes a major move in the market for energy systems powered by natural gas with the opening of a new turbine plant in North Carolina, a key component of the company’s energy hub for the Americas.

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Siemens Makes Major Move in Natural Gas Market with ‘Energy Hub’

Algae Could Be Key to Nuclear Waste Clean Up

April 4, 2011 by  
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Researchers at Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory believe that freshwater algae could become a key component in nuclear waste clean-up. Studies done on Closterium moniliferum, a bright green pond algae, found that it could be effective at sequestering Strontium 90, one of the most dangerous radioactive materials created in a nuclear reactor and consequently present nuclear waste sludge

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Algae Could Be Key to Nuclear Waste Clean Up

3-D Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Lighter and Charge in Minutes

March 31, 2011 by  
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A new type of lithium-ion battery that features a 3-D interior structure is able to recharge in just a few minutes, can be discharged over twice as many times as traditional lithium-ion batteries and is thinner and lighter than existing versions — essentially the dream battery for electric cars. The new battery prototype was presented at this week’s national meeting of the American Chemical Society .  Conventional lithium-ion batteries consist of electrodes stacked in thin layers, which creates many of its problems like slow charging and limited discharging and a tendency to overheat. The new battery reconfigures this arrangement by using copper antimonide nanowires arranged into a tightly-packed 3-D structure similar to bristles on a hair brush.  The nanowires have more surface area and can store twice as many lithium ions and they’re more stable and heat resistant than the graphite electrodes used in existing batteries.  The result is a battery that recharges in 12 minutes instead of two hours and has double the lifespan.

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3-D Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Lighter and Charge in Minutes

Wind Turbine Makers Working on Giant Offshore Turbines

March 30, 2011 by  
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Most offshore wind turbines currently in use are 5 MW and under, but that won’t be the case for long.  Many of the major wind turbine makers are trying to go bigger, bigger, bigger.

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Wind Turbine Makers Working on Giant Offshore Turbines

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