New Substances of Very High Concern Identified

January 20, 2020
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has added three new substances to the Candidate List due to their toxicity to reproduction and a fourth due to a combination of other properties of concern. Chemicals are placed on the list when there are probable serious effects to human health and the environment, giving rise to an equivalent level of concern to carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR), persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) and very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) substances.
The decision to include perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) and its salts, was taken with the involvement of the Member State Committee (MSC).
If you distribute any of these chemicals, formulations, or articles that contain them, you may have legal obligations resulting from the inclusion of the substance in the Candidate List. Any supplier of articles containing a Candidate List substance above a concentration of 0.1 % (weight by weight) has communication obligations towards European Union customers down the supply chain and to consumers. In addition, importers and producers of articles containing the substance have six months from the date of its inclusion in the Candidate List (16 January 2020) to notify ECHA. Information on these obligations and related tools are available on ECHA’s website.
Substances included in the Candidate List for authorization on 16 January 2020 and their SVHC properties:
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America's Most Widely Consumed Oil Causes Genetic Changes in the Brain
New UC Riverside research shows soybean oil not only leads to obesity and diabetes, but could also affect neurological conditions like autism, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, and depression.
Used for fast food frying, added to packaged foods, and fed to livestock, soybean oil is by far the most widely produced and consumed edible oil in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In all likelihood, it is not healthy for humans.
It certainly is not good for mice. The new study, published this month in the journal Endocrinology, compared mice fed three different diets high in fat: soybean oil, soybean oil modified to be low in linoleic acid, and coconut oil.
The same UCR research team found in 2015 that soybean oil induces obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and fatty liver in mice. Then in a 2017 study, the same group learned that if soybean oil is engineered to be low in linoleic acid, it induces less obesity and insulin resistance.
However, in the study released this month, researchers did not find any difference between the modified and unmodified soybean oil's effects on the brain. Specifically, the scientists found pronounced effects of the oil on the hypothalamus, where a number of critical processes take place.
"The hypothalamus regulates body weight via your metabolism, maintains body temperature, is critical for reproduction and physical growth as well as your response to stress," said Margarita Curras-Collazo, a UCR associate professor of neuroscience and lead author on the study.
The team determined a number of genes in mice fed soybean oil were not functioning correctly. One such gene produces the "love" hormone, oxytocin. In soybean oil-fed mice, levels of oxytocin in the hypothalamus went down.
The research team discovered roughly 100 other genes also affected by the soybean oil diet. They believe this discovery could have ramifications not just for energy metabolism, but also for proper brain function and diseases such as autism or Parkinson's disease. However, it is important to note there is no proof the oil causes these diseases.
Additionally, the team notes the findings only apply to soybean oil -- not to other soy products or to other vegetable oils.
"Do not throw out your tofu, soymilk, edamame, or soy sauce," said Frances Sladek, a UCR toxicologist and professor of cell biology. "Many soy products only contain small amounts of the oil, and large amounts of healthful compounds such as essential fatty acids and proteins."
A caveat for readers concerned about their most recent meal is that this study was conducted on mice, and mouse studies do not always translate to the same results in humans. Also, this study utilized male mice. Because oxytocin is so important for maternal health and promotes mother-child bonding, similar studies need to be performed using female mice.
One additional note on this study -- the research team has not yet isolated which chemicals in the oil are responsible for the changes they found in the hypothalamus. But they have ruled out two candidates. It is not linoleic acid, since the modified oil also produced genetic disruptions; nor is it stigmasterol, a cholesterol-like chemical found naturally in soybean oil.
Identifying the compounds responsible for the negative effects is an important area for the team's future research. "This could help design healthier dietary oils in the future," said Poonamjot Deol, an assistant project scientist in Sladek's laboratory and first author on the study.
"The dogma is that saturated fat is bad and unsaturated fat is good. Soybean oil is a polyunsaturated fat, but the idea that it's good for you is just not proven," Sladek said. 
Indeed, coconut oil, which contains saturated fats, produced very few changes in the hypothalamic genes.
"If there's one message I want people to take away, it's this: reduce consumption of soybean oil," Deol said about the most recent study.
Penalties Go Up in Hawaii
Starting January 15, 2020, HIOSH will apply the following new penalty system to inspections opened on and after January 15, 2020.
Type of Violation
New Maximum
Posting Requirements
$13,494 per violation
Willful or Repeated
$134,937 per violation
Failure to Abate
$13,494 per day
beyond the abatement date
The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Inflation Adjustment Act) and adopted by HIOSH 396, HRS requires HIOSH to annually adjust its civil monetary penalty levels for inflation no later than January 15 of each year. Adjustments are made by issuing a final rule issued by Federal OSHA that is effective on its date of publication in the Federal Register.
Industrial Accident Emissions Reporting Plan Too Weak
A federal agency under court order to determine and disclose air pollutants accidentally emitted by any industrial explosions, leaks, and other accidents has proposed regulations that are unjustifiably anemic, according comments filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33), and a coalition of chemical safety, environmental justice, and local, state and national environmental groups. Unless the proposed regulations are substantially strengthened, affected communities, first responders, and regulators will remain without access to accurate, real-time information about dangerous chemicals released into their midst.
PEER and allied groups successfully sued to enforce a law ignored since 1990 requiring the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) to obtain reports on all “accidental releases into the ambient air” from any industry within its jurisdiction. CSB resisted but lost the litigation and now faces a court-mandated deadline to finalize the regulation by February 4, 2020.
Unfortunately, the proposed regulation that CSB released in mid-December for public comment (through yesterday) is so narrow and weak as to be largely useless. In comments filed yesterday evening the groups point to limitations in the CSB draft that would –
  • Render reports from industries inaccurate and untimely. CSB would require only one report within four hours, when often little is known, even if later updates are available;
  • Limit access to reports to the Freedom of Information Act process, which can take weeks or longer, with no provision for immediate, affirmative disclosure; and
  • Not compile reports to CSB or collect reports filed with other agencies to create a publicly-available, searchable database to analyze trends, identify patterns of vulnerability, or guide CSB priorities, as well as serve as an asset for industrial safety research.
“After shirking this statutory duty for over 20 years, CSB has grudgingly proposed a reporting rule so stripped down as to give only the bare appearance of compliance without advancing the cause of chemical safety,” stated PEER General Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who argued the litigation leading to the regulation. “To illustrate how minimal this plan is, CSB estimates that it would take only 50 person-hours per year for all industries across the entire country to comply.”
The comments point to other reporting systems, such as what is now used for pipeline leaks, as models CSB should adopt. In addition, the comments detail revisions CSB should accept.
“Rather than aiding affected communities, the CSB goes out of its way to discourage public access to the reports collected under the rule,” Dinerstein added, pointing out that CSB is becoming increasingly deferential to industry. “Once again showing fear of corporate opposition, CSB is blowing a golden opportunity to better achieve its mission.”
While the CSB has been telegraphing to stakeholders that it somehow lacks the resources to implement anything but a rudimentary reporting system, the agency has been quietly returning large sums of unspent appropriated funds to the Treasury each year for several years. According to its most recent published budget report, CSB has $5.1 million in “unspent appropriations” for the past five years. In FY 2019, CSB did not spend $1.3 million of its $12 million appropriation, or more than 10% of the agency’s entire annual budget.
After Explosions, Philadelphia Refinery Cited for Process Safety Management Violations
OSHA cited Philadelphia Energy Solutions for serious violations of safety and health hazards related to process safety management (PSM) following a fire and subsequent explosions at the company’s Girard Point Refinery Complex in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 2019. The company faces $132,600 in penalties.
PSM encompasses requirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazards associated with processes and equipment that use large amounts of hazardous chemicals. In this case, the chemicals were hydrofluoric acid and flammable hydrocarbons. OSHA’s inspection found deficiencies in the refinery’s PSM program, including failing to establish or implement written procedures, insufficient hazard analysis and inadequate inspection of process equipment for highly hazardous chemicals used in the process.
“When employers fail to evaluate and address potentially hazardous conditions associated with chemical processes, catastrophic events such as this can occur,” said OSHA Philadelphia Area Director Theresa Downs. “OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard requires that employers conduct regular inspections to ensure process equipment meets industry standards.”
OSHA’s Process Safety Management webpage provides resources on recognizing, evaluating and controlling process hazards.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Milwaukee Valve Cited for Exposing Employees to Lead, Copper and Other Hazards
OSHA has cited Milwaukee Valve Company Inc. – based in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin – for exposing employees to lead and copper dust at rates higher than the permissible exposure levels. OSHA has proposed $171,628 in penalties to the industrial valve manufacturing company.
Following a July 2019 inspection, OSHA cited the company for failing to implement adequate engineering and work practice controls to reduce employee exposure to lead, and train foundry employees on the hazards of lead and cadmium exposure. OSHA also cited the company for violations related to respiratory protection and walking and working surfaces.
"Chronic exposures to lead, copper and other metal dusts can result in long-term health issues, such as lung and nervous system damage," said OSHA Madison Area Director Chad Greenwood. "Employers must provide personal protective equipment to employees working with toxic metals and take appropriate steps to minimize worker exposure."
OSHA's Lead and Cadmium webpages provide information on the health effects from exposure to these metals, and options for controlling exposure.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Target Corp. Cited for Blocked Emergency Exits
OSHA has cited Target Corp. for emergency exit access hazards at stores in Danvers and Framingham, Massachusetts. The retailer faces a total of $227,304 in penalties.
OSHA inspectors found fire exit routes in backroom storage areas blocked by objects, such as packing boxes, products, rolling carts, metal bars, portable ladders, and a powered industrial truck. Since 2015, OSHA has cited Target Corp. for similar hazards at 11 stores in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
"OSHA has cited Target Corp. several times for exposing workers to hazards that restrict their ability to quickly exit a store in an emergency," said OSHA Andover Area Director Anthony Covello. "Employers are required to keep exit routes free and unobstructed."
Additional information about OSHA requirements for keeping exits clear is available in the agency's Emergency Exit Routes fact sheet. OSHA's Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs includes information on how to identify and assess hazards in the workplace.
Target Corp. has 15 business days from receipt of the Danvers and Framingham citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
After Fatal Trench Collapse, Plumbing Contractor Cited
OSHA has cited Rhobina Electric Inc. – a commercial electrical and plumbing contractor based in Batesville, Mississippi – for exposing employees to excavation hazards after a worker suffered fatal injuries in a trench collapse at a Taylor, Mississippi, worksite. The contractor faces $37,318 in penalties.
The employee was installing sewer pipe to a new concrete manhole when the collapse occurred. OSHA cited the company for allowing employees to work in a trench without hard hats and cave-in protection, and for not removing workers from a trench that showed signs of water intrusion and possible collapse. OSHA also cited the contractor for failing to meet the reporting requirement, which mandates that employers notify OSHA within eight hours of any incident involving an employee fatality.
"This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had followed the law and sloped, shored or shielded the trench walls to prevent a collapse," said OSHA Area Director Courtney Bohannon, in Jackson, Mississippi. "Before allowing workers to enter a trench, employers are required to install proper safety measures."
OSHA recently updated the National Emphasis Program on preventing injuries related to trenching and excavation collapses. OSHA's trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions, including a trenching operations QuickCard, and a "Protect Workers in Trenches" poster.
Florida Roofing Contractor Found in Contempt After Failing to Pay $2,202,049 Penalty
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has found a Jacksonville, Florida-based roofing contractor in contempt of court for failing to pay $2,202,049 in penalties assessed by the OSHA for safety and health violations at worksites in Florida.
The Department of Labor filed a petition with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for summary enforcement against Great White Construction Inc., Florida Roofing Experts Inc. and owner Travis Slaughter pursuant to Section 11(b) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) to enforce 12 final orders of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC). Those final orders include multiple egregious, willful and repeat violations for lack of fall protection and other safety and health hazards at worksites in Florida. On October 2, 2017, and June 5, 2018, the court granted the department’s petition, enforcing the final orders of the commission.
On August 28, 2019, the department filed a Petition for Civil Contempt against Great White Construction Inc. and Florida Roofing Experts Inc. and Slaughter, alleging they failed to comply with the court’s October 2017 and June 2018 orders, based on evidence that the companies failed to provide proof of abatement, continued to violate OSHA standards and failed to pay the penalties assessed.
The court held the companies and Slaughter in civil contempt on January 3, 2020, ordering the companies and Slaughter to pay the outstanding penalties of $2,202,049 plus interest and fees, and requiring them to certify that they had corrected the violations within 10 days of the court’s order. If the companies and Slaughter fail to comply, they face coercive sanctions, including incarceration and other relief the court deems proper.
“This enforcement action demonstrates that OSHA will utilize every resource available to ensure that safety and health standards are followed to protect workers,” said Solicitor of Labor Kate O’Scannlain. “Employers that ignore multiple court orders requiring correction of violations and payment of penalties will be held accountable.”
The court’s ruling comes after repeated inspections by OSHA and litigation by the Department’s Office of the Solicitor to address Great White and Florida Roofing’s violations of OSHA’s safety requirements. The court’s remedy addresses the companies’ longstanding refusal to protect workers and pay the associated penalties. 
In another case, OSHA cited Florida Roofing Experts Inc. for failing to protect workers from falls at two work sites in Fleming Island and one in Middleburg, Florida. Florida Roofing Experts Inc. faces penalties totaling $1,007,717.
OSHA initiated the inspections on July 11 and 12, 2019, after receiving complaints on July 9, 2019 of employees performing residential re-roofing activities without fall protection. Given the employer's extensive history of violations, pursuant to OSHA's egregious citation policy, the agency issued eight willful citations for failing to protect employees from fall hazards.
Ohio Grain Handling Company Cited After Two Employees Fatally Engulfed in Grain Storage Bin
OSHA has cited The Andersons Inc. for grain handling, and walking and working surfaces violations after two employees attempting to clear a clogged floor hole in a grain storage bin became fatally engulfed at the company’s Toledo, Ohio, facility. OSHA has proposed $291,716 in penalties.
OSHA cited the company for two willful and two serious violations for failing to develop an emergency action plan that included procedures for grain rescue and coordination with local rescue services, and not powering down nor disconnecting grain equipment before employees entered the bin. OSHA also cited the company for requiring employees to enter grain storage bins on foot with engulfment and avalanche hazards present, and for exposing employees to fall hazards from uncovered floor holes. OSHA placed the Maumee, Ohio–based company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“Employers are required to follow safety standards and train their workers on grain storage hazards to prevent tragedies such as this,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “OSHA has free resources available to help employers understand how to comply with safety and health regulations, as well as worker training to recognize hazards and dangerous working conditions.”
OSHA’s Grain Handling webpage provides resources on recognizing and controlling hazards in the grain industry.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
Ohio Vinyl Flooring Manufacturer Cited for Machine Hazards Following Worker Amputation 
OSHA has cited Nox U.S. LLC for exposing employees to machine hazards and failing to develop hazardous energy control procedures to prevent employees from coming into contact with moving machine parts. OSHA has proposed $316,929 in penalties, and placed the Fostoria, Ohio, vinyl floor manufacturer in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
An employee suffered amputation of the lower right arm and four fingers after becoming caught in a lamination machine. OSHA cited the company for lack of adequate machine guarding on rotating parts and shafts. They also cited Nox U.S. LLC for failing to develop specific procedures for unjamming flooring material from machines on the lamination line; train workers on hazardous energy control procedures; and provide adequate personal protective equipment.
In December 2017, OSHA cited the company for similar hazards after two workers suffered injuries in separate incidents involving lack of machine safety procedures.
“Employers must continuously monitor their facilities to ensure that workplace safety and health procedures are adequate and effective, and employees are trained on the use of such procedures,” said OSHA Toledo Area Office Director Kim Nelson. “When machines are not properly guarded, employees face an increased risk of serious injuries.”
“Machines that expose workers to injuries must be guarded,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Employers are required by law to provide workers with a workplace free of recognized hazards.”
OSHA’s Machine Guarding webpage provides information on requirements for protecting workers from machine hazards that can cause amputations, crushed fingers or hands, and other injuries.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
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