Chemical Regulation

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monona Rossol, industrial hygienist and founder and president of Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, Inc., discusses the European Union's adopting new labeling and information systems and requirements for industry testing of chemicals before they’re used in consumer products. She'll look at why U.S. manufacturers resist chemical testing and provide such limited safety information. The United States will either have to adopt the EU's policies by 2012 or find our products banned from the European market. Visit Monona's website for more information.


Monona Rossol

Comments [29]

Monona Rossol from NYC

To control or ban any chemical, EPA must first prove that the chemical poses an "unreasonable risk." Once this is proven with chemical testing, then EPA must apply the "least burdensome requirement," meaning the cheapest method to protect the publish or environment, and must prove that no other federal law can address the risk. The GAO says EPA "has found it difficult to meet all of these require-ments." Issuing test rules can take from 2 to 10 years! "Given the time and resources required, the agency has issued rules requiring testing for only 185 of the approximately 82,000 chemicals in the TSCA inventory," GAO said. And of these, only 169 have actually been tested!
The EU's REACH program is requiring tests for about 30,000 high production volume chemicals. And yes, the tests used by the EU and EPA are the same tests, but in the US it's NOT being done. Monona

Apr. 22 2010 06:11 PM
Monona Rossol from NYC

I have tried repeatedly to get my answer to comment #17 above into the record, but the answer is too long to fit. I will do it in sections is need be, because the caller is wrong.
Dr. Boyd says that EPA tests products under the US Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and that is not really the case. TSCA goves EPA the authority to review and evaulate only new chemicals. EPA has limited power to address the roughly 60,000 chemicals that were already in production when the act became law in 1976. Now there are about 83,000 chemicals on the TSCA list. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a July 13, 2004 report describes the problem---see next post

Apr. 22 2010 05:59 PM
anonyme from ny

Yes yes the continent doesn't like the anglo-saxon ways (US and UK) but did you ever notice that you can measure and inch (half a thumb) or a foot (foot) without or weigh a stone - or pound/pint - without equipment when you just need an idea of a yard for example (nose to fingertip) - those measurements come out of something real not something cerebral. Nothing wrong with us using both metric and inches and feet - I cook metric and ounces - and even the French use cuilliere a soupe (tablespoon, 15 ml) Europe is n't perfect either. I do appreciate their ability to protect people with standards and regulations where they need protecting - but they go to far when they tell me I can't buy organic coconut oil! Or when they make centuries of amazing cheesemaking stop because it has to be pasteurized - for no good reason outside of an outdated orthodoxy that never applied till recently (even teh swiss are doing it)

Monona Rossol responds:
I don't know how this conversation got onto food. So many people's questions were about food, I guess. But the subject actually was the chemical and occupational safety regulations in the EU versus those in the US. You are right that sooner or later we all need to have the same system for measuring stuff, as well. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 02:47 PM
Howard from da Bronx

Here's a link to a Village Voice article:

Monona Rossol responds:
Sorry, I can't get that to open, but if the year was 2008, we got that bill dropped. But it's baaa'aaack! Monona

Apr. 19 2010 01:25 PM
Howard from da Bronx

I found it ironic that this segment came after the Brian Lehrer Program's segment with a proponent of safeguarding the 2nd Amendment so that citizens could protect themselves, with arms, against government intrusion.

Mayor Bloomberg wants police to take away individual air testing equipment? You mean they're going to raid my apartment because I have a combination fire and carbon monoxide alarm (which I believe is now mandated by law) as individual air testers?

I believe the Emperor may, at the very least, be taking off his jacket.

Monona Rossol responds:
The bill exempts your CO and smoke alarms, but you dassn't buy a handheld multiple gas detector, an air sampling pump and particle cassett, a radiologic tester of any kind, etc. You could get the instrument taken, 20 days and jail, and a $1000 fine. To me, that's just nuts. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 01:17 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

juanell/lurker--there's a huge difference in testing chemicals and pre-market testing of consumer products that contain these chemicals (and the fact that full disclosure of all chemicals in said products is largely overlooked).

but do keep on about "testing multiple times" because that's the kind of loophole your employer is claiming when threatened with testing the melange of chemicals in products they put on store shelves.

that companies like yours have to hire lobbyists to campaign elected officials in brussels to lower their standards is extremely telling.

Apr. 19 2010 12:44 PM
John Adams from Northern NJ

I was curious if the speaker could speak new advances in toxicology research using genomonic testing for chronc effects on human mutegencity and carcinogencity? From a historical standpoint chemical toxicity testing has been stymied due to the difficultity of standard approaches to this (i.e. animal testing, variablity in translation to human health). Genomics offers a wholely new way to screen a vastly larger number of chemicals, much faster.

Monona Rossol responds:
MR: There is real promise in this approach, but not for all issues. For example, often a chemical is not in itself toxic, but when put in contact with a specific organ system such as a digestive tract or a lung, the chemical is broken down or is reacted with bodily chemicals to form a new toxic or carcinogenic substance. So the only way to really have answers to question like this is to put it in a living organ system. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:39 PM
Wallly from Europe

With all due respect for the people who left comments before me, I have to highlight that the bitter comments addressed to Mrs Monona Rossol show on a wide scale the incapability of part of the american citizens to integrate into a multipolar world. Mr Lopate (that I respect and appreciate) said " we are going to lose our supremacy". That's sad. As Sarkozy and Obama clearly said, things are going to change. Eg. the european metric system is worldwide spread outside the angloamerican world and if the Us is willing to spread its imports, it would be better to align its standards to the rest of the world. In addition, the european safety and quality standards for chemicals and the use of green technology in Europe is really advanced. Us has only to gain being more open to Europe; competition on nationality ground doesn't help anybody.

Monona Rossol responds:
I agree. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:39 PM
Ivana from Yorkville

What a great metaphor this topic is for the general political and social retardation of this country.

Monona Rossol responds:
I have to agree. We have been almost intentionally blind to these issues. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:38 PM
listener from Brooklyn NY

Regarding "green" and "organic" -- Mr. Lopate's guest hasn't (as far as I've heard) touched on genetically modified foods.

My daughter used to like a soy milk that advertised itself as "double organic" -- Edensoy -- but lacked the government organic labe.

That language was chosen for good reason. There is *no* soy product in the US that is not genetically modified. Monsanto produces most of the seed for soy and all of Monsanto soy seed is genetically modified.

Monona Rossol responds:
The plan for the program was to talk about the new European Union chemical testing and registration, and material safety data sheets. I don't know how it got onto food which has nothing to do with this subject. The European Union does have a strong opinion about genetically altered food with which I agree, but this is a different subject.

Apr. 19 2010 12:38 PM
jeff from no. nj

Please ask Monona about the exhaust from dryers from laundrymats. I find the perfumey smell obnoxious and I wonder how toxic is this soup to be breathing in.

Monona Rossol responds:
The enzymes and fluorescent white/blue dyes in detergents are known to be allergens. the perfumes are usually sensitizers that also can cause allergies. There is a difference between things that cause allergy and those that are toxic. You are unlikely to be exposed to toxic amounts of chemicals from detergents, but certainly will be exposed to things that will provoke allergic reactions that can be just as harmful in another way. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:37 PM
Diana from NYC

Question about leaching from plastic: if you have olive oil, for instance, does the plastic leach into the oil?

Monona Rossol responds:
The plastic itself doesn't leach, only the additives, unreacted monomer, and the like. These substances will leach into whatever liquid is in contact with it. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:37 PM
Juanell Boyd from Kendall Park, NJ

It is untrue that the chemicals in US products are untested and unregulated. The US Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) and the High Production Volume Chemicals Program (HPVC) preceded by many years the EU program called REACH which is the acronym used for the current EU regulations. The methods used to test chemicals in the US are no different than the methods used in the EU. Their have, historically, been some differences in the paperwork aspects of the testing, but most testing is now done using the international OECD Guidelines to minimize the need for doing the same testing multiple times to satisfy the administrative requirements of different countires. Harmonizatioon of Guidelines has been driven to a considerable extent to reduce the numbers of animals used in testing by avoiding repetition of the same test.

Apr. 19 2010 12:37 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

There’s a wealth of information on the net about pigments and sites like (under each branded paint’s name) and especially give a chemical name for the most common artists’ pigments.
Following the disclaimer on the tube or box is the best advice… Wash your hands, don’t eat drink or smoke while painting, don’t point a brush on your tongue, and use extreme caution with powdered pigments.
The best artists’ materials are all toxic :)
Could the guest comment on disposal (used watercolor water, for example) of artists waste?

Monona Rossol responds:
Great observation. If you are an artist as a hobby or work alone at home, the art materials are not regulated by EPA or the local department of environmental protection and you can dispose of them legally in any manner you choose. However, if you teach or have an art business in which waste artists paints are generated, you are expected to pay for disposal though a certified waste disposal company. You can also see if there is a household hazardous waste service in your borough to take it to. That's free. If you are curious about all the regulations, there is a publication on artist's waste on EPA's website. I wrote part of it. You can score a free copy at: Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:35 PM
listener from Brooklyn NY

Regarding storing foods and plastics. I now use *only* glass for storage and re-heating. Glass is nice and stable.

Monona Rossol responds: Good thinking. Glass actually does leach its chemicals into food just like ceramic glazes and other inorganic container materials do. But if the glass is made of sodium, calcium, silicates and the like, it really doesn't matter. These substances are not toxic and the amounts released are extremely small. The most stable glass is Pyrex, even thought it contains fluorine, it is extremely resistant to heat and acids. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:35 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

"fragrance" is the least of woes--look for unidentified "surfactants", "emulsifiers" and other categories that make common products unsafe. hell, you should reconsider using most plastic-contained products (particularly food products), given the vapors you inhale/ingest from them (particularly if they, or their contents are warmed/heated).

Monona Rossol responds:
And the sad thing is that certain types of plastics could be made to be so inert that they would make good food packaging. The technology exists, but not the will. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:35 PM
daniel green from upstate ny

Love you Monona!

Any info on radiation from granite counter tops?


Monona Rossol responds:
Hi Dan. I have nothing to add to the article a year or two ago on the problem. If you don't have the article, get back in touch and I'll send you a copy. Radioactivity in rocks and fossils is common. We shouldn't be surprised that some stone used for countertops would turn up "hot." But I was genuinely surprised at the high level of radon gas generated by the counters in one of the homes tested for the New York Times article. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:32 PM

If you live in the Hudson Valley, you're sick, I was told the other day by a homeopath. We get filthy air from Canada and from cancer alley/New Jersey, sweeping back and forth by winds like windshield wipers. There is clean air right now over Puerto Rico, if you're interested. And these allergies that make us feel sick in our youth turn into disease as we age and our cells can't handle all the crap any more.

Monona Rossol responds:
I guess I'm lucky to be as healthy as I am. I know the air is not the best. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:30 PM
Sally Campbell from Upper West Side

I've learned to avoid products with the word "fragrance" or even "masking fragrance' on them not because of the odor but because that can mean a deadly mix of chemicals companies now do not have to reveal. I have friends who have chemical sensitivities and it is the chemicals in "fragrances" that can make them very ill. They call themselves "canaries" because they believe these chemicals are not good for any of us and they are just the first to react.
Will these new regulations change this? I do hope so.

Monona Rossol responds:
Sally, Currently, there is nothing in the regulations to address chemical sensitivity as defined by adverse responses to extremely small amounts of chemicals seen in some people. All of the rules have to do with standard toxicological tests and basic information. But I note a lot of civilized accommodation of people with sensitivities in the Netherlands and assume it is similar in other EU countries. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:27 PM
Joel Azerrad from Westchester

The Tea Partiers will have a field day with this. I.E.: Why is the U.S. bowing to foreign standards? etc.

Monona Rossol responds:
Joel, I think you are right. And the Republicans will say they have a better plan but they weren't consulted so we'll never know what this plan is! Same old. I think it is going to be an interesting time. Meanwhile, the large chemical suppliers (not people who sell to consumers) such as Sigma-Aldrich are already switching their MSDSs to the Globally Harmonized versions since they sell worldwide. So it's coming. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:26 PM
Sally from Ridgewood

Can you ask her about cell phone radiation?

Monona Rossol responds:
Sally, There are studies that show a problem and others that do not. Unfortunately, this will take years to sort out. I think the most likely effects would be in children whose brains are still developing. If I had a youngster at this age, I would probably try to find ways to reduce phone cell exposure to a minimum. It probably would not make me very popular! Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:25 PM
anonyme from ny

Juanell Boyd - Who finances the American Board of Toxicology? And who wants to wait for science's imprimatur on all these unknown chemicals? We could all be dead by then. Go read some Michael Pollan for a little perspective. I'm not interested in ANY of your pollutants. Why should Tilex be legal when it causes respiratory issues and does no better than vinegar or baking soda!

Monona Rossol responds:
anonyme: I'm taking you along with me next time I lecture! Thanks. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:22 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

excellent source for information on endocrine disrupting chemicals in "common household" and other products exposed regularly to consumers:

Monona Rossol responds:
Looks like a pretty good website and it refers to groups I respect such as the environmental working group. Thanks. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:19 PM
Lilia from brooklyn

What about flame retardant in mattresses that have been proven to cause S.I.D.S. in infants?

Monona Rossol responds:
First chlorinated, and now brominated, organic chemical fire retardants have been used in plastics, including the foamed plastics in mattresses. These chemicals are being invented and put into our products without proper testing. Some of them have already been banned in the European Union. We need to consider doing the same. And they should test new ones BEFORE they are in our products. Unfortunately, we still don't know the causes of SIDS for sure. But those chemicals can't be helping. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:16 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

please ask ms. rossol if she is aware that the "natural" gas drilling industry is currently allowed to keep secret a brew of over 300 toxic chemicals (in very high concentrations) used in their drilling process--a process that now threatens the safety of drinking water and environment for all new yorkers.

Apr. 19 2010 12:14 PM
SD from brooklyn

I'm wondering if there is a certification program that is trustworthy? EPA's Design for the Environment? Greenseal? Is there a European program with a website that's better? I'd like to be able to see which ingredients really are ok and which aren't. Thanks!

Monona Rossol responds:
There are good and bad certification programs. But I don't know about any really good ones in the Environmental area. For example, the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification for new buildings has some serious flaws in terms of ventilation and I've presented these issues at a number of green building conferences. And it's the same with the EPA program. EPA will give a company a seal if their product is only a little better than a really bad product. That still doesn't make it "good." They will also give products a seal if they use biodegradable ingredients such as citrus oil which are more toxic to people than many other non-biodegradable solvents. So at this point, I'm just looking at all of these organization with skepticism and judging them primarily on how much information they actually provide about the ingredients in their products. That's the most important issue because once you know what it is made of, you can look up the hazards of the ingredients and make your own mind up. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:13 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

juanell - which consumer products company do you work for?

why not allow ms. rossol to be interviewed before assuming she's biased or "unscientific"?

keep in mind we don't need a scientist to determine that we have extremely toxic consumer products that are not forced to fully disclose their contents, nor are they tested by an independent, protective agency before they are allowed on the market. that the petroleum and other industries are able to escape this, based on "proprietary mix" claims is inexcusable.

Monona Rossol responds:
Of course, I love your opinion! We are both right. Monona

Apr. 19 2010 12:12 PM
mgdu from hell's kitchen

Would you please ask Ms Rossol about the problems caused by landlords spraying nearby apartments for roaches, and also the dangers of roach bait products?

Monona Rossol responds:
The roach bait products are probably not much of a problem since most are contained in those little motels except for the amounts eaten by the roaches. And they are usually not poisons as such, but are growth and/or reproductive inhibitors. The chemicals they spray are another matter. What you smell are the carriers or solvents for the pesticide. The pesticide is not very volatile and is usually more of a hazard by actual contact. What you might do is ask the applicator for information on the name of the product he uses. They are supposed give you this information, although the last time I ask the applicator in my building he didn't even know! But if you find out what the stuff is, you can e-mail me again, and we can talk about it.

Apr. 19 2010 10:19 AM
Juanell Boyd from Kendall Park, NJ

I have heard Leonard interview Monona Rossol several times in the past and have always been extremely disappointed that WNYC has chosen such a decidedly biased and unscientific approach to talking about issues of chemical health and safety. My primary concern is that these iterviews tend to lean more toward fear mongering rather than informing people of how to use products safely. The most funddamental concept in the field of toxicology is the concept of the dose response. When I have heard Monona in teh past, she has completely ignored the importance of dose or any discussion of what constitutes a safe use of any chemicals. Unfortunately, this type of unscientific fear mongering is pervasive and does not help people make sound personal or policy decisions about use and regulation of chemicals. PBS in general and WNYC in particular, generally does a much better job of reporting than this. I hope a more scientifically knowledgeable and articulate person will be found to cover these issues in the future.

Juanell Boyd, Ph. D.
Diplomate, American Board of Toxicolog

Monona Rossol responds:
Dear Dr. Boyd,
I appreciate your comments, but my strengths as an IH are that I have also worked professionally as an artist and art and chemistry teacher and have experience in consumer product exposures. So when I'm talking to people who use art or consumer products, I already know something about their dose. And, of course, in my books, I go through all of the standard information about dose and the other basic toxicology concepts in layman's terms. Three of my books have been reviewed in the AIHA Journal (now the joint journal with the ACGIH) and all were raves. I've also been doing training and brown bag lectures off and on for the Occupational Doctors at Mt. Sinai, starting when Irving J. Selikoff was there in the 1980s. You might want to reconsider basing your opinion on my responses on a short radio show. I invite you to look at my website and/or talk to me.

Apr. 19 2010 07:59 AM

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