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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 

On October 14, 2020, a coalition of North Carolina non-governmental organizations (NGO) petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 4 test rule for 54 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) manufactured by The Chemours Company (Chemours) at its chemical production facility in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  The petition, filed under TSCA Section 21, seeks issuance of a rule or order under TSCA Section 4 compelling Chemours to fund and carry out testing under the direction of a panel of independent scientists.  EPA states in its letter acknowledging receipt of the petition that under TSCA Section 21, it has 90 days after the date the petition is filed to grant or deny the petition (January 11, 2021, in this case).  If the Administrator grants the petition, the Administrator shall promptly commence an appropriate proceeding.  If the Administrator denies the petition, the Administrator shall publish the reasons for such a denial in the Federal Register.  The petition was filed by Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear, Democracy Green, the NC Black Alliance, and Toxic Free NC.  More information will be available in a forthcoming memorandum that will be posted on our website.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On September 30, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a webinar on “Identification of NAMs for Placement on the TSCA Section 4(h)(2)(C) List:  A Proposed NAM Nomination Form.”  The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act) amended Section 4(h)(2)(c) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to require EPA to develop a list of alternative test methods or strategies that are “scientifically reliable, relevant, and capable of providing information of equivalent or better scientific reliability and quality to that which would be obtained from vertebrate animal testing.”  The current TSCA Section 4(h)(2)(C) List is available on the EPA website.  EPA’s 2018 Strategic Plan to Promote the Development and Implementation of Alternative Test Methods Within the TSCA Program provides initial criteria for considering scientific reliability and relevance of new approach methodologies (NAM) to be eligible for placement on the List.  EPA states that it “envisions that any party interested in proposing a NAM for placement on the List would use a nomination form.”  The webinar will walk through the proposed nomination form.
 
The webinar is co-organized by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) International Science Consortium, EPA, and the Physicians for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).  EPA notes that it does not necessarily endorse the views of the speakers.


 
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On August 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $3,980,782 in funding to five academic research teams to develop New Approach Methods (NAM) for evaluating chemical toxicokinetics.  According to EPA, compared to traditional animal testing, NAMs allow researchers better to predict potential hazards for risk assessment purposes without the use of traditional methods that rely on animal testing.  EPA is providing a grant of up to $800,000 to each research team through its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program.  EPA states that the projects will address gaps in ways to obtain data for informing chemical toxicokinetics and exposure-related factors not currently considered.  The five recipients include:
  • Purdue University to create an integrated blood brain barrier computer model to help determine if a chemical may cause neurotoxicity;
     
  • Texas A&M University to help integrate different types of chemical safety testing for more robust results;
     
  • University of Nevada to develop better estimations of the bioavailability of chemicals to assess the significance of public exposure;
     
  • Vanderbilt University to work on methods to refine organ-on-chip devices for chemical testing; and
     
  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to determine how zebrafish metabolism can be better correlated to the human metabolism to improve models for chemical toxicity testing.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 24, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a New Approach Methods (NAM) Work Plan that will “serve[] as a roadmap for meeting its animal testing reduction goals set forth in Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s 2019 Directive.”  According to EPA’s June 24, 2020, press release, the Work Plan describes how EPA plans to develop, test, and apply chemical safety testing approaches that reduce or replace the use of animals.  EPA states that compared to traditional animal testing, NAMs allow researchers better to predict potential hazards for risk assessment purposes without the use of traditional methods that rely on animal testing.  The objectives of the Work Plan include:

  • Evaluating regulatory flexibility for the use of NAMs;
     
  • Establishing baselines and metrics for assessing progress;
     
  • Developing NAMs that fill critical information gaps;
     
  • Establishing scientific confidence in NAMs;
     
  • Demonstrating NAMs application to regulatory decisions; and
     
  • Engaging with stakeholders to incorporates their knowledge and address their concerns regarding EPA’s phaseout of mammalian testing.

EPA states that the Work Plan will evolve as EPA’s knowledge and experience grow and as outside experts offer their perspectives and contributions.  EPA will regularly review the Work Plan to ensure that the efforts involved provide the best path to success.  More information on the 2019 directive to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing is available in our September 11, 2019, blog item, “EPA Administrator Signs Directive Intended to Reduce Animal Testing, Awards $4.25 Million for Research on Alternative Methods to Animal Testing.”
 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on January 15, 2020, that it is partnering with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Physicians for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to host public webinars on various topics related to reducing, refining, or replacing vertebrate animal testing.  A webinar will be held on January 22, 2020, covering the use and application of the Collaborative Acute Toxicity Modeling Suite (CATMoS), a free resource for screening organic chemicals for acute oral toxicity.  Drs. Nicole Kleinstreuer and Kamel Mansouri will discuss the development of and demonstrate CATMoS, which was developed during a project in which the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) and the EPA National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT) collected a large body of rat oral acute toxicity data and made these data available to project participants.  Participants built several models that were then used to generate consensus predictions for the acute oral toxicity endpoints of interest to regulatory agencies.  The webinar will offer a walk-through of how to use the modeling suite to generate acute oral toxicity predictions for chemicals of interest.  EPA notes that it “does not necessarily endorse the views of the speakers.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host its first annual conference to discuss alternative test methods and strategies to reduce animal testing on December 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C.  According to EPA, the conference will bring together some of the leading voices in environmental and health research to discuss efforts to reduce testing on mammals.  The conference will focus on the New Approach Methods (NAM) and will feature presentations by U.S. and international scientific experts on advancements in the field.  On-site participants will have the opportunity to exchange information about scientific advancements in the NAMs field to develop a better understanding of the state of the science, discuss approaches for developing scientific confidence in using alternatives, and summarize existing studies characterizing the uncertainties in results from animal testing.  The public can register to participate via webinar.
 
As reported in our September 11, 2019, blog item, on September 10, 2019, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a directive to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing.  The directive states that EPA “will reduce its requests for, and [its] funding of, mammal studies by 30 percent by 2025 and eliminate all mammal study requests and funding by 2035.  Any mammal studies requested or funded by the EPA after 2035 will require Administrator approval on a case-by-case basis.”
 
EPA notes that over the past several years, it has made significant scientific advancements in NAMs and has led efforts to reduce, replace, and refine its animal testing requirements.  On December 5, 2019, EPA updated the list of NAMs that it developed pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the 2016 Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act.  EPA states that it “will continue to lead the way among federal agencies in the United States and internationally.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on September 10, 2019, announcing that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a directive to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing.  Administrator Wheeler also announced $4.25 million in funding to five universities to research the development and use of alternative test methods and strategies that reduce, refine, and/or replace vertebrate animal testing.  Administrative Wheeler directs the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) and the Office of Research and Development (ORD) “to prioritize ongoing efforts and to direct existing resources toward additional activities that will demonstrate measurable impacts in the reduction of animal testing while ensuring protection of human health and the environment.”  The directive states that EPA “will reduce its requests for, and [its] funding of, mammal studies by 30 percent by 2025 and eliminate all mammal study requests and funding by 2035.  Any mammal studies requested or funded by the EPA after 2035 will require Administrator approval on a case-by-case basis.”  Administrative Wheeler requests that OCSPP and ORD hold a joint animal conference on new approach methods (NAM), with the first conference to be held in 2019
 
Five universities were awarded grants through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results Program.  According to EPA, the research focuses on advancing the development and use of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine, and/or replace vertebrate animal testing.  The grantees are advancing the science of non-vertebrate alternative test methods and strategies in chemical hazard assessment.  The grantees include:

  • Johns Hopkins University to develop a human-derived brain model to assess the mechanism by which environmental chemicals might cause developmental neurotoxicity;
     
  • Vanderbilt University to test their organ-on-a-chip to study the blood brain barrier and potential brain injury after organophosphate exposure;
     
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center to use their Endo Chip technology to research how preexisting diseases affect cellular responses to environmental toxicants with a focus on reproductive disorders in women;
     
  • Oregon State University to develop in vitro test methods for fish species to screen chemicals in complex environmental mixtures; and
     
  • University of California Riverside to use human cells to develop a cost-effective end point to characterize potential skeletal embryotoxicants.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.

On April 11, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was partnering with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) International Science Consortium to host a public webinar related to meeting the goal of reducing, refining, or replacing vertebrate animal testing as stipulated in the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act that amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), specifically New Approaches for Respiratory Sensitization, set for April 24, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. (EDT)Registration is required.  The speakers are Steve Enoch, Ph.D., Liverpool John Moores University, who will be presenting “Chemistry-based Approaches for Identifying Respiratory Sensitizers”; and Arno Gutleb, Ph.D., Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, who will be presenting “In Vitro Models to Identify Respiratory Sensitizers.”

The two other webinars in this Webinar Series on the Use of New Approach Methodologies (NAM) in Risk Assessment already took place; the first one was Skin Sensitization Testing and the second one was MPPD and CFD Modeling to Predict Dosimetry of Inhaled Substances.  EPA states that these webinars on the use of New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) in Risk Assessment are part of EPA meeting commitments identified in EPA’s Strategic Plan to Promote the Development and Implementation of Alternative Test Methods, required by amended TSCA.


 

By Charles M. Auer, Oscar Hernandez, Ph.D., and Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 22, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Strategic Plan to Promote the Development and Implementation of Alternative Test Methods Within the TSCA Program.  Development of the Strategic Plan was required under Section 4(h)(2)(A) of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act with a deadline of not later than two years after enactment.  Release of the final Strategic Plan occurred on the second anniversary of enactment of amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The goal of the strategy is to reduce the level of testing in vertebrates for chemicals regulated under TSCA.  EPA describes alternative test methods and strategies as different descriptors that have a common goal.  The former is based on reduction, refinement, and replacement of animal test methods (the 3Rs), while strategies incorporate more than just toxicity test methods to characterize hazard.  The strategy as proposed relies on a range of applications and testing approaches to characterize human health and environmental endpoints. 

Collectively, alternative test methods and strategies combine to define a new term: new approach methodologies (NAM).  The NAM designation is used as a broadly descriptive reference to any technology, methodology, approach, or combination thereof that can be used to provide information on chemical hazard and risk assessment that avoids the use of vertebrates. For the purposes of TSCA, EPA recognizes this new term (i.e., NAM) as encompassing any “alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine or replace vertebrate animals.”

A much more detailed summary and analysis of this important issue is available in our memorandum.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On March 7, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft Strategic Plan to Promote the Development and Implementation of Alternative Test Methods to reduce the use of vertebrate animals in chemical testing, fulfilling another milestone under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act that amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Under amended TSCA, EPA is required to develop a strategy to promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine or replace vertebrate animal testing by June 22, 2018.  EPA states the draft document incorporates input from a November 2017 public meeting held on the development of the draft strategy, as well as written comments submitted after the meeting, and draws upon EPA research on test methods.

The draft strategy outlines EPA’s Strategic Plan for the reduction of testing in vertebrates for chemicals regulated under TSCA. The organizing framework for the EPA’s strategy to reduce vertebrate animal testing relies heavily on what have been termed new approach methodologies (NAM) -- a broadly descriptive reference to any nonanimal technology, methodology, approach, or combination thereof that can be used to provide information on chemical hazard and risk assessment.  The strategy describes a multi-year process with incremental steps for adoption and integration of NAMs that are appropriate and fit-for-purpose for making TSCA decisions, and has three core components:

  • Identifying, developing, and integrating NAMs for TSCA decisions;
  • Building confidence that the NAMs are scientifically reliable and relevant for TSCA decisions; and
  • Implementing the reliable and relevant NAMs for TSCA decisions. The EPA has identified seven current/near-term (less that three years) needs and activities.

EPA states that completing these activities will result in moving towards four intermediate-term (three to five years) objectives and these time frames, needs, and activities provide the basis for developing NAMs, establishing reliability and relevance criteria for the NAMs, and implementing NAMs to inform decisions made under TSCA.

Comments on the draft strategy will be due 45 days after the notice of availability is published in the Federal Register.  EPA has scheduled a public meeting to obtain input on the draft strategy for April 10, 2018, from 9:00 a.m. (EDT) to 5:00 p.m. (EDT) in Washington, D.C.  Registration is available online and is requested by April 3, 2018.


 
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