About Kal

Kal Kawar, CIH, PE, has a bachelor's in chemical engineering and a master's in industrial hygiene. His professional experience includes serving as staff industrial hygienist for IBM's New York semiconductor manufacturing facility, and as industrial hygienist for IBM’s US headquarters. Now executive vice president of Actio, Kal taps more than 20 years' worth of chemical engineering, industrial hygiene, and environmental engineering experience. His far-reaching expertise with global regulatory challenges created by EPA, TSCA, REACH, RoHS, WEEE – and hundreds of others – aid in developing Actio software solutions for MSDS management, raw material disclosure compliance, and product stewardship in a supply chain.

New ‘Extended’ Safety Data Sheet in REACH

Many companies use safety data sheet software for updating, searching and viewing SDSs. What surprises people is that under the REACH regulation in Europe, companies must produce something called an extended-Safety-Data-Sheet, or e-SDS.

REACH regulation is the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization of Chemicals — Europe’s famous regulatory behemoth for managing hazardous substances in the marketplace. If you use hazardous substances registered under REACH, your suppliers now have to provide you with a new, extended safety data sheet that includes exposure scenarios.

What’s an exposure scenario?

Exposure scenarios are the new, key element in safety documentation. They include safe use conditions, the operational conditions and necessary risk management measures.

In other words, exposure scenarios say, “We tested this spray paint for spraying paint, and we assume your use will be similar.” But if you want to use the spray can to blow up a balloon, that’s a different story, and for that you will need to get a new exposure scenario from the supplier. Get more detail about exposure scenarios.

What’s in the extended-SDS?

Ideally, the extended safety data sheet should cover all uses in the life cycle of the substance, from manufacture through to waste, including:

  1. Uses within your own company
  2. Uses by your customers in their processes or products, i.e. mixtures or articles
  3. Uses by companies supplied with chemicals by your customers
  4. Thus, the extended safety data sheet provided by your supplier should include:
  5. The main technical function of the substance (e.g. flame retardant, pigment, stabilizer) and the uses covered in the exposure scenarios
  6. Threshold values of the exposure levels for human health and the environment that should not be exceeded, according to the assessment made by your supplier
  7. Physicochemical data needed to carry out exposure assessments (e.g. water solubility, vapor pressure, biodegradability)
  8. One or more exposure scenarios containing practical advice on the conditions of safe use, including risk management measures and waste management measures

Conflict Minerals, Meet US Sanctions

Here comes another layer of “conflict minerals” restrictions.

President Obama last week set the stage for expanded sanctions against the Democratic Republic of the Congo and vicinity’s militia-ravaged region. A new Executive Order specifies that sanctions are called for against “individuals and groups tied to militias involved in the illicit trade of natural resources from the region” of the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC. If that criteria doesn’t include conflict minerals, what does?

Penalties to companies and individuals that fail to adhere to the expanding sanctions can include:

  1. Fines of at least $250,000
  2. Fines twice the amount of the underlying transaction
  3. Criminal penalties of up to $1,000,000
  4. Imprisonment for up to 20 years

Other conduct that will trigger future US sanctions:

  1. Actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the DRC
  2. Actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the region (DRC)
  3. The targeting of women and children with acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, and rape or other sexual violence), abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law
  4. The use or recruitment of children by armed groups or armed forces
  5. Obstructing the distribution of, or access to, humanitarian assistance
  6. Attacks against United Nations missions, international security presences, or other peacekeeping operations.

Earlier this month, ahead of the Executive Order, US and United Nations Security Council added a Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces, to the sanction lists for “targeting children in situations of armed conflict through rape, killing, abduction and forced displacement.”

As far as conflict minerals go, this is yet another reason to know thy product ingredients and to continue tracking conflict minerals for compliance.

Thanks to many sources for these updates, for this one in particular thanks to Christopher T. McClure, Crowe Horwath LLP.

SEC Upholds Conflict Minerals Reporting Deadline

US Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commission Chair Mary Jo White on April 29 said that the agency will continue to implement the conflict minerals rule upheld by the US Court of Appeals.

The SEC has also issued guidance on meeting the May 31 reporting deadline. The gist is that companies must meet the deadline as expected, but may omit aspectsstruck down recently by the US Court of Appeals.

SEC Division of Corporation Finance Director Keith Higgins said companies should comply with parts of the rule that the court upheld and file initial reports by June 2 (reports will be due on June 2, 2014 as the May 31 deadline falls on a Saturday). Thing is, most parts of the rule were upheld, so there is very little change to requirements on the whole.

Higgins said no company will be required to describe products as “not been found to be ‘DRC conflict free'” but companies will still have to disclose the origins of the products.

Legal outlook.Insiders at IPC say that yesterday the industry petitioners, led by the National Association of Manufacturers, filed a Motion for a Stay with the SEC in the conflict minerals case. If the SEC denies the stay, the petitioners will consider filing a stay request with the DC Circuit.

On April 14, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the requirement that firms report whether their products have “not been found to be ‘DRC conflict free,’ included in the SEC conflict minerals regulation, violates the First Amendment.

If there is no stay requested or granted, and the case is remanded to the district court, that court may simply remand to the SEC to implement the DC Circuit’s decision in the first instance.

Do I have to file? So it’s business as usual for conflict mineral compliance. And the deadline at the end of May approacheth.

There are two categories of companies who must report.

  1. The first is standard: a company that uses minerals including tantalum, tin, gold or tungsten if that company a)files reports with the SEC under the Exchange Act, b) the minerals are “necessary to the functionality or production” of a product manufactured or contracted to be manufactured by the company. For more on this, visit this helpful FAQ.
  2. The second category of company that must report is a softer definition, for these are companies whose downstream customers demand information on raw materials so that the downstream company can then file with the SEC. So, even though your company may not have to file with the SEC, if you’re a supplier to a company that does, then you’ll have to report to them on your conflict mineral uses. Yes, it will be challenging. But it’s not impossible.

BPA – The Data Game

Over in Europe, the Member State Committee (MSC) has agreed that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) should request further information on six substances. This is the first batch of substance evaluations agreed on by the MSC.

Of particular note is the now infamous BPA. BPA is a carbon-based synthetic compound. It belongs to the group of diphenylmethane derivatives and bisphenols. BPA is used to make certain plastics and epoxy resins. The MSC has determined that more information is needed in order to properly assess the world’s most notorious plastic ingredient. In the US, the FDA has reached similar conclusions.

So why did the MSC agree that ECHA should request more information on six substances? This is essentially because the currently available information is insufficient to enable adequate health and environmental risk assessments. These particular six substances listed in the Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP) were evaluated by Germany, France, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain.

Further information on Bisphenol-A (BPA) will be requested to clarify a number of concerns. First, the MSC agreed to request a new in vitro skin absorption study to assess the risk to consumers from, for example, toys and PVC articles. Second, information on the emissions and environmental exposure of BPA will be requested in order to assess the impact on the environment. The information will help to finalize the risk assessment. It will also help to determine whether further risk management measures are needed. There are on-going studies on BPA in the US which the German authority will also take into account in the next step of the assessment on endocrine disrupting properties for humans. See also BPA and California thresholds.

Other chemicals on the list

The MSC also agreed to request further information on the reproductive toxicity of carbon tetrachloride in an extended one generation reproductive toxicity study (EOGRTS, OECD 443). (More information on worker exposure to carbon tetrachloride will also be necessary).

The MSC agreed to request further information on oligomerisation and alkylation reaction products of 2-phenylpropane and phenol (previously registered as Phenol, methylstyrenated). The information requested is a bioaccumulation study in fish to clarify the concern for potential persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic properties. A combined repeated dose toxicity (90 day) and reproductive toxicity study is also requested (EOGRTS, OECD 443) to investigate endocrine disrupting effects.

The MSC agreed to ask for further information on worker exposure to imidazole and on its reproductive toxicity effects. Information will also be requested on short-term toxicity in the environment and on mutagenicity through an in vitro study.

The MSC agreed to request further information on N,N’-bis(1,4-dimethylpentyl)-p-phenylenediamine to clarify the concerns relating to persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic properties of the substance. A soil simulation test will be requested to look at aerobic and anaerobic transformation in soil.

Finally, information will be requested on a mixture of cis- and trans- tetrahydro-2-isobutyl-4-methylpyran-4-ol to clarify concerns relating to the environment. The requested study will be a short-term growth inhibition study, followed if necessary, by a long-term toxicity study in the aquatic environment.

Mineral Uses

If a mine is controlled by armed groups who use mineral profits to purchase weapons — or other supplies or luxuries — the minerals from the mine are sometimes called conflict minerals. Tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold are useful minerals mined in many parts of the world. But sometimes those minerals come from a very conflicted area in Africa, most notably but not exclusively from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Four so-called conflict minerals and their uses are highlighted below.

Tantalum / coltan

  1. Tantalum capacitors enable energy storage in electronic products
  2. Tantalum capacitors are used in every laptop, smartphone, camera and video game console you’ve heard of – as well as in aircraft engines and military equipment
  3. Highly conductive and corrosive-resistant, tantalum is considered virtually “irreplaceable”
  4. Some alternatives include aluminum, ceramic and passivated nichrome – but none have the industry devotion of tantalum
  5. Armed groups in regions of the DRC who control mines earn an estimated $8 million per year from sales of coltan (the raw ore where tantalum comes from)
  6. 12% of all tantalum was mined in the DRC in 2011 (USGS data)
  7. Tantalum is predominantly mined in areas such as Australia, Brazil, and Canada but the amount mined in the DRC is not insignificant. A spike in tantalum export from the DRC since the tech boom of 2000 is apparent in the chart at bottom of page

The so-called “Africa’s World War” has been ravaging the eastern parts of the DRC for over a decade (map below).

Tin / casserite / coltan

  1. Tin is found in food packaging, in steel coatings on automobile parts, and in some plastics. Many industries use tin in the form of tin solder, for example, as solder on circuit boards
  2. Tin is predominantly mined in China, Indonesia, Peru, and Bolivia, as well as in the DRC
  3. About 3% of the global tin supply of the global gold supply, was mined in the DRC in 2010
  4. Tin earns armed groups in the DRC an estimated $85 million per year

By conservative estimates, the war and its effects has killed over 5 million people, making it the deadliest conflict since World War II.

Tungsten

  1. Tungsten is used in automobile manufacturing, drill bits and cutting tools, and other industrial manufacturing tools. It is also the primary component of filaments in light bulbs
  2. From 2006 through 2011, 77% to 87% of tungsten was mined in China
  3. Less than 1% of all tungsten was mined in the DRC in 2011 (USGS data)
  4. Yet, tungsten brings armed groups in the DRC about $2 million a year

The idea behind conflict mineral restrictions is no funds = no weapons = less violence and less war.

Gold

  1. Gold is used as currency, by the automotive industry in catalytic convertors, in electronics, medicine, coatings, nanotech, high tech; used in jewelry, fashion, fuel cells, jet engines, space exploration, and almost anywhere you can think of
  2. Gold is mined in many different countries, including the DRC
  3. Industry uses about 440 tons of gold per year globally
  4. Less than 1% of the global gold supply was mined in the DRC in 2010
  5. Only 23 kilograms of gold were “officially” exported from eastern Congo in the first half of 2012
  6. It’s estimated that 2 tons to 4 tons of gold was exported through illegal routes in the first half of 2012
  7. Roughly $30,000 worth of gold can fit in a pocket, and around $700,000 in a briefcase (source: The Enough Project)
Resources:

Chart: How much tantalum is mined each year?

Coltan-quantity-mined-mining

Useful reference:

Download a complimentary white paper here.

Information on software for minerals management – and SEC compliance – click here.

Map of Conflict Mineral region (note how green it is, with ample fresh water lakes):

mineral-uses

Afterword: Some say it’s not the international community’s place to monitor human rights issues in a distant country. Yet — such a huge event as this WWII-scale reality demands international attention. And don’t be duped into thinking conflict mineral legislation is strictly a humanitarian gesture.

Economic interests are involved. Consider: many say Africa is the new Asia in terms of potential for production, industry and an economic boom. But regional warring drains resources and restrains the region’s growth. This in turn badly affects western nations and corporations who would prefer to invest there rather than Asia – if the political landscape is stable enough to do so.

If the regional warring could simmer down, look out world. In ten years we’ll be talking about Africa before India, Brazil and possibly China.

EU Conflict Mineral Rule — Requires Attention

Reminder: time is slimming for public feedback on an EU conflict minerals initiative.

Here’s the European Commission info page. Insider comments and notes follow below.

Insider comments and notes. The Commission says it will use results to help decide whether – and how in a reasonable and effective manner – to complement and/or continue on-going due diligence initiatives and support for good governance in mineral mining, especially in developing countries affected by conflict.

The consultation is open until June 26, 2013.

The contributions received, together with the identity of the contributor, will be published on the Internet, unless the contributor objects to publication of the personal data by checking the appropriate box in the questionnaire (see question 1.1. in the EC’s questionnaire, scroll down).

IPC’s PoV. The North American electronics association IPC believes that it may be impractical to encourage the EU to take no action and that “the best strategy is to encourage a voluntary regimen based on the OECD process,” according to a recent comment from IPC’s frontperson, Fern Abrams.

OECD process. The OECD process was developed by a multi-national group with NGO and industry participation. Although the OECD process is far from perfect, IPC and others believe it’s more flexible than Dodd-Frank and other regulatory schemes. Therefore the OECD process may be the best option in terms of not having a new/competing regulatory regimen. If interested, IPC has drafted suggestions for industry in responding to the EU’s questioning.

In the US. The US conflict mineral rule was put into place in summer of 2012. Companies are required to collect data in 2013. The first deadline for reporting is in spring of 2014.

Companies who do not yet have a compliance initiative are encouraged to contact Actio or preferred vendor. Quickly. And weigh in on the EU’s possible initiative — especially if you agree that the OECD process is preferable to the Dodd-Frank compliance requirements. Take action tout de suite. Schnell. Vlug. Rapidamente.

Cheers.

What are the Conflict Minerals?

Currently, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) list of conflict minerals consists of four named minerals. They are tantalum, tin, tungsten (referred to as the three T’s) and — no surprise here — gold, which somehow came into being with the potential for conflict hidden deep in its very molecular structure, it seems.

Here, let’s take a look at the four conflict minerals in more detail.

Tantalum. Columbite-tantalite (often called coltan in Africa) is the metal ore from which the element tantalum is extracted. Tantalum is used in making capacitors, particularly for high performance applications with a compact size and high reliability, ranging from hearing aids and pacemakers to airbags, GPS and ignition systems, vehicle anti-lock brake systems to laptops, mobile phones, video game consoles, video cameras and digital cameras. In its carbide form, tantalum is very hard and resistant to wear and corrosion. This makes it ideal for jet engine turbine blades, drill bits, end mills and similar “heavy duty” tools.

Tin.  Cassiterite is the chief ore needed to produce tin. Tin is ubiquitous in our culture, seems we can never have enough. It’s light and durable. Perfect for cans. Used a lot in solder on electronic circuit boards — in other words it’s used in all electronic equipment. Tin is also commonly used in biocides, fungicides and as tetrabutyl tin/tetraoctyl tin, an intermediate in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and high performance paint manufacturing.

Tungsten.  Wolframite is a key source of tungsten. Tungsten is a very dense metal element. Because it’s dense and heavy it’s used to make things like fishing weights, dart tips and golf club heads. Like tantalum carbide, tungsten carbide possesses hardness and wear resistance properties and is frequently used in applications like metalworking tools, drill bits and milling. Smaller amounts are used to substitute lead in so-called “green ammunition”. Minimal amounts are used in electronic devices, for example, in the vibration mechanism of cell phones.

Gold. Gold is of course used in jewelry, electronics, and dental products. It is also present in some chemical compounds used in certain semiconductor manufacturing processes.

These minerals are sometimes referred to as “the 3T’s and gold”, 3TG, or simply the “3T’s.”

Europe is currently looking at taking conflict mineral action. And, under the US Conflict Minerals Law, additional minerals may be added to the current list in the future.

Why the ISO 14001 revision?

The most widely used Environmental Management System (EMS) standard in the world is the ISO 14001:2004. Over a quarter-million businesses use it worldwide. It was first published in 1996 with a notable update in 2004.

A new and significant revision is underway. It’s expected to be released in summer of 2013 – first draft. Target for final publication is 2015.

Why businesses use ISO standards  A standard is technically a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. In other words, quality. A standard is a practical guide and an ideological benchmark against which to measure systems or products or both. Ideally, ISO standards help assure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. For business, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors, and increasing productivity. The ISO 14001 EMS standard specifies a process for the control and the continuous improvement of an organization’s environmental performance. The standard encourages a strategic approach to an organization’s environmental policy, plans and actions. A strategic approach is always a good idea.

Why the revision to ISO 14001?  The revision of the ISO standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) incorporates a change in document structure. That’s pretty much it. Specifically, there are changes in clause hierarchy, including the nesting area of many subclauses. The adjustments reflect a new universal structure — a standard if you will — recently approved for implementation across all next-generation ISO standards. Best way to approach this new ISO 14001 document is to absorb the new structure. Be mindful that any current processes or products that are ISO 14001:2004 compatible will remain acceptable under ISO 14001:2015. There is no need to rush out and start making changes. However, keep an eye on shuffled clauses in the documentation, as with the following:

Requirements for an EMS will be organized into Clauses 1 – 10:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms and definitions
  4. Context of organisation
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvement

From the intelligence we’ve gathered, there is nothing Quality Professionals need to do differently to remain in compliance with the standard revision. But it might be time to familiarize ourselves with the new structure, and if not today, then bookmark this page for reference later on.

New TSCA Reform Bill from Lautenberg

U.S. chemical law reform has the best chance to pass as we’ve seen since 1976.

Senator Lautenberg has not been in great health these past few months. His detractors in the US Senate, in powerful lobbies— and just in principle— seem to be softening a bit. We are witnessing the final months of the final term of one of the most legendary public servants in United States history. Whether you love him or prefer to dine at a different table, such a long and passionate career will certainly garner at least some of the respect it deserves. Not that Lautenberg is looking for respect. He’s looking for legacy: he wants to see chemical legislation reform happen in America, no matter what.

In what could be a final bid to make it happen, the Senator has introduced a new version of a bill that would update the Toxic Substances and Chemicals Act (TSCA). It is identical to the legislation that was sponsored by 30 Senators and reported favorably out of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the 112th Congress. Compared to earlier versions of the legislation, it includes a number of significant changes that reflected input from a broad range of stakeholders including federal agencies, state governments, the chemical industry, and public health advocates.

An update is something that almost everyone agrees must happen, from tree-huggers to the ACC to 77% of the US population. The disagreement, as ever, is in the specifics of the bill. TSCA reform is always held up on minutiae and absolutely nothing ever happens. However, with sentiment rising in favor of the august public servant, now is as likely a time as we’ve seen in the past 12 years to consider TSCA reform a real legislative possibility.

Under TSCA, EPA’s ability to protect human health and the environment from harmful chemicals is severely limited. These legal restrictions are so burdensome that, of the more than 84,000 chemicals on the inventory, EPA has been able to require health and safety testing of about 200, and banned only five, since TSCA was enacted in 1976.

Americans and even industry overwhelmingly support legislation to reform TSCA. Recent polling shows strong bipartisan support across the country, as well as strong support from small business owners.

— 77% of Americans support TSCA reform, says a recent poll by Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies
— 75% of small business owners support stronger regulations on toxic chemicals

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 addresses each of the core failings of TSCA. To read the specifics of the issues it addresses, please refer to the summary or to the actual bill as proposed.

GHS Timeline in USA

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals is a worldwide initiative to promote standard criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health, physical and environmental hazards.

OSHA-GHS-timeline-date-USA

GHS is a universal pictograph language. So that a worker in Asia, or in the Americas —or in Africa or Europe or Antarctica — can all read and render the same hazard insignias at a glance. GHS makes sense.

A lot changes with the new system. Most readers of this blog are familiar with the new system’s use of pictograms, hazard statements, and signal words “Danger” and “Warning” to communicate hazard information on product labels and safety data sheets.

So what are the GHS deadlines for US companies?  At the right you’ll see a graphical timeline showing dates for US implementation of GHS.

For help with GHS compliance, contact your favorite consultancy or check with a neutral, platform-agnostic software provider. On the software note, the GHS challenge is formidable enough to have spawned newbie GHS solutions. Do basic Google searches and research. Talk to a few software vendors. Actio Corporation is a good example of a veteran, proven software company that can help with GHS conversion. Whether you decide to use software or not is up to you. Just know that a software company might really help with your GHS challenge.