Glyphosate Added to Carcinogen List in California

April 03, 2017

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® and many other weed killers, has been added to California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced recently.

The effective date of the listing will depend on the outcome of a request for a stay in the Fresno County Superior Court case Monsanto v OEHHA. The lawsuit challenged OEHHA’s ability to list the chemical. The trial court ruled in OEHHA’s favor, but Monsanto is appealing the decision and asking the Court of Appeal to issue a stay that would block the listing while the appeal is pending. OEHHA is opposing Monsanto’s request.

Proposition 65 is a right-to-know law that California voters approved in 1986. It requires the state to maintain a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. Proposition 65 does not ban or restrict the use of listed chemicals. Instead, it requires businesses to provide warnings prior to causing a significant exposure to a listed chemical. It also prohibits discharges of the chemical into sources of drinking water.

The requirement to provide warnings takes effect one year after a chemical is added to the list. Warnings must be clear and reasonable and can be provided in a variety of ways, including on product labels or on signs near where the exposure can occur.

OEHHA is also proposing a regulatory “safe-harbor” level for glyphosate of 1100 micrograms per day, which means that exposures below that level are not considered a significant risk and would not require a warning.

The safe-harbor level helps businesses determine when a warning is required. Once the warning requirement takes effect, businesses with 10 or more employees who cause exposures above the safe harbor level may need to provide warnings. It is not known at this time which products and exposures would exceed the safe-harbor level and require warnings.

Glyphosate is being added to the list because it was identified by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as causing cancer in animals. Proposition 65 requires that certain chemicals identified as carcinogens by IARC under the California Labor Code must be added to the list.

OEHHA is the lead agency for implementation of Proposition 65 and has established a website that provides information for Californians about their exposures to toxic chemicals from the products they buy and the places they go. The website – http://www.p65warnings.ca.gov/ – is a central part of OEHHA’s efforts to update and improve the implementation of Proposition 65. The office also maintains and updates the Proposition 65 list of chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive effects.

In addition, OEHHA is the primary state entity for the assessment of risks posed by chemical contaminants in the environment. Its mission is to protect and enhance public health and the environment by scientific evaluation of risks posed by hazardous substances.

San Diego RCRA and DOT Training

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EU CLP Revised to Require Unique Formula Identifiers for Mixtures

The European Union’s Classification, Labeling, and Packaging directive (1272/2008) has been revised to adopt an Amendment to Annex VIII. The Annex requires submission of identity information and hazards to EU member states. The revised Annex requires the submitter to generate a Unique Formula Identifier (UFI), which is a unique alphanumeric code that unambiguously links the submitted information on the composition of a mixture or a group of mixtures to a specific mixture or group of mixtures. The UFI will be required to be placed on product labels. With some exceptions, a new UFI must be created when a change in the composition of the mixture or group of mixtures.

Staffing Firm Found Responsible in Warehouse Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Cal/OSHA has announced that citations issued to staffing firm Barrett Business Services following a September 28, 2011, carbon monoxide warehouse incident in Anaheim that sent eight temporary workers to the hospital were upheld by the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (OSHAB).

For months prior to the incident, the workers contracted by Barrett Business Services to package fruits and nuts in L&L Foods’ warehouse in Anaheim had complained to their supervisor that they were experiencing headaches, nausea and other health issues caused by forklifts operating in an enclosed area with poor ventilation. Neither the Ontario-based staffing company nor host employer L&L Foods took any action.

“This decision by the Appeals Board underscores the shared responsibility by staffing companies and host employers in protecting workers’ health and safety,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “This was a case where neither employer addressed known safety and health hazards.”

On the day of the incident, a forklift driver became ill and was hospitalized for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, while seven other workers were taken to the hospital for treatment. Cal/OSHA tested the facility and found the workers were exposed to CO levels of 250-350 parts per million, which exceeded the ceiling limit of 200 parts per million. Following an investigation, Cal/OSHA issued citations in 2012 to both Barrett Business Services and L&L Foods for numerous safety violations, including willful violations for failing to take action on known hazards.

Both employers filed appeals protesting the citations; L&L Foods settled its case on April 22, 2013. Following a lengthy appeal process that started in 2013, an administrative law judge last April denied Barrett’s appeal and imposed total civil penalties of $80,050.

Barrett objected to the appeal decision and on August 29, 2016, filed a petition for reconsideration with the Appeals Board. The Board rendered its decision last December, citing evidence gained from Cal/OSHA’s investigation that the employer did not properly train its employees, disregarded workers’ reports of health hazards and failed to monitor the worksite.

The evidence revealed that L&L Foods had sealed all of the vents at the facility to prevent vermin from entering the establishment. Barrett did not assess the safety conditions for the enclosed environment, failed to control the increased carbon monoxide levels in the workplace and continually disregarded worker’s reports of headaches and nausea from the fumes.

The citations issued included three violations for one general, one willful general and one willful serious category violation. A willful violation is cited when the employer is aware of the law and violates it nevertheless, or when the employer is aware of the hazardous condition and takes no reasonable steps to address it. A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation. A general violation is cited when an accident or occupational illness resulting from violation of a standard would probably not cause death or serious physical harm, but would have a direct or immediate relationship to the safety or health of employees.

Cal/OSHA, officially known as the Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR’s) Division of Occupational Safety and Health, helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California.

Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact DIR’s Call Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734). The California Workers’ Information line at 866-924-9757 provides recorded information in English and Spanish on a variety of work-related topics. Complaints can also be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices.

Occupational Safety and Health Review Board Upholds $301,000 Fine Issued in Trenching Fatality

The Alaska Occupational Safety and Health Review Board upheld multiple willful citations issued by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development to Hartman Construction and Equipment, Inc. The fines were issued after an Alaska Occupational Safety and Health (AKOSH) investigation of a trench collapse that took the life of a Hartman Construction employee.

Samuel Morgan, who was 23 years old, died at an Anchorage worksite near 91st Street and King Street on June 16, 2015, when he was buried up to his waist by falling debris and then dug out using heavy equipment. AKOSH investigators arrived on scene and found numerous violations of trenching and excavation standards. The trench had no benching, shoring, or sloping to prevent a dangerous cave-in. Evidence showed that the employer was aware of the possibility of a trench collapse, yet chose to continue work without taking preventative measures. AKOSH issued eight citations, which were appealed by Hartman Construction and Equipment, Inc.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Board reviewed the facts of the case and upheld five willful violations. Willful violations involve plain indifference or conscious disregard for employee safety, and carry a penalty of up to $70,000 for each violation. The board determined that Hartman Construction and Equipment, Inc., disregarded clear OSHA requirements for trenches and excavations.

The board also determined that the use of an excavator to extricate Mr. Morgan from the trench collapse was inherently dangerous, and could possibly have contributed to the young man’s death. Though no specific OSHA standard addresses the practice, Hartman Construction was found to be in violation of the law requiring employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Hartman Construction and Equipment, Inc., has filed a notice of appeal in Superior Court.

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. Assistance is available from private safety and health consultants or from the AKOSH Consultation and Training Program, which offers free and confidential safety and health advice to small and medium-sized businesses. Employers can learn more about the AKOSH Consultation program by calling 1-800-656- 4972 or by visiting http://labor.alaska.gov/lss/oshhome.htm.

Safety Stand-Down Events Put the Brakes on Injuries at Georgia Road Sites

The Federal Highway Administration, the state of Georgia, local government organizations and employers are partnering with OSHA to sponsor one-hour events to train road workers on the dangers of distracted drivers, flying debris and other objects during National Highway Work Zone Awareness Week, April 3–7.

The Safety Stand-Down events encourage employers to voluntarily stop work for one hour at Georgia construction sites on a designated day to review best safety practices and discuss the hazards of objects and vehicles striking workers, the leading cause of roadside-related construction deaths. The events will take place from 7 to 8 a.m. EDT on the day chosen.

"Our alliance partners have come together to honor the working mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons who died because a driver risked a text message, a phone call or other distraction," said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA's regional administrator for the Southeast. "The Safety Stand-Down events allow employers to identify hazards and how employees can avoid them. It also reminds the construction industry and the public at-large of the importance of safety in these work zones."

The Stand-Down is being organized by the Georgia Struck-By Alliance, which includes OSHA; the Associated General Contractors of Georgia, Inc.; 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material; Georgia Department of Transportation; Federal Highway Administration's Georgia Division; Georgia Highway Contractors Association; Georgia Utility Contractors Association, Inc.; Georgia Tech Research Institute; Lamar Advertising; Georgia Power; Pike Corporation; Ansco & Associates, LLC; Construction Education Foundation of Georgia; National Safety Council, Georgia Chapter; Comcast; Local Government Risk Management Services; and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

An informational flier and toolbox in English and Spanish is available from the Associated General Contractors of Georgia. For more information, contact Christi Griffin in OSHA's Atlanta-West Area Office at 678-903-7301; Bill Fulcher in the Atlanta-East Area Office at 770-493-6644; or Margo Westmoreland in the Savannah Area Office at 912-652-4393.

Through the agency's Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses.

Exposure to Common Flame Retardants May Raise the Risk of Papillary Thyroid Cancer

Some flame retardants used in many home products appear to be associated with the most common type of thyroid cancer, papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), according to a new study being presented at the Endocrine Society's 99th annual meeting, ENDO 2017, in Orlando, Florida.

"Thyroid cancer is the fastest increasing cancer in the U.S., with most of the increase in new cases being papillary thyroid cancer," said the study's lead investigator, Julie Ann Sosa, M.D., MA, professor of surgery and medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. "Recent studies suggest that environmental factors may, in part, be responsible for this increase."

Many animal studies have demonstrated that several classes of flame retardants act as endocrine-disrupting chemicals and interfere with thyroid homeostasis (function), partly because they share a similar chemical structure with thyroid hormones, Sosa said. Therefore, she and her colleagues turned their attention to these flame retardants to study a possible relationship with PTC.

"Our study results suggest that higher exposure to several flame retardants in the home environment may be associated with the diagnosis and severity of papillary thyroid cancer, potentially explaining some of the observed increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer," Sosa said. "This study is novel in that we collected and analyzed individuals' house dust as a measure of exposure to flame retardants."

Levels of flame retardants in house dust significantly correlate with personal exposures, she explained. The researchers collected dust samples from the homes of 140 study subjects: 70 with PTC and 70 individuals without evidence of thyroid disease or cancer as control subjects. Controls were matched on important characteristics, including age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, household income and education level. Because all participants had lived in their homes for an average of approximately 11 years, Sosa said the researchers could assess long-term average exposure to these environmental chemicals. They also collected participants' blood samples to analyze biomarkers of exposure to several flame retardants in the class known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Just as PTC affects more women than men, most study participants (79%) were women, and their average age was 48 years. The investigators reported that higher levels in house dust of two flame retardants were associated with an increased odds of the home resident having PTC. Those were decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209), the most heavily used PBDE, and to a lesser degree, tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), an organophosphate flame retardant. Participants whose BDE-209 levels in their dust were high were more than two times as likely to have thyroid cancer than those individuals with low BDE-209 concentrations.

Participants with high levels of TCEP in their house dust were more than four times as likely to have larger, more aggressive tumors that extended beyond the thyroid, according to the study. In contrast, participants with the highest dust levels of BDE-209 were 14 times as likely to be a PTC patient that did not have a common gene mutation (BRAF V600E). This mutation has been linked to PTC that tends to behave more aggressively. "This difference," Sosa said, "begs more interrogation."

Exposure to BPA Substitute, BPS, Multiplies Breast Cancer Cells

Bisphenol S (BPS), a substitute for the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in the plastic industry, shows the potential for increasing the aggressiveness of breast cancer through its behavior as an endocrine-disrupting chemical, a new study finds. The results, which tested BPS in human breast cancer cells, will be presented Saturday at ENDO 2017, the Endocrine Society's 99th annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

BPS is found in polycarbonate hard plastics, currency bills, and thermal paper receipts as well as many products touted to be free of BPA, a known endocrine-disrupting chemical suspected of having multiple possible health risks.

"Despite hopes for a safer alternative to BPA, studies have shown BPS to exhibit similar estrogen-mimicking behavior to BPA," said the study's principal investigator, Sumi Dinda, Ph.D., associate professor at Oakland University School of Health Sciences, Rochester, Michigan.

Their study confirmed that BPS acts like estrogen in breast cancer cells, Dinda said, adding, "So far, BPS seems to be a potent endocrine disruptor."

He and his colleagues studied the effects of BPS on estrogen receptor-alpha and the BRCA1 gene. Most breast cancers are estrogen receptor positive, and, according to the National Cancer Institute, 55 to 65% of women who inherit a harmful mutation in the BRCA1 gene will develop breast cancer.

Using two commercially available breast cancer cell lines obtained from women with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer, the research team exposed the cancer cells to varying strengths of BPS or to an inactive substance as a control.

The investigators also treated the breast cancer cells with estradiol (estrogen) and found that BPS acted like estrogen in multiplying breast cancer cells, Dinda said. Compared with the control, BPS heightened the protein expression in estrogen receptor and BRCA1 after 24 hours, as did estrogen. After a six-day treatment with BPS, the breast cancer cells in both cell lines reportedly increased in number by 12% at the lowest dose (4 micromolars) and by 60% at 8 micromolars.

The research team then blocked the BPS-induced proliferation of breast cancer cells by treating the cells with anti-estrogen drugs, which are used to block estrogen's action onto estrogen binding proteins (estrogen receptors) in breast cancer cells.

Dinda said their findings suggest that BPS may cause breast cancer to become more aggressive. Although further study of BPS in breast cancer cells is needed for confirmation, he suggested that "if a woman has a mutated BRAC1 gene and uses products containing BPS, her risk for developing breast cancer may increase further."

Co-author Katie Aleck, a research assistant at Oakland University, will present the study results at the meeting.

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