Methanol Industry's Health Effects Review Submitted to EPA

Environmental and animal rights groups support a summary submitted by an industry group that indicates there is ample data to fully evaluate the potential health effects of methanol.

It''s not often that environmental groups support a health effects study by a chemical industry group. but it appears that many environmental and animal rights groups are supporting a Robust Summary submitted by The Methanol Institute Testing Group to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The summary, which was submitted as part of the public comment process of EPA''s efforts to evaluate the health effects of methanol, concluded that there is abundant data to fully evaluate the potential health effects of methanol, and that no additional testing is necessary.

Back in 1998, then Vice President Al Gore challenged the chemical industry to voluntarily provide basic human health and environmental toxicity information for public education.

In 2000, The Methanol Institute formed an industry consortium to coordinate activities for methanol under the HPV Challenge Program. The Methanol Institute Testing Group included 3M, Borden, Methanol Holdings Trinidad Ltd., Ecofuel, Lyondell, Millenium, Southern Chemical, Terra Industries, Methanex, Vulcan Chemicals, Ashland, Celanese, Enron Clean Fuels, Sands Creek Chemical, Sterling Chemicals, Synetix, Sabic Americas, and Conseil European des Federations de L''Industrie Chimique. The Methanol Institute serves as the trade association for the methanol industry.

The EPA received supporting comments for the Methanol Institute''s summary from Environmental Defense and a consortium of health and animal rights groups which included the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Humane Society of the United States, Doris Day Animal League, and Earth Island Institute.

Writing for Environmental Defense, consulting toxicologist Dr. George Lucier and senior attorney Karen Florini said their group "concur(s) with this conclusion based on our review of the robust summaries as well as numerous research articles on methanol toxicity published in open scientific literature."

On behalf of the health and animal rights consortium, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine staff scientist Nicole Cardello wrote, ``We commend the consortium''s discussion of human clinical data and species differences in response to exposure to methanol -- analyses that have been glaringly absent from other HPV test plans."

Developers of fuel cell technology consider methanol an ideal source of hydrogen to power consumer products such as cellular phones, laptop computers, and even a new generation of high-performance, Zero-Emission automobiles. Increased use of methanol (currently used by wastewater treatment plants, and to make plywood, plastics, windshield washer fluid, and other products) requires EPA to carefully study its health and safety characteristics, and ensure full public access to information concerning methanol.

To view a copy of the Robust Summary and the comments provided visit EPA''s web site at www.epa.gov/chemrtk/methanol/c13104tc.htm. The agency is expected to provide its final comments on the methanol Robust Summary soon.

By Sandy Smith (ssmith@penton.com)

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