EPA to Evaluate Chemicals for Risk

17.01.2017 -

For the first time in 40 years, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to evaluate existing chemicals sold on the US market that may pose risks to human health or the environment. The agency is working toward a Jun. 22, 2017 deadline for developing a process to comply with new rules of the new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act last year’s revision of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA).

The new toxic substances regulation “grandfathers in” substances on the market for some time that did not undergo risk-oriented evaluation in the past.  Jim Jones, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said the old law failed to provide EPA with the tools to evaluate chemicals and to require companies to generate and provide data on chemicals produced; however, “after 40 years we can finally address chemicals currently in the marketplace.”

EPA is proposing three procedural rules, incorporating comment received from a series of public meetings held in August 2016, to help administer the new process. In a first step, it will have to deal with a backlog of more than 85,000 chemicals on EPA’s Inventory, many of which are no longer actively produced.  Here, manufacturers as well as importers will be obligated to notify the EPA and the public on the number of chemicals still being produced. 

As a next step, the agency will establish rules on how to prioritize chemicals for evaluation. Its experts will use a risk-based screening process and criteria to identify whether a particular chemical is high or low priority.  A chemical designated as high priority must undergo evaluation, while those designated as low priority will not need to be evaluated.

The risk evaluation rule will establish how EPA evaluates the threat posed by existing chemicals, assessing their hazards and exposure. The steps of the evaluation process and the scope of the assessment will be made public, and the agency also will outline how it intends to seek public comment.

If the government’s scientists identify unreasonable risk in the evaluation, they must eliminate that risk through regulations. At least 20 ongoing risk evaluations are required to be in the process by the end of 2019. In December 2016 the agency published its “top ten list” of substances of concern. This included 1,4-dioxane; 1-bromopropane; asbestos; carbon tetrachloride; cyclic aliphatic bromide cluster; methylene chloride; n-methylpyrrolidone; pigment Violet 29; tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene) and trichloroethylene.

The goals just published are the last drawn up by the administration of President Barack Obama. Many US environmental organizations are concerned that they could be overturned or watered down under the aegis of the new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who will replace Gina McCarthy on Jan. 20. Over the past several years. Pruitt has filed 14 lawsuits challenging federal environmental regulations. In 13 of those cases, reports say the co-parties included companies that had contributed money to his political campaigns.