EPA to Test 10 Chemicals Under new TSCA
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the first ten chemicals it plans to evaluate for potential risks to human health and the environment under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), now known as Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The law requires that the list of chemicals regarded to pose serious risks to consumers, workers and the environment be published by Dec. 19.
After publication in the Federal Register, the law stipulates that a complete risk evaluation for each of the chemicals must be made within three years. If the test results determine that a chemical presents an unreasonable risk, the EPA must mitigate that risk within two years. Within six months, it must release a so-called scoping document that includes the hazard and exposure risks, conditions of use and the potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations it plans to consider.
On the EPA’s “top ten list” of substances of concern are 1,4-dioxane; 1-bromopropane; asbestos; carbon tetrachloride; cyclic aliphatic bromide cluster; methylene chloride; n-methylpyrrolidone; pigment Violet 29; tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene) and trichloroethylene. The chemicals, some of which are found in consumer products, were drawn from the agency’s 2014 TSCA Work Plan, among 90 chemicals selected because of their potential for high hazard and exposure as well as other considerations.
According to the an advocacy NGO, Environmental Working Group (EWG), 1,4-dioxane used in dyes, varnishes and waxes is a likely carcinogen that can lead to irritation in the respiratory tract and cause damage to the kidneys, liver and brain. It can also contaminate cosmetics and cleaners because it is created as a byproduct of chemicals sometimes used in those products. EWG‘s database lists more than 9,000 cosmetics that EWG said contains chemicals that may produce 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct. “While technology exists to strip out 1,4-dioxane contamination, there is no requirement to do so, making it nearly impossible” to know which companies have taken action, the group said.
EWG said 1-bromopropane, a “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” is linked to reproductive and developmental harms, even with only short-term exposure. The “powerful solvent” is used in degreasers, aerosol spray adhesives, aerosol spot removers, aerosol cleaners and degreasers and sometimes used in dry cleaning, it said.
The list continues with the solvent tetrachloroethylene (PERC), used in dry cleaning fluid as well as in household products such as water repellents, spot removers, wood cleaners, adhesives and silicone lubricants. EWG noted that the EPA considers PERC a probable human carcinogen and that the chemical also on California’s list of known carcinogens also has been linked to harmful effects on the nervous and reproductive systems.
Environmental groups are growing increasingly concerned about what will happen to the revised TCSA and even to the EPA under the administration of US president-elect Donald Trump, in particular reports that Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute – described by EWG as “an industry-funded front group that has consistently downplayed the risks toxic chemicals pose” – may be named to head the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Ebell’s institute has reportedly deemed chemicals long associated with serious health hazards to be safe – including arsenic, mercury, phthalates, formaldehyde and even abestos.
The revised TCSA should be an opportunity to finally restrict toxic chemicals and ensure that consumers are safe, EWG said. ”But if the EPA’s top spots are packed with pro-industry officials, Americans may never have the safety protections in place that we deserve.”