Monday, January 04, 2010

EPA To Establish First-Time “Chemicals Of Concern” List

Dec 30: U.S. EPA announced a series of actions including developing Chemical Action Plans (CAPs) on four chemicals which they said raise serious health or environmental concerns, including phthalates. For the first time, EPA intends to establish a “Chemicals of Concern” list and is beginning a process that "may lead to regulations requiring significant risk reduction measures to protect human health and the environment." EPA said the actions represent its "determination to use its authority under the existing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to the fullest extent possible, recognizing EPA’s strong belief that the 1976 law is both outdated and in need of reform."

In addition to phthalates, the chemicals EPA is addressing are short-chain chlorinated paraffins; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); and perfluorinated chemicals, including PFOA. EPA said the chemicals are used in the manufacture of a wide array of products and have raised a range of health and environmental concerns. EPA also recently announced that three U.S. companies agreed to phase out DecaBDE, a widely used fire retardant chemical that may potentially cause cancer and may impact brain function [See WIMS 12/18/09].

Administrator Jackson said, “The American people are understandably concerned about the chemicals making their way into our products, our environment and our bodies. We will continue to use our authority under existing law to protect Americans from exposure to harmful chemicals and to highlight chemicals we believe warrant concern. At the same time, I will continue to fight for comprehensive reform of the nation’s outdated chemical management laws that ensures a full assessment of the safety of chemicals on the market today and effective actions to reduce risks where chemicals do not meet the safety standard. Chemical safety is an issue of utmost importance, especially for children, and this will remain a top priority for me and our agency going forward.”

On September 29, 2009, Jackson outlined a set of agency principles to help inform legislative reform and announced that EPA would act on a number of widely studied chemicals that may pose threats to human health [See WIMS 9/30/09]. EPA noted that when TSCA was passed in 1976, there were 60,000 chemicals on the inventory of existing chemicals. Since that time, EPA has only successfully restricted or banned five existing chemicals and has only required testing on another two hundred existing chemicals. An additional 20,000 chemicals have entered the marketplace for a total of more than 80,000 chemicals on the TSCA inventory.

The actions announced include: (1) Adding phthalates and PBDE chemicals to the concern list; (2) Beginning a process that could lead to risk reductions actions under section 6 of TSCA for several phthalates, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, and perfluorinated chemicals; and, (3) Reinforcing the DecaBDE phaseout -- which will take place over three years -- with requirements to ensure that any new uses of PBDEs are reviewed by EPA prior to returning to the market. EPA also indicated that chemicals currently in the action plan development process also include: Benzidine dyes and pigments; and Bisphenol A.

This is the first time EPA has used TSCA’s authority to list chemicals that “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.” EPA said the decision to list the chemicals further signals the Administration’s commitment to aggressively use the tools at its disposal under TSCA. Inclusion on the list publicly signals EPA’s strong concern about the risks that those chemicals pose and the agency’s intention to manage those risks. Once listed, chemical companies can provide information to the Agency if they want to demonstrate that their chemical does not pose an unreasonable risk.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a release indicating that although it supports EPA’s effort to outline possible Agency actions for prioritized chemicals under the existing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), ACC and its member companies are disappointed that the initial set of chemicals seem to have been selected based on little more than their current “high-profile” nature.

Cal Dooley, ACC President and CEO, said, “In exercising its authority under TSCA, EPA should prioritize chemicals for the CAP program based on scientific criteria that reflect available hazard, use and exposure information provided to the agency. Unfortunately, until today, there has been little transparency, and significant uncertainty, over the scientific basis for the selection of these chemicals. The action plans released today include references to scientific studies that the agency believes make the case for restrictive action, but the agency should maintain their responsibility to review the weight of evidence for all scientific studies, even those that lead to a different conclusion. The chemical industry supports modernizing the way chemicals are managed in commerce, but the CAP process to date provides no evidence of a systematic, science-based approach to chemicals management. It is vital that this be addressed.”

“ACC members are proud of our products. Chemicals are critical in life saving vaccines, solar panels and energy efficient products, clean water, and so many other uses that improve quality of life, safety, and the environment. ACC members will continue to work with consumer, government and scientific organizations to understand the impacts of chemicals on human health and the environment.”

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), in a blog post said that EPA deserved an “A for effort.” EDF said, in response to ACC's claims that “the initial set of chemicals seem to have been selected based on little more than their current ‘high-profile’ nature; that "back when it [EPA] announced its enhanced program, EPA pretty clearly stated the basis for selecting the first group of chemicals:" EPA said, "The initial chemicals selected for action plan development were chosen on the basis of multiple factors, including chemicals identified as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic; high production volume chemicals; chemicals in consumer products; chemicals of particular potential concern for children’s health because of reproductive or developmental toxicity; chemicals subject to review and potential action in international forums; chemicals found in human blood in biomonitoring programs; and chemicals in categories generally identified as being of potential concern in the new chemicals program." EDF said further that, "each individual plan provides substantial documentation as to why EPA selected the chemical, including detailed hazard and exposure data."

Access a release from EPA (
click here). Access more information on EPA’s legislative reform principles, a fact sheet on the complete set of actions on the four chemicals, the CAPs and additional information (click here). Access a release from ACC with links to additional information (click here). Access the blog post from EDF (click here).