Advocacy begins for first substance reviews under new TSCA

Stakeholders have begun to weigh in on which substances should be the first to undergo risk evaluation under the newly reformed TSCA, and say they will be an early test of the EPA’s new authorities. Under the recently modernised law, the agency must identify ten substances from its existing list of workplan chemicals and formally initiate a risk evaluation of these, within 180 days of enactment – that is, by 22 December. The scope of those risk evaluations must then be set out, within the following six months. The EPA has told Chemical Watch it has not yet identified any of the initial ten chemicals, and welcomes input from stakeholders in the substances’ selection and in their subsequent scoping, once identified. Mike Belliveau, executive director of the NGO Environmental Health Strategy Centre (EHSC), said the EPA says the first five will probably be selected by September. So advocates should now begin to reach out to the agency about which chemicals they believe should be prioritised. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) says “workplan substances, for which EPA has had significant work underway, are logical candidates for the first ten substances under review.” And Bonni Kaufman, an attorney at Holland & Knight, said, in a recent webinar, that the EPA will “definitely” be selecting such substances. Last year, the EPA released initial assessments for flame retardant clusters, centred around three workplan flame retardants: tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), within the brominated bisphenol A cluster; ethanol, 2-chloro-, phosphate (3:1) (TCEP), in the chlorinated phosphate esters cluster; and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), as part of the cyclic aliphatic bromides cluster. These chemicals could be in the first group, said EHSC’s Mr Belliveau. And it is “likely” that 1,4-dioxane and 1-bromopropane (1-BP) will be included, he said, as the EPA has also started risk assessment on those. NGO, the Environmental Working Group, recently published a list of substances it hopes to see in the EPA’s top ten. In addition to the flame retardants and 1-BP, it includes: asbestos; perchloroethylene (also known as tetrachloroethylene); phthalates; bisphenol A; and DEHA. EWG legislative attorney, Melanie Benesh, said the fact that the first ten will be exempt from “pause preemption” – which would otherwise block a state from regulating any use of the substance that falls within the scope of its risk evaluation, until the EPA completes its review – was a factor in determining which substances to prioritise. “Because it could take a decade for regulations to be implemented on any one of these chemicals, many of which can be found in consumer products, it is important that states have additional time to pass their own regulations, before being preempted,” she said. She added that the NGO skipped nine persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances (PBTs) from its top picks, because these will be subject to expedited review under a separate section of the new law. Potential health risk, number of Americans exposed, risk exposure and use in consumer products were also factored into EWG’s prioritisation. Whichever substances the agency chooses, said Mr Belliveau, they “will be an early test of how good a job EPA does in risk assessment”. Regarding whether the named ten substances might precipitate the development of safer alternatives, he said that he hopes it sends “a signal to the marketplace to move quickly away from these chemicals and not wait for final EPA action.” But he adds that because the new law is a risk-based statute, the “inherent flaws of risk assessment are fully exposed”. “EPA is only going to be make determinations and restrict chemical use, where there are robust data on chemical hazards and exposures, and we know that’s not true for most chemicals and most chemical uses.” But “within that constraint, hopefully signals are sent that everyone who has a stake should be looking for safer approaches,” he said. Ms Benesh added that “all 1,000 chemicals EPA has testified need to be reviewed should be evaluated and regulated as quickly as possible, and that these ten chemicals are merely a first step.”

Chemical Watch, 27 July 2016 ; ;