Date: Jan 06, 2010
On December 30, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced "action plans" under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for certain chemicals, including certain phthalates, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and perfluorinated chemicals, asserting that these chemicals "have raised a range of health and environmental concerns." (The agency's announcement is available here ).
After an earlier promise to release the first action plans in December 2009, EPA fulfilled its commitment on December 30. If EPA stays on schedule another set of action plans would be expected in March. The next chemicals slated for action plans include benzidine dyes and pigments, and bisphenol A. EPA plans to add phthalates and PBDEs to its newly-established "Chemicals of Concern" list. This listing process may lead to regulations requiring significant risk reduction measures intended to protect human health and the environment. Once a substance is listed, companies may provide EPA with information demonstrating that the chemical does not pose an unreasonable risk. "Chemicals of concern" has become a buzz phrase in recent months, as the concept of prioritization has taken center stage. In EPA's Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation, issued in September 2009, the Agency stated that TSCA reform would be necessary for the agency to effectively target chemicals of concern. (See http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/principles.pdf.)
During a Congressional hearing in November 2009, Steve Owens, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, made clear that EPA is pursuing regulatory prioritization of chemicals based on their presence in human blood, whether they are PBTs, their toxicity, and their production volume. The action plans released last week are evidence that EPA is proceeding without delay with prioritization. The action plans should not be interpreted as a sign that the Agency intends to ease its insistence for TSCA reform. As noted in its announcement, EPA believes that TSCA is "both outdated and in need of reform" and will continue to seek "comprehensive reform … that ensures a full assessment of the safety of chemicals on the market today and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."
In the announcement EPA Administrator Jackson also emphasized the importance of chemical safety for children, which may be an indicator that the Agency will join the push for introduction of a 2010 version of the Kid Safe Chemicals Act (KSCA). Although it is unclear whether a legislative TSCA reform proposal will directly mirror the versions of KSCA introduced in 2005 and 2008, industry generally is expecting a TSCA reform bill in 2010. Prioritization is gaining attention on the state level as well. In early December, 13 states jointly released the States' Principles on Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, available at http://www.maine.gov/dep/oc/safechem/13states_sig.pdf.
Summary of Four Chemical Action Plans
In the action plan for each chemical, EPA summarizes certain hazard, exposure, and use information on the chemical; discusses risks presented by the chemical; and sets forth actions to address the agency's concerns. Below is a brief summary of EPA's findings and actions the Agency intends to take to manage risks posed by each chemical. The complete action plans are available at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/ecactionpln.html.
Long-Chain Perfluorinated Chemicals
Long-chain perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are used in a variety of industrial and consumer applications to impart nonstick, stain-resistant, fire-resistant or surfactant properties. PFCs comprise both perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFAS) and perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (PFAC). The PFAS category includes perfluorohexane sulfonic acid, higher homologues and their salts and precursors, and the PFAC category includes perfluorooctanoic acid (commonly called C8), higher homologues and their salts and precursors. EPA is concerned about long-chain PFCs because EPA believes that they are "bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans," "persistent in the environment," and "toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife." Although EPA acknowledges that significant adverse effects have not been discovered in the general human population, EPA notes that significant adverse effects have been identified in laboratory animals and wildlife. EPA believes that continued exposure could increase body burdens to levels that would result in adverse outcomes, given the long half-life of these PFCs. EPA plans to take the following actions on long-chain PFCs:
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers
Phthalates are used as plasticizers to increase the flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity of plastics. EPA's action plan on phthalates applies to eight types of phthalates: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), di-n-pentyl phthalate (DnPP), di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP), and diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP). According to EPA, phthalates pose the greatest risk to the development of the male reproductive system. EPA proposes to take the following actions to manage phthalates: