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EPA Drops Chemical Safety Proposals

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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Environmental regulators have quietly scrapped their plan to tighten oversight of several controversial building and flame-retardant chemicals and require more transparency by manufacturers.

The decision, noted only in an Environmental Protection Agency blog post Sept. 9, has drawn cheers from chemical makers and jeers from health and safety advocates.

Chemical security
American Chemistry Council

One rule would have required greater transparency of chemical company data before chemicals are manufactured. The chemical industry called the rule unnecessary.

Both proposed rules involved changes to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Both were submitted several years ago to the Office of Management and Budget for what were supposed to be 90-day reviews.

Chemicals of Concern

The Chemicals of Concern Rule, sent to the White House in the spring of 2010, would have added add a category of eight phthalates, a category of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and bisphenol A (BPA) to a list of chemical substances that "present or may present an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment."

"EPA is concerned that the hazards of these substances and the magnitude of human and/or environmental exposure indicates that they may present an unreasonable risk to human health and/or the environment," the proposal said.

"EPA is also proposing conforming changes to the TSCA 12(b) export notification regulations."

Phthalates are used as plasticizers in a wide variety of products, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They are being phased out of many products in the U.S. and elsewhere.

PBDEs are compounds used in flame retardants in polyurethane foams, building materials and a wide range of other products.

American Chemistry Council

One rule would have added a category of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), used as flame retardants, to EPA's list of chemicals of concern.

BPA is a key component in epoxy resins used to make coatings of every type. Most controversial has been its use in linings of food cans.

'Confidential Treatment'

The proposed rule on confidential business information would have required more disclosures about new chemicals before they come to market.

Most health and safety studies, and the data they produce, "are not entitled to confidential treatment," EPA said in proposing the rule in the spring of 2011.

"This action will increase transparency related to chemicals and microorganisms undergoing review prior to the commencement of manufacture, and is also likely to increase the availability to the general public of health and safety data on chemicals in commerce."

'No Longer Needed'

EPA said in a statement to The Huffington Post that the rules were "no longer necessary." The agency said it had taken other steps to evaluate chemical safety and increase transparency about chemicals.

U.S. chemical makers, who had opposed both measures, cheered the reversal.

“We strongly support the Agency’s decision to withdraw these proposals and commend EPA for choosing a course of action that will ultimately strengthen the performance of the nation’s primary chemical management law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)," the American Chemistry Council said in a statement.

"The proposals were rendered unnecessary when EPA wisely chose to adopt a better approach for prioritizing chemicals and reviewing claims for confidential chemical information under TSCA."

Opponents: 'Black Hole of Information'

Richard Denison, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, said EPA had given up on the proposals because the White House apparently had no interest in allowing them to go forward.

Bisphenol A

Biphenol A will not be added to EPA's list of chemicals of concern. In 2010, the government of Canada added BPA to its Schedule 1 list of Toxic Substances.

Denison and other environmentalists said the withdrawal would result in greater exposure to, and less public information about, toxic chemicals.

“Withdrawing these rules only adds more secrecy and maintains what amounts to a black hole of information around toxics," Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman Lado said in a statement.

"This latest action leaves the American public more vulnerable to chemical exposure."

Reforming TSCA

Lado said that the decision increased the need to reform TSCA. “Given this latest development, the demand for TSCA reform through Congress is now more urgent than ever.”

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CSIA – S.1009), a proposed overhaul of TSCA, is now working its way through Congress, with the support of the American Coatings Association and others in chemical-related industries.

But even these efforts are being stymied, delayed or weakened at every turn by a chemical industry intent on limiting EPA activity under current TSCA, even as it claims to support expanding that authority in the context of TSCA reform.  - See more at:


Tagged categories: American Coatings Association (ACA); Bisphenol A (BPA); Construction chemicals; EPA; Flame-retardant coatings; Government; Laws and litigation; Regulations

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