Several chemicals widely used in dyes, flame retardants, detergents and other industrial applications are the subject of new action plans by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The plans identify a range of actions the agency is considering under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regarding benzidine dyes, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), and nonylphenol (NP)/nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs).
“These action plans lay out concrete steps EPA intends to take to address the risks associated with chemicals commonly used in this country,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
Applications and Risks
Benzidine dyes are used in paints, textiles, printing inks, paper and pharmaceuticals and may pose health problems, including cancer, according to EPA.
HBCD is used as a flame retardant in expanded polystyrene foam in the building and construction industry, as well as in some consumer products. HBCD has been shown to be persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment and may pose potential reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects in people, the agency said.
NP/NPEs are used in many industrial applications and consumer products such as detergents, cleaners, agricultural and indoor pesticides, as well as food packaging. These chemicals have been detected in people and have been shown, at low exposures, “to create ‘intersex’ fish, male fish that produce female egg proteins,” according to the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Cases of such 'intersexed' fish have been documented from the Potomac River to the Pacific coast.”
Range of Actions
The range of actions on these chemicals includes adding HBCD and NP/NPE to EPA’s new Chemicals of Concern list and issuing significant new-use rules for all three chemicals. For HBCD and benzidine dyes, EPA also plans to impose new reporting requirements regarding its Toxic Release Inventory and is considering banning or limiting the manufacture or use of the chemicals.
In addition to EPA’s efforts, the Textile Rental Services Association, which represents 98 percent of the industrial laundry facilities in the U.S., has committed to voluntarily phase out the use of NPEs in industrial liquid detergents by Dec. 31, 2013, and industrial powder detergents by the end of 2014.
“While EPA intends to address the potential risks associated with these chemicals,” Owens stated, “we are pleased that the industrial laundry industry has decided to not wait for regulatory action to be completed by the agency and is voluntarily taking steps now to phase out the use of NPEs.”
EPA first announced in December that it planned to develop the Chemicals of Concern list, indicating that the chemicals may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.
Learn more at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals. An overview of all EPA Chemical Action Plans is available at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/overview.html.