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EPA Further Clarifies Review of TSCA Process

Friday, February 19, 2021

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The U.S. Environmental Protection agency has received a report evaluating its Toxic Substances Control Act chemical risk evaluations system prompting the agency to announce that it will be refining its approach to selecting and reviewing the scientific studies that are used to inform its evaluations.

The peer review was contracted with the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in December 2019. The National Academic are private, nonprofit institutions that “provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.”

The EPA also noted that this review is being done in accordance with directives from the Biden administration, which it acknowledged earlier this month.

© iStock / Skyhobo

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency has received a report evaluating its Toxic Substances Control Act chemical risk evaluations system prompting the agency to announce that it will be refining its approach to selecting and reviewing the scientific studies that are used to inform its evaluations.

The Academies specifically reviewed the EPA’s “2018 Application of Systematic Review in TSCA Risk Evaluations,” and its biggest critique was on the statutory schedule the EPA follows to complete assessments, which is says does not meet state-of-practice standards. The Academies suggested:

  • Staff should engage in ongoing cross-sector efforts to develop and validate new tools and approaches for exposure, environmental health, and other areas where systematic review is applied. TSCA evaluation approaches would benefit from the substantial external expertise available as well as acceptance from outside stakeholders as the approaches are developed.
  • The decision to develop a wholly original approach to hazard assessment, rather than starting with other extant protocols as a foundation, is one source of the process’s problems. The EPA should consider incorporating components of methodologies from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science’s Office of Health Assessment and Translation and EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System and Navigation Guide.
  • Documentation of the process is incomplete and hard to follow. Staff should assemble a handbook for TSCA review and evidence integration methodology to detail steps in the process.
  • The terms “weight of evidence” and “systematic review” are used interchangeably. The report urges EPA to use standard descriptors for the strength of evidence instead.

“High quality, best available scientific data and studies are the foundation of our chemical risk evaluations,” said Michal Freedhoff, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Strengthening the process used to select this information will improve chemical safety and ensure our risk evaluations protect human health and the environment.”

The EPA noted that it is no longer using the 2018 application and has already begun to review protocol. There is currently to timetable in place for the completion of that review.

Previous Announcement

Earlier this month, the EPA sent two emailed press releases discussing both a review of its actions of the course of the previous administration, as well as announcing educational webinars that focus on the recent risk evaluations of both pigment violet 29 (PV29) and n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP).

In the general chemical safety action update, the Agency said that it’s reviewing all actions taken under the previous administration and that “this review is being done in accordance with the Administration’s Executive Orders and other directives, including those on environmental justice, scientific integrity and regulatory review.”

The EPA listed three rulings in particular that it will be reviewing, two of which fall under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The first, is the expedited action on certain persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals and the final rules that were associated with those actions that went into effect on Feb. 5.

“EPA is aware of concerns about these rules, including implementation issues, that have been raised by a range of stakeholders and may consider additional measures, approaches, or revisions that build upon the steps taken thus far,” the EPA said. “The agency is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure these rules are both protective and practical.”

The EPA is also looking at the risk evaluations for the first 10 chemicals that were introduced under the revamped TSCA. It said that current risk management and stakeholder activities will continue while the process is being reviewed.

Finally, the EPA listed the Dust Lead Post-Abatement Clearance Level Final Rule, which was just finalized last month and goes into effect March 8. The Agency said that the effective date will also remain in place while that rule is being reviewed.

   

Tagged categories: EPA; EPA; Health & Safety; NA; North America; Regulations

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