Toxic Chemical Exposure Rule Updates Proposed
On Monday (Nov. 20), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal to strengthen rules that protect people from exposure to two toxic chemicals.
According to the agency, both decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) and phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) (PIP (3:1)) are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals that were subject to risk management rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
The proposal would reportedly impose workplace safety protections and restrict water releases. It would also address broader implementation issues affecting the supply chains of various industry sectors, including the nuclear energy sector, transportation, construction, agriculture, forestry, mining, life sciences and semiconductor production.
“Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals can remain in the environment and our bodies for long periods of time, which makes it particularly important that EPA ensures protections are in place for these chemicals,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff.
“Today’s proposed rule will better protect workers and communities from dangerous chemical exposures, while also ensuring that critical uses of these chemicals can continue safely.”
DecaDBE is a flame retardant used in wire and cables for nuclear power generation facilities, as well as applications in aerospace and automotive vehicles. Previously, in 2021, the EPA reduced exposure from the larger class of flame retardants that include decaBDE, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers.
Adverse health effects associated with exposure to decaBDE include damage to the development of the central nervous system and reproductive problems.
The new proposed rule would reportedly require that workers use personal protective equipment for some activities involving decaBDE not subject to the 2021 prohibitions, prohibit releases to water during manufacturing, processing and distribution in commerce of decaBDE and decaBDE-containing products, and require entities intending to export decaBDE-containing wire and cable for nuclear power generation facilities to notify EPA.
The rule would also extend the compliance date for processing and distribution in commerce of decaBDE-containing wire and cable insulation for use in nuclear power generation facilities until after the service life of the wire and cable.
PIP (3:1) is a plasticizer, a flame retardant, an anti-wear additive, or an anti-compressibility additive that has been used in hydraulic fluid, lubricating oils, lubricants and greases, various industrial coatings, adhesives, sealants and plastic articles.
The chemical is toxic to aquatic plants, aquatic invertebrates, sediment invertebrates, and fish. Additionally, the EPA has identified adverse human health effects associated with exposure to PIP (3:1), including reproductive problems, neurological effects and damage to the liver, ovaries, heart and lungs.
In the latest proposal, the EPA suggests to further extend the compliance dates for some articles used in manufacturing equipment and the semiconductor industry. The proposed rule also includes new worker protections, including a requirement that workers use PPE during manufacturing and processing of PIP (3:1). The agency has also proposed phasing out some uses of PIP (3:1) that were excluded from the prohibitions in the February 2021 rule.
The EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for 45 days following publication in the Federal Register.
Other Recent EPA Proposal
Earlier this month, the EPA also published proposed updates to the Safer Choice Standard, which identifies the requirements that products and ingredients must meet to earn the Safer Choice label or Design for the Environment (DfE) logo.
The change will also reportedly affect paint and coating manufacturers, as outlined in The Federal Register. The Safer Choice program helps consumers and purchasers for facilities, such as schools and office buildings, find products made with chemical ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment.
Similarly, the DfE program helps people find disinfectants that meet high standards for human health and the environment.
This will reportedly be EPA’s fourth update of the standard since its inception in 2009, and the first since 2015. The EPA periodically updates it to:
The proposed updates to the standard reportedly include:
The agency will host a webinar on Dec. 19 from 2–3 p.m. ET to provide further information on the proposed updates to stakeholders interested in commenting on the updates, including manufacturers and distributors, retailers, community groups and representatives from states, Tribal Nations, non-profit organizations, trade associations and others.
Comments can be submitted to docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-052 until Jan. 16, 2024. The EPA explains that it will use the written comments to guide updates to the standard.