EPA Weighs Thinners, Coating Chemicals
Federal regulators are taking a fresh and sharp look at the safety of chemicals used in paint strippers, spray-on protective coatings and halogenated flame retardants .
The Environmental Protection Agency released draft risk assessments of five chemicals for their potential human health or ecological hazards.
The assessments were released Monday (Jan. 7) for public comment and review. They have not yet been published in the Federal Register.
The chemicals were among 83 that EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) said it would review and analyze as part of The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) work plan announced in March 2012.
Chemical makers commended the EPA's release of draft risk assessments, saying stakeholder input was important to credible assessments.
Potential Hazards Evaluated
The assessments address the following chemicals and uses:
The draft risk assessments for DCM, NMP, and TCE indicate "a potential concern for human health" under the specific exposure scenarios, according to the agency.
For example, EPA believes DCM and NMP pose inhalation and dermal exposure concerns for workers, consumers and bystanders when they are used in paint stripping processes, according to a fact sheet released by EPA.
Methylene Chloride is commonly used in paint strippers. Several agencies have issued warnings on the chemical, which can be fatal if used in unventilated areas.
Moreover, EPA said there are potential risks of concern when TCE is used as a degreaser or a "clear protective coating spray" in arts and crafts.
The preliminary assessments for ATO and HHCB, on the other hand, indicate a low concern for ecological health. Human health concerns had been previously evaluated and determined to present minimal concerns for those chemicals.
Next Steps Using 'Best Science'
After gathering public comment, EPA plans to seek independent, scientific peer review of the assessments before beginning to finalize them in the fall.
The draft assessments "highlight the agency’s ongoing commitment to ensure the safety of chemicals we encounter in our daily lives,” said James J. Jones, acting assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
“The public and scientific peer review will ensure use of the best science to evaluate any impacts of these substances on people’s health and the environment.”
Meanwhile, the EPA recommends that users of the chemicals follow "product label directions and take precautions that can reduce exposures, such as using the product outside or in an extremely well-ventilated area and wearing protective equipment to reduce exposure."
If EPA's final risk assessement concludes that there is a potential for concern, the agency said it would take action as appropriate to address possible risks.
Chemical Group Reacts
In a statement, the American Chemistry Council commended EPA for seeking public comment on the draft assessments before conducting peer reviews.
"Seeking stakeholder input is an important and necessary step toward achieving effective, transparent and credible risk assessments," said ACC, a trade association that represents chemical manufacturers.
"We intend to review the work plan chemical assessments in greater detail in the coming days and look forward to submitting our comments to EPA to ensure the final assessments are based on a scientifically sound analysis of all relevant data and information, and meet the highest standards of scientific inquiry."