Update on TSCA "Reform" – The Summer of Bipartisan Consensus?

TSCA Reform:

Whether you think the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) needs to be “reformed,” “modernized,” “updated” or simply left alone, you’re probably interested in knowing where Congressional efforts to amend the statute currently stand.  Here’s a short update, which is based on our latest understanding.  If others have additional details or insights, please feel free to share them with us here at Verdant Law.

Supposedly Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) has agreed to set aside his current version of the Safe Chemicals Act (S.847) and attempt to achieve consensus with his Republic colleagues on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.  Although Senator Lautenberg introduced S.847 in 2011 and has not introduced a similar version in 2012, the bill has remained somewhat of a centerpiece in the negotiations with other EPW Committee members. 

While Senator Lautenberg is the leading Democratic negotiator, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is leading the Republicans’ efforts.  Senators James Inhofe (R-OK, Ranking Committee Member), Mike Crapo (R-ID, Ranking Subcommittee Member), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) are also playing key roles. 

Negotiations are supposed to continue over the summer.  Around Labor Day, the parties will decide whether to attempt a bipartisan markup of S.847 in Senator Lautenberg’s Superfund, Toxics, and Environmental Health Subcommittee, whether a markup is premature but negotiations should continue, or whether to terminate further negotiations for the remainder of the year.  Presumably if negotiations terminate, Senator Lautenberg might reintroduce S.847 and attempt passage in the last weeks of the current congress.  Republicans would probably oppose it, but may not be in a position to introduce a viable competing bill.

We at Verdant Law think it’s highly unlikely that consensus will be achieved and a bill passed and signed into law before the November election.  However, perhaps this summer’s efforts will point the parties in a direction that eventually leads to a workable solution.  (One can dream, right?)   Stay tuned.

EPA Announces More Muscular Use of TSCA Section 6

TSCA/Section 6 restrictions:

June 7, 2012 Jim Jones, Acting Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, announced that EPA plans to use TSCA §6 to ban or restrict the use of chemicals that pose an unreasonable risk.  This is an extension of the Administrator’s 2009 Comprehensive Approach to Enhance the Agency’s Current Chemical’s Management Program.  At that time, the Agency announced a renewed focus on identifying chemicals of concern and initiating appropriate risk management, including regulatory action to restrict or ban chemicals.  Jones’ Office explained that the agency intends to use its existing authority to the best of its ability until Congress enacts TSCA reform.  It noted that TSCA reform is one of the Administrator’s highest priorities.

Jones statement was made at the Environmental Council of the States’ State Environmental Protection in 2012 forum.  He spoke extemporaneously.  For further information, Jones’ Office recommends reviewing the Comprehensive Approach and the Administrator’s Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation.  See also the Administrator’s September 2009 remarks announcing both efforts.

EU Member State Committee Identifies 5 More SVHCs


During meetings held from June 6 – 8, 2012, the EU’s Member State Committee (MSC) unanimously agreed on the identification of five substances of very high concern (SVHCs).  SVHCs are thought to have serious and often irreversible effects on human health and the environment.  The five substances identified by the MSC are diborontrioxide and the following four dyes:  C.I. Basic Violet 3; C.I.Basic Blue 26; C.I. Solvent Blue 4; and 4,4′-bis(dimethylamino)-4”-(methylamino)trityl alcohol.  The listing for the four dyes will clarify that the substances will only be identified as SVHCs when the concentration of the impurities Michler’s ketone or Michler’s base is equal to or higher than 0.1%.

SVHCs include substances that have one or more of the following hazard characteristics: Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or Toxic for Reproduction (CMR 1,2); Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) or very Persistent and very Bioaccumulative (vPvB); or cause probable serious effects to human health or the environment (e.g. Endocrine Disruptors).  REACH, the primary regulation for industrial chemicals, aims at ensuring that the risks resulting from the use of SVHCs are controlled and that the substances are replaced where possible.

The five substances will be added to the Candidate List and may subsequently become subject to authorization under REACH Title VII.  When an SVHC becomes subject to authorization, persons using or making it available on the EU market must apply for authorization within a prescribed deadline (i.e., the “sunset date”), seeking approval of nonexempt uses while also including an analysis of possible substitutes.  If they can show that the risks from their uses are adequately controlled (except non-threshold CMRs and PBTs/vPvBs), or that the socio-economic benefits outweigh the risks and no suitable alternatives exist, then their uses of the SVHC are “authorized” to continue.

Even without being selected for authorization, inclusion of substances on the Candidate List immediately triggers certain regulatory obligations. 

  • EU or EEA suppliers of articles which contain substances on the Candidate List in a concentration above 0.1% (w/w) have to provide sufficient information to allow safe use of the article to their customers or upon request, to a consumer within 45 days of the receipt of the request. This information must contain as a minimum the name of the substance.
  • EU and EEA producers or importers of articles have to notify ECHA if their article contains a substance on the Candidate List. This obligation applies if the substance is present in those articles in quantities totalling over one tonne per producer or importer per year and if the substance is present in those articles above a concentration of 0.1% (w/w).
  • EU and EEA suppliers of substances on the Candidate List have to provide their customers with a safety data sheet.
  • EU and EEA suppliers of mixtures not classified as dangerous according to Directive 1999/45/EC have to provide the recipients, at their request, with a safety data sheet if the mixture contains at least one substance on the Candidate List and the individual concentration of this substance in the mixture is ≥ 0.1% (w/w) for non-gaseous mixtures if the substance is persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) or very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB).

More information about the MSC is available here, and information about the process for identifying SVHCs is available here.

New TSCA Work Plan Chemicals

TSCA/Work Plan for Existing Chemicals/Chemical Risk Assessment

June 1, 2012 EPA announced the addition of 18 chemicals to its work plan for existing chemicals risk assessment. The 18 chemicals include flame retardants, fragrance chemicals, and chlorinated hydrocarbons.  Many of these chemicals are potentially carcinogenic, or pose reproductive or developmental toxicity.  In addition, some of these chemicals present persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic potential or are found in consumer products.  New and existing work plan chemicals are listed on EPA’s website.

As part of the Agency’s strategy to manage existing chemicals (see EPA’s Existing Chemicals Program Strategy (PDF), EPA has been screening chemicals against risk criteria (see e.g., Identifying Priority Chemicals for Review and Assessment).  Chemicals are likely to be flagged for further review and assessment if screening indicates:

  • children’s health effects (e.g., chemicals with reproductive or developmental effects);
  • persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity (PBT);
  • carcinogenic effect ;
  • presence in children’s products;
  • presence in consumer products; and
  • detection by biomonitoring programs. 

In the June 1 announcement, EPA solicited unpublished health and safety studies on these chemicals.  Research should be submitted to docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-20110-516 by August 31, 2012. Health and safety studies comprise “any study of any effect of a chemical substance or mixture on health or the environment or on both,” including but not limited to:

  • Epidemiological or clinical studies;
  • Studies of occupational exposure;
  • In vivo and in vitro toxicological studies; and
  • Ecotoxicological studies;

Risks assessments on the new work plan chemicals will be conducted in 2013 and 2014.

European Chemical Industry Debuts Chemical Combination Screening Tool – Concludes Regulating Individual Chemicals is Usually Adequate

Chemical Mixture Risk Assessment:

May 31, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) unveiled a tool for assessing the risks posed by chemical combinations: the Maximum Cumulative Ratio (MCR) (see e.g., news release, combination effects tools).  MCR compares the toxicity of individual chemicals to the cumulative toxicity of all chemicals in an exposure scenario.  Cefic argues that in most exposure scenarios the risk of one or two chemicals contribute nearly all risk of harm.  The organization notes that prioritization of chemical combinations is necessary to identify combinations of concern that warrant full risk assessment. 

Cefic references Maximum Cumulative Ratio (MCR) as a Tool for Assessing the Value of Performing a Cumulative Risk Assessment (in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health) for full discussion of the application of MCR.  The article comprises an investigation of the magnitude of toxicity from multiple chemical exposure that is missed in scenarios where no cumulative risk assessment is conducted.  U.S. Geological Survey water quality data were used for the evaluation. From 5 to 81 chemicals were present in the 3,000 samples analyzed.  The authors estimate that approximately 20 percent of cumulative toxicity –compared to component chemical toxicity– is missed where cumulative risk assessments are not conducted.  However, mixture toxicities were dominated by only a fraction of chemical compounds present.

Because risk is usually driven by one or two chemicals in a combination, Cefic believes that controlling individual substances through the current regulatory schemes will often control the risk from combination exposures.

Cefic notes that MCR is based on the WHO risk assessment framework (see e.g., Combined Exposure Risk Assessment Workshop Report) and relies on cumulative risk assessment theories from the European Scientific Committees (see e.g., Environmental Risk Assessment of Mixtures Symposium).

EPA Draft (IRIS) Ammonia Assessment Available for Public Comment

Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS):

Today, EPA released for a 60-day public comment period the draft IRIS assessment for ammonia.   Excerpts from the agency’s press release are provided below, and a copy of the draft assessment is avaialble here

IRIS is a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants. Through the IRIS Program, EPA attempts to provide the highest quality science-based human health assessments to support the Agency’s regulatory activities.  The IRIS database is web-accessible and contains information on more than 550 chemical substances.  Readers familiar with IRIS will recall the various criticisms of the agency’s evaluation process, which EPA has been attempting to address, as described in further detail here.  General background information on IRIS is available here.



June 1, 2012 

EPA Draft Ammonia Assessment Available for Public Comment

Draft assessment continues agency’s responsiveness to NAS recommendations 

WASHINGTON – The U.S Environmental Protection Agency today announced the release of its draft Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) health assessment for ammonia. The draft assessment will be available for public comment for 60 days and will be sent for independent expert peer review.

Ammonia is used in agricultural fertilizers, the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and explosives, water purification, household cleaners, as a refrigerant, and in many industries. Scientific studies show that ammonia can affect the respiratory system. The draft assessment includes an estimate of the amount of ammonia a person can inhale daily throughout a lifetime that is not likely to cause harmful health effects, which is less stringent than the current value for ammonia on IRIS.

 The draft IRIS assessment for ammonia represents major progress for EPA in implementing the April 2011 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommendations for improving IRIS assessments. The draft assessment uses a new streamlined document structure that is more transparent and clear; includes a template for describing the literature search approach; identifies the strengths and weaknesses of analyzed studies; and describes how EPA applied their guidance, methods, and criteria in developing the assessment.

 When the assessment is final it will be posted to the IRIS database. IRIS is a publicly available online database that provides high quality science-based human health assessments used to inform the agency’s decisions on protecting public health and the environment.

  The IRIS database contains crucial information on more than 550 chemical substances and their impacts on human health. Governments and private entities use data from IRIS in conjunction with exposure information to help characterize the public health risks of chemical substances. These characterizations are then considered in risk management decisions to protect public health.