Yesterday, EPA released a pre-publication version of its proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) targeting nonylphenols (NPs) and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). NPEs are a type of nonionic surfactant used in a wide variety of industrial processes and applications, including detergents, dry cleaning, cosmetics, adhesives, and paints and coatings; NPs are primarily used as an intermediate in producing NPEs. Under the SNUR, any person intending to manufacture, import, or process NPs or NPEs for the identified significant new uses must notify EPA before beginning any such activity, so that the agency may have the opportunity to evaluate each intended use and impose any appropriate controls.
The proposed SNUR [PDF] applies to 15 chemical substances; for 13 of these, any use is considered a significant new use, while “any use other than use as an intermediate or use as an epoxy cure catalyst” constitutes a significant new use for 4-nonylphenol, branched and 2-nonylphenol, branched. In discussing the environmental effects of NPs and NPEs, EPA cited the chemicals’ persistence, high toxicity to aquatic life and wide usage that can lead to “widespread releases to the aquatic environment.”
NPs and NPEs were also the subject of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2009, following EPA’s settlement of a citizens petition to initiate rulemaking brought by several environmental groups and other NGOs. The release of the proposed SNUR is in line with EPA’s 2010 Action Plan for these chemicals. Other Action Plan efforts to regulate NPs and NPEs and reduce their risks include completing an alternatives assessment under the Design for Environment (DfE) program in 2012 and collaborating with the Textile Rental Services Association of America to phase out NPEs in industrial laundry detergents.
Comments will be accepted on the proposed SNUR for 60 days following the rule’s Federal Register publication, which is anticipated to occur the week of September 29.