The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the ten Work Plan chemicals for review under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which updated the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Yesterday, the agency released the list of substances, which will be the first to undergo risk evaluations under the new law. The list is mainly made up of flame retardants and industrial solvents, many of which are used in consumer products, as well as asbestos, the notoriously carcinogenic mineral used in building materials.
The chemicals are:
- Carbon Tetrachloride
- Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster
- Methylene Chloride
- N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP)
- Pigment Violet 29
- Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
Under the Lautenberg Act, EPA must select ten chemicals from the 2014 Work Plan by December 19, 2016. The Work Plan contains 90 chemicals with potential for high hazard and exposure, as well as considerations including persistence and bioaccumulation. The agency notes that in choosing the ten chemicals, it “took into account recommendations from the public, industry, environmental and public health groups, and members of Congress and tried to give weight to chemicals where work on assessing risks were underway.”
Among the listed chemicals, EPA has already completed risk assessments for methylene chloride, NMP, and TCE, and taken early steps towards assessments for 1,4-Dioxane and the Cyclic Aliphatic Bromides. For methylene chloride, NMP, and TCE, the agency plans to proceed with Section 6(a) rulemaking for the limited uses defined for the completed risk assessments; the chemicals’ remaining uses will now be newly evaluated. The ongoing rulemaking for these chemicals were included as “Immediate Actions” in EPA’s First Year Implementation Plan for the Lautenberg Act.
The reformed TSCA requires that EPA evaluate existing chemicals to determine whether they “present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.” The list’s publication in the Federal Register will trigger the three-year statutory deadline for completing the risk evaluations. In the next six months, EPA must release a scoping document for each chemical. The remaining 80 Work Plan chemicals will also be reviewed, as the law requires EPA to begin a new evaluation for every completed evaluation, with half of all EPA-initiated evaluations drawing from the Work Plan list until it is exhausted. In addition, EPA must have at least 20 chemical risk evaluations ongoing by the end of 2019.
Environmental groups mostly praised the decision to prioritize asbestos, a fire-resistant material that causes mesothelioma cancer which outgoing Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called “the poster child for TSCA reform.” However, Earthjustice criticized EPA’s failure to include lead, citing children’s exposure to the neurotoxin via “ongoing, unnecessary uses of lead in consumer products.”
In a statement, the American Chemistry Council emphasized that a chemical’s inclusion in the list was only the first step in a process based on high quality data and the weight of scientific evidence. The industry group also said “it is imperative that EPA engage stakeholders early and often throughout the risk evaluation process, including through peer review and public comment.”