EPA Proposes Significant New Use Rules for 37 Chemicals and Nanomaterials



Continuing its robust exercise of its expansive TSCA authority, EPA last week released proposed Significant New Use Rules (“SNURs”) under TSCA for 37 chemicals, including 14 nanoengineered carbon compounds. The SNURs cover a wide range of uses, including the manufacture, processing, and import of adhesives, coatings, colorants, lubricants, chemical intermediates, etc., and result from premanufacture notice (“PMN”) submissions from as long ago as 2000. For almost half of the affected chemicals, the SNURs essentially codify protective measures already required under existing consent orders; the rest are largely based on PMN use scenarios.

EPA has already determined that 17 of the substances addressed by the proposed rule “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or environment” and thus are subject to risk-based consent orders under TSCA § 5(e). The proposed SNURs for these substances adopt certain safety precautions already required by the consent orders. For example, for certain chemicals, workers would be required to wear specified respirators unless air monitoring shows that the substance is actually present in concentrations lower than the New Chemical Exposure Limit (“NCEL”). The NCEL provisions, already incorporated in the § 5(e) consent orders, were established by EPA “to provide adequate protection to human health” and modeled after Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). Users who wish to pursue the NCEL alternative to the respirator requirement would have to request permission to do so under 40 CFR § 721.30 (“EPA approval of alternative control measures.”) EPA anticipates approving such requests under the same conditions already present in the consent orders.

The other 20 substances covered by the new SNURs are not subject to § 5(e) consent orders. These “non-5(e) SNURs” cover certain changes from the use scenarios described in the PMNs which could result in increased exposure, per 40 CFR § 721.170(c)(2).

In addition to personal protective equipment, the SNURs impose various standard use restrictions on the chemicals, such as prohibiting manufacture in the U.S., limiting use to conditions specified in existing consent orders, and banning release to water. EPA also recommends various types of toxicity testing to better characterize the new chemicals’ environmental effects.

Regulatory actions flowing from SNURs

Upon promulgation of the SNURs, any users of the affected substances will be required to determine whether they must submit a Significant New Use Notification (“SNUN”) to EPA 90 days prior to engaging in one of the designated “new uses.” On receipt of the SNUN, EPA may take further regulatory action under TSCA § 5(e), 5(f), 6 or 7, or otherwise publish a notice in the Federal Register explaining its reasons for not taking action.

In addition, EPA’s proposal of the SNURs triggers export notification requirements under TSCA § 12(b). Any exporter or intended exporter of the affected chemicals must notify EPA of the first export or intended export to a particular country, unless the substance is present at certain low concentrations that qualify for the de minimus exemption. If and when the SNURs are finalized, importers of the affected substances must also certify their compliance the SNURs.

EPA is accepting comments on the proposed SNURs through April 26, 2013.

Naming nanoscale materials and other CBI concerns

In the proposed SNURs, EPA identifies nanoengineered carbon compounds based on generic structural terms in order to protect the confidential chemical identities of the substances. EPA uses terms like, for example, “single-walled carbon nanotube” (or “SWCNT”), along with PMN numbers to identify the substances for inclusion in the TSCA Inventory.

The nomenclature developed by EPA is further described in a document, “Material Characterization of Carbon Nanotubes for Molecular Identity (MI) Determination & Nomenclature,” which should be available soon under the docket number EPA–HQ–OPPT–2012–0727. It is likely to be similar to or the same as the identically-named document published with the SNUR finalized in 2011 for a substance named as “multi-walled carbon nanotubes.”

If an intended user is uncertain whether its chemicals are subject to the new SNURs, EPA advises contacting the agency or obtaining a written determination under the bona fide procedures in 40 CFR § 721.11. Since production volume limits and certain other uses detailed in the proposed SNURs may also be claimed as CBI, users may not know whether their intended production volumes constitute a significant new use. The bona fide procedures also apply to such cases. If, after evaluating detailed submissions on the intended use, EPA finds that the user has a bona fide intent to manufacture, produce, or import the substance, the agency will advise whether the intended use would qualify as a significant new use.