EPA Aims to Revamp Program Identifying Chemicals Made, Imported in High Volumes

The Environmental Protection Agency soon will reveal an approach it could use to identify chemicals that have begun to be produced at high volumes since 1998, the director of EPA's chemicals and pollution prevention office said March 31.

The strategy will build up the agency's effort--under way for more than a decade--to make public basic physical/chemical, health, and environmental data on High Production Volume chemicals. HPV chemicals are those that are produced in or imported into the United States in volumes of 1 million pounds or more annually.

“Expect to hear more from the agency within the next few months,” said Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, director of EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics.

Cleland-Hamnett spoke during a D.C. Bar Association forum called “New Directions in Chemicals Regulation.”

More Than 10-Year Effort

Cleland-Hamnett discussed the agency's efforts since 1998 to obtain basic data the agency, state officials, and others could use to estimate a chemical's acute and chronic toxicity; toxicity to DNA; potential impact on the development and reproduction of mammals; potential impacts on fish and other sensitive species in ecosystems; and its fate in the environment.

As of June 2007, the most recent date for which EPA has compiled information, chemical manufacturers had provided at least some of the requested data on more than 2,200 HPV chemicals, with approximately 1,400 chemicals sponsored directly through EPA's HPV Challenge Program and more than 860 chemicals sponsored indirectly through international efforts. “Sponsoring” means a company or group of companies have voluntarily agreed to provide the data.

The universe of chemicals for which EPA sought data through this voluntary program involved compounds produced in high volumes in 1990 based on production volume data the agency collected in 1991 under its Inventory Update Rule.

Companies are still completing tests or doing other work to provide the remaining data they have pledged to provide, according to EPA's website, which indicates when companies determine their data submissions are complete.

To obtain information on HPV chemicals which manufacturers did not voluntarily agree to provide, EPA has been issuing test rules requiring chemical manufactures to do so.

Status of HPV Test Rules

Two final HPV test rules have been issued. In the first, issued in 2006, EPA required companies that manufacture, import, or process any of 17 HPV chemicals to provide data (71 Fed. Reg. 13,708). Later that year, EPA revoked the test order for one chemical, meaning tests were required for only 16 substances (71 Fed. Reg. 71,508).

Under the second test rule, issued in January of this year, EPA ordered the companies making, importing, and processing 19 chemicals to provide data (35 CRR 39, 1/10/11).

A third final HPV test rule will be released “shortly,” Cleland-Hamnett said. In February, EPA proposed to require that test data be provided for 29 high production volume chemicals.

A fourth HPV test rule will be proposed by early summer, she said.

Since EPA launched this data collection effort more than 10 years ago, “a whole new generation of chemicals have become HPV,” Cleland-Hamnett said.

She did not discuss what regulatory or other tools the agency might use to obtain information on those chemicals.

Filling Gaps in Knowledge

The HPV Challenge program was initiated in 1998 after multiple reports, including EPA's Chemical Hazard Data Availability Study, concluded there were significant gaps in the basic data needed to understand and characterize the potential hazards associated with HPV chemicals.

That prompted then-Vice President Al Gore to call for a “Chemical Right-to-Know” initiative, challenging the chemical industry to come forward and voluntarily provide basic data by 2004.

EPA worked with the American Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, and, eventually, animal welfare groups to craft a voluntary program to collect basic data that could flag an HPV chemical as potentially posing a risk to people or the environment.

By Pat Rizzuto  

More information about the HPV Challenge is available at http://www.epa.gov/hpv/.