The first batch of draft risk assessments released by the Environmental
Protection Agency Jan. 4 as part of a broad plan to review existing chemicals
found some uses of three chemicals pose potential health concerns.
The five chemicals were among 83 EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and
Toxics (OPPT) said it would analyze as part of a “work plan” announced in March
2012 (36 CRR 269, 3/5/12).
When used as a paint stripper, methylene
chloride, also known as dichloromethane (DCM), and n-methylpyrrolidone
(NMP) pose potential inhalation or dermal health concerns for some workers
and consumers, OPPT said.
When used as a commercial or consumer degreasing agent or in a clear
protective spray in arts and crafts, trichloroethylene
(TCE) poses potential inhalation concerns for consumers and workers, OPPT
EPA's chemicals office focused on environmental issues for the remaining two
trioxide (ATO, which is used in halogenated flame retardants) and 1,3,4,6,7,8-hexahydro-4,6,6,7,8,8,-hexamethylcyclopenta-y-2-benzopyran
(HHCB, a fragrance in commercial and consumer products)--and concluded both
compounds posed a “low concern” for ecological health. The assessment of these
two chemicals focused only on ecological issues because human health concerns
had been previously evaluated and determined to present minimal concerns.
After the draft assessments are published in the Federal Register and
public comment is gathered, they will be peer reviewed. EPA has classified the
draft assesments as “influential” analyses, despite a request by four Senate
Republicans and the American Chemistry Council to designate the risk assessments
as “highly influential scientific assessments” (see related story).
According to guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, the
“influential” classification would mean the risk assessments could be subject to
less rigorous peer reviews than they would receive if designated as “highly
OPPT Director Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, told BNA Jan. 3 the peer reviews for
these assessments will satisfy requirements for peer reviews of highly
influential scientific assessments.
The draft risk assessments illustrate a “push-pull” dynamic chemical
manufacturers are likely to continue facing in 2013 as EPA “pushes out”
preliminary conclusions about chemicals based on available data as a means of
“pulling in” toxicity and exposure data from manufacturers, Jim Aidala, a senior
government consultant with Bergeson & Campbell P.C. and former EPA assistant
administrator of prevention, pesticides and toxic substances, previously told
The posting of OPPT's draft risk assessments spurred immediate reactions.
In a statement, the American Chemistry Council commended EPA for seeking
public comment on the draft assessments prior to having them peer reviewed.
ACC said it would review the assessments to ensure their final iterations are
based on “a scientifically-sound analysis of all relevant data and information,
and meet the highest standards of scientific inquiry.”
In a statement, Renee Sharp, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working
Group, said: “The risk assessments released today are an important step forward
for consumer health and we commend the EPA for its efforts.”
“At the same time, they underscore the need for true chemical policy reform.
Children, workers, and consumers will never be truly protected until chemicals
are tested for safety before they are put on the market,” Sharp said.
EPA plans to conduct assessments on another 18
chemicals, including three flame retardants, five chlorinated hydrocarbons,
and four fragrance chemicals, in 2013 and 2014 (106 DEN A-6, 6/4/12).
By Pat Rizzuto
Comments on OPPT's draft risk assessments will be due 60 days after their
availability is published in the Federal Register.
EPA will accept nominations for experts who could serve as peer reviewers of
the documents for 30 days after that Federal Register notice is
The docket identification numbers for the five chemicals are: methylene
chloride and n-methylpyrrolidone: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0725; trichloroethylene:
EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0723; antimony trioxide: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0724; and HHCB:
Comments as well as nominations should be submitted to http://www.regulations.gov using those
Docket ID numbers.