Chemicals EPA Should Assess First Named by Green Group

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By Pat Rizzuto

July 20 — Asbestos, bisphenol A, phthalates and various flame retardants should be among the first 10 chemicals evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act, an Environmental Working Group report urges.

There are so many chemicals needing the EPA's oversight that any list of those posing the greatest risks would be subjective and incomplete, yet it is urgent the agency begin, the group wrote in its report, “ Under New Safety Law, 20 Toxic Chemicals EPA Should Act on Now.”

The report lists 10 chemicals that the group says EPA should evaluate first and 10 more that the EPA also should queue up for early action.

The EPA's selection of its first 10 chemicals and subsequent actions will signal whether the TSCA amendments provide the agency the authority it needs to get toxicity information and to manage risks of chemicals linked to serious health problems, David Andrews, a senior scientist with the working group, told Bloomberg BNA July 18.

As amended June 22 by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Pub. Law No. 114-182), TSCA—for the first time—empowers the EPA to evaluate the risks of chemicals in commerce.

EPA List of First 10 Due in December

The EPA is to start with a list of 10 chemicals that must be released by Dec. 22, according to the statute's deadline. As the EPA completes its evaluations, the agency must add new chemicals to the rolling and, eventually, expanding list.

Liz Bowman, a spokeswoman for the American Chemistry Council, declined to comment on the implications of the first 10 chemicals EPA selects.

“We think that the 10 substances must be drawn from the existing TSCA Chemical Work Plan and that Work Plan substances for which EPA has had significant work underway are logical candidates for the first 10 substances under review,” she said by e-mail. The list of work plan chemicals to which she referred consists of about 90 chemicals that the EPA's chemicals office selected for risk assessment prior to TSCA being amended last month.

List Drawn From Work Plan

The environmental group's recommendations drew from the work plan list and includes some chemicals the agency already has begun to assess such as chlorinated phosphates and brominated fire retardants.

The EPA hasn't scheduled risk assessments for other chemicals the group recommends it evaluate that are on the work plan. These include bisphenol A and phthalates, which are used in plastics; p-dichlorobenzene, which is found in moth balls; and perchloroethylene, a solvent used in dry cleaning.

State legislatures already have begun to take action on some of these chemicals including BPA and some of the flame retardants.

“It's clearly not an accident that the [Environmental Working Group] list contains chemicals where states have taken action. States had to step up in the absence of federal action, and those actions have and will continue to provide guidance for EPA activities,” Sarah Doll, national director for Safer States, told Bloomberg BNA July 18.

“I anticipate states will continue to step up to create actual protections from toxic chemicals, even ones that EPA decides to evaluate,” she said.

Temporary Preemption Unavailable

State actions on the first 10 chemicals the EPA will evaluate won't be subject to a temporary preemption included in the Lautenberg Act, Andrews said.

Under Lautenberg, state laws and regulations generally are subject to a temporary “preemption pause” after the EPA has published the scope of its risk evaluation and while the analytic work is proceeding.

The first 10 chemicals the agency evaluates won't trigger this preemptive pause, but the EPA's final regulations or risk reviews for those chemicals would preempt state laws and regulations.

The Environmental Working Group will be among many organizations tracking not only the EPA risk evaluation but whether and when the agency's actions spur legal challenges.

Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney with the group, told Bloomberg BNA, “We expect almost certainly there will be some kind of legal challenge to some of EPA's conclusions from industry or advocates.”

Andrews said, “I’d be absolutely surprised if the chemical industry and individual companies that EPA regulates didn’t challenge EPA at each step of process.”

Working Group Excluded Some Chemicals Due to Law

The working group chose to omit persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals from its list of the first substances the agency should evaluate, Benesh said.

Chemicals with these hazardous characteristics are already given a higher priority under the Lautenberg Act, she said.

Risk reviews for those compounds can skip the hazard assessment part of a risk evaluation and be regulated more quickly, Benesh said.

Antimony, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, pigment yellow 83 and long- and medium-chain paraffins are among the chemicals that would be subject to expedited reviews under the Lautenberg Act, according to information from Beveridge & Diamond PC.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

When released, the Environmental Working Group's report will be available at http://src.bna.com/gYe.

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