EPA Could Drop Chemical Exposures From Risk Reviews

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By Pat Rizzuto and Dean Scott

The EPA could ignore ways people are exposed to chemicals under a pending policy that would allow the agency to exclude some chemical uses from its risk analyses.

The policy, nearing final internal review, is expected to be incorporated into risk analysis plans for 10 chemicals the Environmental Protection Agency plans to release April 20, according to current and former agency staff. The risk analyses are mandated by 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The rationale presumes that people and the environment would be adequately protected from risk if exposed to a chemical that is already regulated under another statute administered by the EPA, according to an example of the policy’s application obtained by Bloomberg Environment. For example, the EPA could exclude the chemical’s presence in air if that same chemical is regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Eliminating those uses during the risk analysis would disregard a fundamental precept of the amended TSCA and increase the potential for the EPA to underestimate people’s exposure, Trish Koman, a research manager at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, told Bloomberg Environment. Koman had not seen or discussed the policy with the agency staff, but is among the many environmental health researchers tracking TSCA’s implementation.

Richard Denison, lead senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an April 3 blog that the EPA was working to systematically dismantle its ability to conduct broad risk reviews of chemicals and effectively address identified risks under TSCA.

“The Pruitt EPA’s attempt to atomize the evaluation of chemical risks has one purpose: to make it far less likely that risks needing to be controlled will be identified,” he said.

Current and former EPA staff interviewed by Bloomberg Environment before and after April 3 said the legal rationale they’ve seen or discussed is largely consistent with Denison’s description.

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