First EPA Draft Assessments Identify Three Chemicals Posing Potential Risks

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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 said.

EPA's chemicals office focused on environmental issues for the remaining two chemicals--antimony 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.

Assessments Classified as 'Influential'

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 influential.”

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.

'Push-Pull' Dynamic; Initial Reactions

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 BNA.

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 published.

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: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0722.

Comments as well as nominations should be submitted to using those Docket ID numbers.

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