Lab Error Leads Solvent Makers to Urge EPA Rule Delay

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By Pat Rizzuto

Solvents manufacturers want an opportunity to redo a toxicity study that could show a machinery degreaser is less harmful than previously thought before the EPA makes a final decision on whether to restrict its use.

The Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance’s request raises the question of when and whether the Environmental Protection Agency will delay rulemakings to incorporate additional chemical safety data generated by industry or other parties—delays that concern the environmental community.

The alliance asked the EPA to extend by 120 days the comment period on a rule (RIN 2070-AK11) it proposed Jan. 19 that would prohibit commercial use of trichloroethylene (TCE) in vapor degreasing applications of machinery.

Trichloroethylene (CAS No. 79-01-6) is used to clean machine parts across a wide swath of industries including cleaning aircraft parts, defense-related maintenance of vehicles and metal fabrication processes.

The EPA already extended the public comment period for that rule by 30 days following a previous request by the solvents alliance. The comment period now is set to end April 19 unless the EPA extends it again.

Science Provision in Law

The alliance argues it needs more time to rerun a toxicity study specifically designed to replicate a previous study the EPA used to conclude TCE exposure could cause heart problems during development.

The group said its study must be rerun because the laboratory that conducted the test realized late last year that the experimental animals did not receive sufficient trichloroethylene in their drinking water. That invalidated the study’s results.

The EPA should not rely on a “so far unreproducible” study if it wants to comply with the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act, which require it to use the “best available science,” the alliance said.

Opposition

In comments filed April 4 and 5 respectively, a coalition of environmental health organizations led by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and the Environmental Defense Fund told the EPA it should not extend the comment period.

“The proposed rule is essential to protect tens of thousands of workers and consumers against serious and widespread risks of adverse health effects,” wrote the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition.

“Protection of public health demands prompt action by EPA,” the Environmental Defense Fund said. The body of data the EPA evaluated “overwhelmingly support” its determination of that using TCE for vapor degreasing was an unreasonable risk, it said.

The agency’s proposed rule is designed to protect workers in small shops that do vapor degreasing.

The study the alliance seeks to replicate was published more than 13 years ago, giving it ample time to have reproduced or rebutted it before, the Environmental Defense Fund wrote.

The EPA did not reply April 6 to a Bloomberg BNA inquiry as to whether it would extend the comment period. An official with the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance could not be reached for comment.

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

Comments and other information concerning the EPA's proposed rules are available at Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0231 at http://www.regulations.gov.

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