EPA Uses New Law for Quick Action to Reduce Risk of 5 Toxic Chemicals

Friday, October 14, 2016
(graphic: MightyIsland/Getty Images)

By Tim Ryan, Courthouse News Service


WASHINGTON (CN) - The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it will move quickly to cut back on exposure to five industrial chemicals that can be toxic to humans.


The five chemicals, which are classified as "persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic," or PBT, will receive expedited action from the agency under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was signed into law in June.


"The threats from persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals are well-documented," Jim Jones, assistant administrator in EPA's office of chemical safety and pollution prevention, said in a statement. "The new law directs us to expedite action to reduce the risk for these chemicals, rather than spending more time evaluating them."


The chemicals the EPA will expedite include two flame retardants, a chemical used to make rubber compounds and lubricants, an agent that makes rubber "more pliable," and an additive to fuel, oil, gasoline or lubricant, according to an agency press release.


Under the new law, manufactures had the chance to ask the agency to conduct a full risk evaluation of certain chemicals instead of the expedited action the EPA announced it would take Tuesday. Two chemicals used in fragrance mixtures are slated to receive such a review, the agency announced.


For the chemicals undergoing the expedited process, the EPA will establish how people are exposed to them before formally proposing limitations on their use. By law, the EPA has until June 22, 2019, to propose action on how to limit exposure to these chemicals, according to the press release.


PBT chemicals are potentially dangerous for humans because they build up in tissue and can cause serious health problems at relatively low concentrations.


"PBT chemicals are of particular concern because they remain in the environment for significant periods of time and concentrate in the organism exposed to them," the agency said. "These pollutants can transfer among air, water and land and span boundaries of geography and generations."


The Environmental Working Group said in a statement that it welcomed the EPA's decision on the five specified chemicals, but it is "deeply disappointed that industry is exploiting a loophole in the new law to delay action on two chemicals commonly used in fragrances."


"These two chemicals... are suspected to build up in bodies and should be subject to the same expedited deadlines as other PBT chemicals," the group said.


To Learn More:

Congress Reaches Bipartisan Safety Standards Agreement for Dangerous Chemicals (by Matthew Daly, Associated Press)

Chemical Industry Self-Policing Called into Question, Government Oversight Lax (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Chemical Industry and Republican Lawmakers Succeed in Stalling EPA Chemical Regulation Process (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Clashing Chemical Safety Bills: Industry vs. Consumers (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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