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EPA to Review Flame Retardants

The EPA says it will assess 23 commonly used chemicals, with a specific focus on flame retardant chemicals, to ascertain any potential risks to people’s health and the environment.

This effort is part of the Toxic Substances Control Act Work Plan that identifies commonly used chemicals for risk assessment.

Americans are often exposed to flame retardant chemicals in their daily lives; flame retardants are widely used in products such as household furniture, textiles and electronic equipment. Some flame retardant chemicals can persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in people and animals, and have been shown to cause neurological developmental effects in animals.

The agency will begin evaluating 20 flame retardant chemicals, conducting full risk assessments for four of the flame retardants: TBB, TBPH, TCEP and HBCD.

In addition, it will assess eight other flame retardants by grouping those with similar characteristics together with the chemicals targeted for full assessment. The EPA will use the information from these assessments to better understand the other chemicals in the group, which currently lack sufficient data for a full risk assessment.

The EPA will also conduct an analysis of how eight of the 20 flame retardant chemicals transform and move in the environment. These chemicals were selected because they are likely to persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in people and/or have high exposure potential, but there is no adequate information to conduct full risk assessments.

A full list of the chemicals announced for further assessment is available here.

During its review of data on flame retardant chemicals in commerce, the agency also identified approximately 50 flame retardant chemicals that are unlikely to pose a risk to human health, making them possible substitutes for more toxic flame retardant chemicals.

The EPA will use information that is available through a wide range of public sources. It is also seeking submission of additional relevant information on these chemicals, such as unpublished studies and information on uses and potential exposures. The deadline to submit such information is May 30.

To submit relevant information on these chemicals or find more information on the TSCA Work Plan and flame retardant chemicals for risk assessment, click here.

In February, California officials proposed changes that would eliminate the use of toxic flame-retardant chemicals and change the way it conducts flammability tests. The measures are aiming to overturn a 1975 law, known as Technical Bulletin 117, that requires polyurethane foam in upholstered furniture and children’s products to withstand a small open flame for 12 seconds. Under the new law, testing would be done with a lighted cigarette, rather than an open flame.

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