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toxic chemicals

EPA Bans Mercury Compounds Under Reformed Toxic Substances Control Act

toxic chemicalsThe EPA is banning exports of five mercury compounds, effective Jan. 1, 2020, under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act.

An EPA notice published in the Federal Register lists the five mercury compounds: mercury (I) chloride or calomel; mercury (II) oxide; mercury (II) sulfate; mercury (II) nitrate; and cinnabar or mercury sulphide.

Mercury (I) chloride, a chemical produced by gold mining air pollution processes, is the most produced of these compounds, with volumes exceeding 25 metric tons per year, the EPA said in a 2009 report to Congress. It’s also the chief mercury compound that is used as a source of elemental mercury — a toxic substance commonly used in thermometers, batteries, lamps, industrial processes, refining, and lubrication oils.

The top 14 facilities that reported disposing or otherwise releasing mercury compounds to the EPA’s 2014 Toxics Release Inventory were all mining companies, Bloomberg reports.

Only one US company produced mercury (I) chloride in 2011, the most recent year for which this chemical production data is available from the EPA. Bethlehem Apparatus, a waste treatment company specializing in mercury recovery and recycling, produced and imported 580,750 pounds of mercury (I) chloride that year, Bloomberg says.

The EPA’s move to ban these mercury compounds is among the actions the agency has taken to implement the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Signed into law on June 22, the chemical safety rule amends the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act and requires new testing and regulation of thousands of commonly used chemicals.

It imposes a number of new responsibilities on the EPA — as well as on manufacturers and potentially any company that uses chemicals in its products — with relatively short deadlines to carry out these actions.

In late June the EPA posted an Implementation Plan that outlines the agency’s first-year plans to implement the new chemical safety rules. It gives chemical companies and others a better idea of what, and when, they can expect in terms of EPA rulemaking and enforcement activities.

The EPA also hosted a series of public meetings in August to obtain feedback from stakeholders on the processes that will be used to establish fees and prioritize and evaluate chemicals under the new law.

Additionally, the agency is establishing the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) to provide independent advice and expert consultation on scientific and technical aspects on risk evaluations, methodologies and pollution prevention measures or approaches.

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