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Chemicals Used in Paint Strippers, Vapor Degreasing May Be Banned; EPA to Evaluate Chemicals Grandfathered in Under Old TSCA

chemicalsA slew of chemical regulations that will affect manufacturers and other industrial sectors have been proposed this week by the EPA.

Three toxic chemicals, two used in paint strippers and one in vapor degreasing, will likely be banned following EPA notices published this week.

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is widely used in industrial and commercial processes and has some uses in consumer and commercial products. Last month the EPA proposed a rule banning use of TCE as an aerosol degreaser and spot cleaning agent in dry cleaning facilities.  And earlier this week the agency proposed banning its use as a vapor degreaser — this is an industrial process used in electronics assembly and repair shops, among others.

Specifically, the latest proposal would:

  • prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE for use in vapor degreasing;
  • prohibit commercial use of TCE in vapor degreasing;
  • require manufacturers, processors, and distributors, except for retailers of TCE for any use, to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and
  • require limited recordkeeping.

The agency also wants to largely ban methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane, and n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), both which have a variety of uses. The EPA wants to ban their use in paint and coating removal.

Specifically, this proposal would prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce for each of these chemicals.

All three of these chemicals pose high levels of risk to workers and consumers, according to EPA risk assessments. Additionally, a 2015 Center for Public Integrity investigation uncovered more than 50 accidental exposure deaths linked to methylene chloride since 1980 in the US.

The EPA today also published several proposed rules today that clarify the process for evaluating chemicals that may pose health and environmental risks.

One would require chemical manufacturers to retroactively electronically notify the agency of chemical substances on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory that were manufactured (including imported) for non-exempt commercial purposes during the 10-year time period ending on June 21, 2016.

The recently updated TSCA requires the EPA to designate chemicals on the TSCA Inventory as either “active” or “inactive” in US commerce.  Th agency says it will use these e-notifications to distinguish active substances from inactive substances.

The chemical industry’s trade group, the American Chemistry Council, praised the EPA’s proposal to designate chemicals as active or inactive.

“The Inventory Reset is a foundational sorting step of the LCSA, designed to make the prioritization and risk evaluation functions of the law work better,” the ACC said in a statement. “We are pleased that EPA has released its Inventory Reset proposal first – in advance of its prioritization and risk evaluation proposals – to help review and consider these important framework rules together.

“EPA’s proposal offers some welcome efficiencies by avoiding the need for industry to duplicate notifications that have been made in recent Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) cycles, using a simple notification form and using EPA’s existing Central Data Exchange (CDX) reporting infrastructure. We are also pleased that processors will have an opportunity to participate in the Reset on a voluntary basis. We look forward to constructive discussion of other ways the Agency might further reduce the notification burden on affected stakeholders during the development of this rule.”

Three other rules proposed today would requires the agency to look at chemicals that were grandfathered in under old TSCA law.

“After 40 years we can finally address chemicals currently in the marketplace,” said Jim Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention in a statement. “Today’s action will set into motion a process to quickly evaluate chemicals and meet deadlines required under, and essential to, implementing the new law.”

When the TSCA was enacted in 1976, it grandfathered in thousands of unevaluated chemicals that were in commerce at the time. The agency says the old law failed to provide it with the tools to evaluate chemicals and to require companies to generate and provide data on chemicals they produced.

The three proposed rules to help administer the new process are:

Inventory rule. There are currently over 85,000 chemicals on EPA’s Inventory, many of these are no longer actively produced. The rule will require manufacturers, including importers, to notify EPA and the public on the number of chemicals still being produced.

Prioritization rule. This will establish how EPA will prioritize chemicals for evaluation.  EPA will use a risk-based screening process and criteria to identify whether a particular chemical is either high or low priority.  A chemical designated as high-priority must undergo evaluation. Chemicals designated as low-priority are not required to undergo evaluation.

Risk Evaluation rule. This will establish how EPA will evaluate the risk of existing chemicals.  The agency will identify steps for the risk evaluation process, including publishing the scope of the assessment. Chemical hazards and exposures will be assessed along with characterizing and determining risks.  This rule also outlines how the agency intends to seek public comment on chemical evaluations.

If the EPA identifies unreasonable risk in the evaluation, it is required to eliminate that risk through regulations.  Under TSCA the agency must have at least 20 ongoing risk evaluations by the end of 2019.

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