The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed a list of 10 high priority chemicals for risk assessment, as mandated under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act), passed in June 2016 to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.
On June 22, 2016, the bill was officially signed into law and took effect immediately. The Lautenberg Act allows the EPA to designate chemical substances as either “high priority” (“may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment”), or “low priority” (all other substances). As one of the bill’s requirements, the EPA had to identify the initial ten Work Plan chemicals for review, which was taken from the list of “high priority” substances. The EPA is now performing thorough risk evaluations on these initial ten chemicals, and must decide whether restrictions will be put into place. For each risk evaluation that EPA completes, they will begin another, and the program is required to scale up to 20 simultaneous chemical evaluations by the end of 2019.
The first ten chemicals chosen to be evaluated are:
Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster
Pigment Violet 29
Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene
Most of these chemicals are used in consumer products and are likely on the list because they could potentially cause cancer, may cause reproductive toxicity, or have negative effects on the aquatic environment. In particular, the inclusion of asbestos on the list has been applauded by many – in 1989, the EPA had issued a rule banning most asbestos-containing products. However, this was overturned by the Court of Appeals in 1991, and many considered this to stem from problems with the original TSCA law. The EPA encourages and accepts public input and comments on the ongoing efforts related to the Work Plan list, data needs assessments, and draft risk assessments.
Another noteworthy TSCA change taken into effect immediately includes a requirement by EPA to make an “affirmative determination” (i.e. the EPA gives approval) on all premanufacture notices (PMNs) and significant new use notices (SNUNs) before manufacturing can commence. In the original law, if a company did not receive a response from the EPA, it could begin to manufacture or import the substance. In addition, in its evaluation, the EPA must now consider any potential uses (previously only had to consider known or intended uses), and will also consider risks to the most susceptible populations such as children, or the elderly.