Adhesives Magazine

EPA Announces Actions to Address Chemicals of Concern

January 4, 2010

On Dec. 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a series of actions on four chemicals that have raised serious health or environmental concerns, including phthalates. For the first time, EPA intends to establish a “Chemicals of Concern” list and is initiating a process that may lead to regulations requiring significant risk reduction measures to protect human health and the environment. The agency’s actions represent its determination to use its authority under the existing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to the fullest extent possible, recognizing EPA’s strong belief that the 1976 law is both outdated and in need of reform.

In addition to phthalates, the chemicals EPA addresses are short-chain chlorinated paraffins, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorinated chemicals, including PFOA. These chemicals are used in the manufacture of an array of products and have raised a range of health and environmental concerns.

EPA also recently announced that three U.S. companies agreed to phase out DecaBDE, a widely used fire retardant chemical that may potentially cause cancer and may impact brain function.

On September 29, 2009, Administrator Linda P. Jackson outlined a set of agency principles to help inform legislative reform and announced that EPA would act on a number of widely studied chemicals that may pose threats to human health. When TSCA was passed in 1976, there were 60,000 chemicals on the inventory of existing chemicals. Since that time, EPA has only successfully restricted or banned five existing chemicals and has only required testing on another two hundred existing chemicals. An additional 20,000 chemicals have entered the marketplace for a total of more than 80,000 chemicals on the TSCA inventory.

The actions announced on Dec. 30 include:
  • Adding phthalates and PBDE chemicals to the concern list.
  • Beginning a process that could lead to risk reductions actions under section 6 of TSCA for several phthalates, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, and perfluorinated chemicals.
  • Reinforcing the DecaBDE phaseout - which will take place over three years - with requirements to ensure that any new uses of PBDEs are reviewed by EPA prior to returning to the market.
This is the first time EPA has used TSCA’s authority to list chemicals that “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.” Inclusion on the list publicly signals EPA’s strong concern about the risks certain chemicals pose and the agency’s intention to manage those risks. Once listed, chemical companies can provide information to the agency if they want to demonstrate that their chemical does not pose an unreasonable risk.

For more information, visit www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals.