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outdated and in need of reform.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
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
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