July 1, 2021

EPA Announces Policy Changes, Upcoming Actions for Chemical Risk Evaluations

A press release published by EPA on June 30 describes policy changes and planned actions related to the first 10 chemicals to undergo risk evaluation under amended Toxic Substances Control Act legislation. The changes and actions concern personal protective equipment, risk management, unreasonable risk determinations, and exposure pathways.

As amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was signed into law in June 2016, TSCA required EPA to complete risk evaluations for 10 chemicals—1,4-dioxane, the cyclic aliphatic bromide cluster (HBCD), pigment violet 29 (PV29), 1-bromopropane, asbestos, carbon tetrachloride, methylene chloride, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), perchloroethylene, and trichloroethylene—within three to three-and-a-half years. EPA intends to revisit the assumption in its final risk evaluations for these chemicals that PPE is always provided to workers and worn properly in occupational settings. According to the agency, data on PPE use violations suggest that this assumption is not justified. EPA anticipates that this shift in policy could affect risk conclusions for six chemicals for which “no unreasonable risk” findings were based on the use of PPE: methylene chloride, 1-bromopropane, HBCD, NMP, perchloroethylene, and 1,4-dioxane.

Proposed rules for the risk management of HBCD, PV29, and asbestos are likely to be the first ready for release, according to EPA. Following review, the agency believes that the current risk evaluations for these three chemicals are sufficient to inform the risk management approaches being considered by EPA.

The agency’s announcement also mentions a new “whole chemical approach,” which EPA describes as “[making] the determination of unreasonable risk just once for [a] whole chemical when it is clear the majority of the conditions of use warrant one determination.” The agency will seek public comment on this new approach, which differs from the method used by the previous administration in which separate unreasonable risk determinations were made for every condition of use for the first 10 chemical risk evaluations conducted under TSCA.

Lastly, EPA intends to expand its consideration of exposure pathways for the first 10 risk evaluations and develop a screening-level approach to conduct ambient air and surface water assessments for communities near industrial facilities. EPA says it will reopen and update the risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane to consider whether to include additional exposure pathways. The agency intends to use a screening-level approach to determine if six additional chemicals—methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride, perchloroethylene, NMP, and 1-bromopropane—present unreasonable risk to fenceline communities.

Further details are available in EPA’s press release. Additional information regarding chemicals undergoing risk evaluation under TSCA can be found on the agency’s website.