October 26, 2023

EPA Proposal Would Codify Changes to Its Risk Evaluation Process

EPA will soon propose a rule clarifying that its future chemical risk evaluations will not assume that workers always use personal protective equipment, according to an announcement published by the agency on Oct. 19. EPA previously adopted this change two years ago but until now had not sought to support it through rulemaking.

Prior to June 2021, EPA risk evaluations assumed that employers always provided PPE to workers and that workers wore it properly. According to the text of the proposed rule, this assumption was not supported by data on PPE violations and “could lead to an underestimation of the risk to workers.”

The proposal would also formalize EPA’s “whole chemical” approach to risk determination. This change ended the agency’s practice of determining risk based on each “condition of use” for a particular chemical. Under the whole chemical approach, EPA now makes a single risk determination for a substance.

A third change specified in the proposed rule concerns EPA’s consideration of exposures to the general population from air, water, and disposals. EPA had previously excluded these exposures in its risk evaluations on the grounds that they were already regulated, or could be regulated, under statutes such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The changes announced in June 2021 included an acknowledgment that the agency would no longer exclude these exposures.

A prepublication copy of the proposed rule is available from the EPA website (PDF). Comments on the rule will be due 45 days following its publication in the Federal Register. For more information, see the agency’s news release.