EPA Releases TSCA Chemical Risk Assessments

Jan. 16, 2013
Five chemicals found in household products are under close scrutiny.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released on January 4, 2013, the first draft risk assessments developed under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Work Plan. This article explains why these assessments are important.
In 2012, the EPA announced it would prepare risk assessments on 83 priority chemicals. The draft risk assessments are for particular uses of five of these chemicals found in household products: methylene chloride or dichloromethane (DCM) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in paint stripper products; trichloroethylene (TCE) as a degreaser and a spray-on protective coating; antimony trioxide (ATO) as a synergist in halogenated flame retardants; and 1,3,4,6,7,8-hexahydro-4,6,6,7,8,8,-hexamethylcyclopenta-[γ]-2-benzopyran (HHCB) as a fragrance ingredient.

The draft assessments focus on human health or ecological hazards for uses that are subject to TSCA regulation. Three of the draft risk assessments — for DCM, NMP and TCE — indicate a potential concern for human health under specific exposure scenarios. The draft assessments for ATO and HHCB indicate a low concern for ecological risks.

DCM and NMP draft assessments center on the use for paint stripping and will be addressed by the same peer review panel. The DCM assessment focuses on inhalation exposure to consumers and workers, and deals with human health concerns for both cancer and non-cancer effects. The NMP assessment highlights acute and chronic inhalation and dermal exposure to consumers and workers.

The draft TCE assessment focuses on uses as a degreaser and in consumer products for the arts/crafts. So, it covers the susceptibility of harming children and adults of all ages.
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The draft assessment for ATO focuses on the ecological hazards that may be associated with ATO use in flame retardants. Human health risks for flame retardant use have been evaluated previously and are summarized in the draft assessment.

HHCB is used as an ingredient in consumer products, including perfumes, cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, detergents, fabric softeners and cleaning agents. The draft assessment highlights environmental risk due to release of HHCB to the aquatic and terrestrial environment from all combined uses.

The human health risk assessments are carefully presented; they reflect conservative approaches and yield conservative conclusions. The peer review process and the EPA's final assessments will be important developments to watch, not only for these five chemicals, but as a signal of whether a more refined and realistic approach is suggested for future Work Plan assessments.

Depending upon what the final assessments conclude, the EPA can be expected to use its TSCA authority to limit exposures to these chemicals by applying manufacturing and use restrictions. This means, potentially more product-reformulation or deselection opportunities and commercial challenges.

TSCA reform may not happen any time soon, so these assessments and other TSCA regulatory developments well may be the real TSCA stories in 2013. Impacted stakeholders should carefully review the assessments and comment as needed.

LYNN BERGESON is Chemical Processing's Regulatory Editor. You can e-mail her at[email protected]Lynn is managing director of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C., a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that concentrates on conventional, biobased, and nanoscale chemical industry issues. She served as chair of the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (2005-2006).

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