EPA Proposes New Restrictions on Carbon Tetrachloride Uses

July 18, 2023
If finalized, new ruling would ban discontinued uses and require a workplace chemical protection program

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed ruling on Monday to better protect workers from exposure to carbon tetrachloride (CTC), a chemical the agency said is known to cause serious health risks such as liver toxicity and cancer.

This proposal, if finalized, would protect people from these risks by minimizing exposures to workers and communities, while banning uses that have already ceased. The proposal announced is the fourth proposed risk management rule under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) under the Biden-Harris Administration. 

"The science is clear. Exposure to carbon tetrachloride is dangerous and we have a responsibility to protect the public from the risks it poses,” said Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Today's proposal is an important first step to ensuring carbon tetrachloride can be used safely by workers and that surrounding communities are protected.” 

CTC is a solvent used in commercial settings as a raw material for producing other chemicals like hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) used in refrigerants, aerosol propellants, foam-blowing agents, chlorinated compounds and agricultural products. Requirements under the Montreal Protocol and the Clean Air Act led to a phaseout of CTC production in the United States in 1996 for most domestic uses that did not involve manufacturing of other chemicals, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of CTC in consumer products in 1970.

In its 2020 risk evaluation, the EPA determined that CTC presents an unreasonable risk to health, including liver toxicity and cancer from chronic inhalation and dermal exposures, largely to workers and occupational non-users (workers nearby but not in direct contact with this chemical). The EPA also identified potential risks to fenceline communities (population in close proximity to source of pollution) from CTC in its 2022 fenceline screening analysis for the ambient air pathway.

If finalized, this rule would require a workplace chemical protection program with strict controls that include inhalation exposure limits and dermal protections for the manufacturing (including import) of CTC, processing, and other industrial or commercial uses which account for essentially the entire domestic production volume of CTC. The workplace chemical protection program would cover uses related to the phasedown of climate pollutants under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, the production of chlorine and caustic soda, the manufacture of agricultural products, and repackaging for use as a laboratory chemical, recycling and disposal.

EPA is also proposing workplace controls that would require the use of a fume hood and dermal personal protective equipment for laboratory uses and would establish downstream notification and recordkeeping requirements. Additionally, the proposed rule would prohibit uses of CTC that the Agency determined have already ceased.

The proposed controls, if finalized, will also advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to environmental justice by reducing exposures to fenceline communities. For example, the proposed rule includes a requirement for owners and operators to attest that engineering controls selected to comply with the rule do not increase emissions of CTC to ambient air outside of the facility.

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