The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is calling for a “transparent and scientifically sound” process for determining which chemicals “warrant additional review and assessment” by the Environmental Protection Agency.
ACC said it is proposing a “comprehensive, scientifically based prioritization system” that the EPA could use to determine which chemicals should be the subject of additional review and assessment in the agency’s updating of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The council said its proposal is “part of its longstanding support for updating the nation’s chemical regulatory system.”
The 35-year-old TSCA law does not dictate a process to utilize the information currently available to prioritize chemicals for review, ACC said. Without a system in place, the council said EPA “may be wasting time, energy and resources gathering and analyzing data on chemicals that are already well understood or that are unlikely to pose a significant risk to public health or the environment.”
ACC said its approach evaluates chemicals against “transparent, consistent and scientific criteria that take into account both hazard and exposure.” Chemicals are given a score based on the criteria and then ranked based on their scores and the agency's best professional scientific judgment. The rankings would then be used to determine which chemicals should be referred to EPA's Office of Chemical Safety & Pollution Prevention for further assessment.
The specific criteria that would be applied to determine a chemical’s priority ranking addresses human health hazards, potential environmental effects, a chemical’s industrial, commercial and/or consumer uses, whether it persists or accumulates in the body or the environment, and the production volume of the chemical in commerce. The tool also takes into account important factors like whether a chemical is used in children's products or detected in biomonitoring programs.
The ACC prioritization tool is intended to be administered by the EPA to identify priority chemicals for further evaluation and assessment, the council said. The tool is not intended to produce conclusions about which chemicals necessarily present a risk to human health or environment.
Prior to issuing an announcement on its proposal, representatives from ACC met with officials at EPA to discuss the tool and how it could inform the agency’s stakeholder dialogue on prioritization, which took place Wednesday, Sept. 7.
Calvin M. Dooley
|American Chemistry Council President and CEO|
“As outlined in ACC’s principles for modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), establishing a clear and scientifically sound prioritization process is key to creating a world-class chemical management system,” said ACC President and CEO Calvin M. Dooley. “We believe the prioritization tool we’re proposing today will help EPA evaluate chemicals more efficiently and effectively and improve public confidence in the agency’s regulation of chemicals.”
The EPA Plan for Chemical Review
Contacted by Durability + Design about the ACC proposal, an EPA spokesman said the agency had no comment on the proposal specifically. He said, however, that EPA is working to ensure public input and discussion as part of the plan for review and assessment of chemicals covered by TSCA.
The spokesman provided a statement describing EPA’s plans to use a two-step process to identify priority chemical substances for review and assessment under TSCA.
“EPA’s goal is to identify priority chemicals for near-term evaluation, not to screen and prioritize the entire TSCA Inventory of approximately 84,000 chemicals,” the agency said. The two-step process includes a Sept. 7 webinar and an Online Discussion Forum.
The discussion forum will remain open for input through 5 p.m. EDT Sept. 14. After the discussion forum closes, a summary of the discussion at the webinar and copies of all posts made through the online discussion forum will be placed in the docket for this activity, EPA-HQ-OPPT-2011-0516, which will be available at http://www.regulations.gov.
Skepticism from the ‘Healthy Building’ Camp
A representative of Healthy Building Network, an organization that seeks to reduce or eliminate “negative impacts” of the building industry on the environment, human health and society, expressed skepticism that the American Chemistry Council proposal would contribute to efforts to meet his group’s objectives.
“Although a lot of the detailed suggestions appear reasonable, the framework of the ACC’s proposal—calling for a ‘prioritization process’ as predicate to ‘reviewing’ chemicals before taking any action—is a blueprint for ineffectiveness,” said Bill Walsh, Healthy Building Network executive director.
“The fact is that responsible action to reduce health hazards from chemicals is supported by responsible science right now, and many governments agree,” Walsh said in reply to an inquiry from Durability + Design. “Numerous U.S. states, countries and international agreements have determined that there is more than enough evidence to act now on certain classes of chemicals.
“To cite just two examples, many U.S. states and Canada have taken action to reduce the use of halogenated flame retardants. Internationally, the goal of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is to reduce or eliminate the production of certain highly toxic chemicals, 12 of which were named as priorities in the original document signed 10 years ago. Tellingly, the ACC proposal says that for initial screening, existence of international risk management action plans should not be a factor that determines priority grouping,” Walsh said.
Coatings Association Also Weighs in
The American Coatings Association (ACA) also is actively engaged in “TSCA reform,” and supports the chemistry council’s campaign to formulate “new and effective policies” to prioritize efforts to improve chemical management, a top ACA representative said. But ACA has identified issues critical to the coatings industry in its own position paper on TSCA reform, said Steven Sides, ACA vice president, science, technology and environmental policy.
The ACA paper, an “Issue Backgrounder,” discusses legislation introduced in Congress earlier this year—the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011—that ACA says is an “arbitrary approach to chemicals management, unfounded in science,” and would have an adverse effect on employment in the paint and coatings industry and the manufacturing and construction sectors that use its products. The document can be read at Issue Backgrounder.