From: John Heilprin, Associated Press
Published November 19, 2004 12:00 AM

EPA Encouraging Use of Seven Chemicals to Replace More Dangerous Ones

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency is lowering regulatory barriers to encourage broader commercial use of seven chemicals that previously were considered toxic, smog-forming or hazardous.


Their use will help some regions of the country meet federal requirements to cut smog and will decrease the use of other chemicals that are considered far more toxic or environmentally damaging, senior agency officials said Thursday.


"The actions we're taking today create incentives for industry to move away from the use of highly reactive solvents, ozone-depleting chemicals and other, more harmful compounds," said Terry Keating, a senior environmental scientist with the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.


The officials said they had concluded that the health risks associated with the chemicals were less than previously thought. They based that decision on extensive scientific reviews that had been peer-reviewed and allowed for public comment.


One solvent, ethylene glycol mono-butyl ether, or EGBE, was removed from the list of hazardous air pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act. It is used in hydraulic fluids and in water-based coatings by various businesses, such as metal can makers. In 1997, the American Chemistry Council, a trade group, asked for the de-listing. But the solvent is still considered a volatile organic compound, or VOC, in the EPA's annual toxics inventory. VOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog.


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Another chemical, t-butyl acetate, or TBAC, was exempted from being regulated under the Clean Air Act as a VOC. The exemption allows, but does not require, states to remove regulatory controls on it, the EPA said. The chemical is used to make pharmaceuticals and pesticides. Lyondell Chemical, formerly ARCO Chemical, had submitted the petition.


Four other chemical compounds -- HFE-7000, HFE-7500, HFC-227ea and methyl formate -- were also excluded from being defined as VOCs under the Clean Air Act. They are used as refrigerants, fire suppressants and propellants.


With the five new exemptions, the EPA has now excluded 53 organic compounds from being controlled as VOCs. There are potentially thousands of VOCs that affect ozone formation.


Separately, the EPA said it was taking phosmet off its list of "extremely hazardous substances" under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. That removes a requirement for it to be reported to state and local emergency planning officials.


It does not alter regulation of phosmet as a pesticide used on crops such as fruit and nuts. Phosmet also is still considered a "hazardous" chemical for reporting purposes if more than 10,000 pounds are used.


Source: Associated Press


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