From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published December 31, 2009 02:05 PM

Chemicals of Concern

As part of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s commitment to strengthen and reform chemical management, the US EPA today announced a series of actions on four chemicals raising serious potential health or environmental concerns, including phthalates. For the first time, EPA intends to establish a Chemicals of Concern list and is beginning a process that may lead to regulations requiring significant risk reduction measures to protect human health and the environment. The agency’s actions represent its determination to use its authority under the existing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to the fullest extent possible, recognizing EPA’s strong belief that the 1976 law is both outdated and in need of reform.


In addition to phthalates, the chemicals EPA is addressing today include short-chain chlorinated paraffins, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorinated chemicals, including PFOA. These chemicals are used in the manufacture of a wide array of commonly available consumer and industrial products and have raised a range of health and environmental concerns.

EPA also recently announced that three U.S. companies have agreed to phase out DecaBDE, a widely used fire retardant chemical that may potentially cause cancer and may impact brain function.  This falls under and is reconfirmed under the present TSCA expansion.

When TSCA was passed in 1976, there were 60,000 chemicals on the inventory of existing chemicals. Since that time, EPA has only successfully restricted or banned five existing chemicals and has only required testing on another two hundred existing chemicals. An additional 20,000 chemicals have entered the marketplace for a total of more than 80,000 chemicals on the TSCA inventory.  TSCA is an inventory of existing chemicals and substances used in commerce and industry.

This is the first time EPA has used TSCA’s authority to list chemicals that “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.” The decision to list the chemicals further signals this administration’s commitment to aggressively use the tools at its disposal under TSCA. Inclusion on the list publicly signals EPA’s strong concern about the risks that those chemicals pose and the agency’s intention to manage those risks. Once listed, chemical companies can provide information to the agency if they want to demonstrate that their chemical does not pose an unreasonable risk.

The Agency is also currently taking risk management actions on a number of other chemicals, including lead, mercury, formaldehyde, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), glymes, and certain carbon nanotubes.  EPA has taken the position that nanotubes are a chemcial substance under TSCA.

EPA intends to utilize the full array of regulatory tools under TSCA to address risks, including authority to label, restrict, or ban chemicals under Section 6 of TSCA. Some expected tools are requiring that companies submit information to fill the remaining gaps in basic health and safety data on these chemicals and make the reporting of chemical use information more transparent, more current, more useful, and more useable by the public.

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