EPA Proposes More Oversight of Manufacture and Import of Chemicals

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EPA plans to monitor five groups of chemicals to prevent harmful new uses.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced proposed rules which would require advanced notice of any new use of certain chemicals which pose potential health and environmental risks. These proposals are part of an effort by the EPA to increase oversight of potentially hazardous chemicals.

The proposed rules amend or create “Significant New Use Rules” (SNURs) to require notification for new uses of benzidinebaseddyes, dinpentylphthalate (DnPP), ashortchainchlorinatedparaffin, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), and polybrominateddiphenylethers (PBDEs). The first three compounds are no longer commonly used in the US or abroad, but are included in the SNUR because they have been used in the past or are very similar to chemicals that are still in use.

The latter two chemicals are types of flame retardants. The EPA is concerned that excessive exposure to these chemicals may be toxic to marine life and may also lead to health problems in humans such as cancer, reproductive abnormalities, and neurological defects. The SNURs would allow the EPA to regulate any new use of these chemicals.

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA is authorized to require anyone planning to manufacture, process, or import certain chemicals for any use that is not already approved to provide the EPA with 90 days advanced notice. These SNURs requirements are intended to allow the EPA to determine whether the new use of the chemical may increase the risk it poses to humans or the environment. If it deems it necessary, the EPA can then limit or prohibit the new use.

In conjunction with the SNURS, the agency also released a proposed “test rule” for PBDEs. That rule would require any entity that manufactures, processes, or imports commercial PBDE mixtures to conduct safety testing and submit its results to the EPA. The testing would analyze the potential health and environmental effects of the chemicals and would inform future EPA rulemaking.