By Julie Miller, Chemical Watch

Comments oppose industry proposal to revisit PBT criteria

Environmental groups in the US have vehemently opposed an American Chemistry Council (ACC) suggestion that the EPA should update its criteria for identifying and evaluating “persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic” (PBT) substances before it completes mandated rapid risk management action on five such substances.

In August 2017, the EPA published preliminary information on exposure and use for each of the five PBT chemicals the agency had identified in 2016, and asked for additional data.

In public comments made in response, the groups argue that TSCA’s mandate to reduce exposure to these substances “to the extent practicable” requires the EPA to ban their use entirely and take action to reduce exposure to “legacy” uses of the chemicals.

The NGOs also urged the agency to publish regulations requiring disclosure of all uses of the PBT substances rather than relying on the incomplete information currently available and voluntary submissions from industry.

The 2016 TSCA amendments require the EPA to take expedited action on certain PBTs by skipping risk evaluation and proceeding directly to regulation. Proposed risk management rules are due by 22 June 2019.

The agency said in October 2016 it would take action on:

decaBDE, a flame retardant;

hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD), used as a solvent and as a hydraulic, heat transfer or transformer fluid;

pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP), used to make rubber more pliable;

tris(4-isopropylphenyl) phosphate (IPTPP), used as a flame retardant in consumer products and as a lubricant and hydraulic fluid; and

2,4,6-tris(tert-butyl) phenol, an addition in fuels and lubricants.

The ACC argued in its comments that updating the “outdated” PBT criteria from the EPA’s workplan, which were used to identify the five priority substances, is consistent with the “scientific requirements” of TSCA and the agency’s regulations for implementing it.

But the NGOs said that the criteria are widely accepted and underpin many of the EPA’s chemical evaluation activities.

“To now jettison the Congressionally-approved and internationally-accepted Workplan criteria would be not only irresponsible but a reckless reversal of EPA’s determination nearly a year ago that the five PBTs” being assessed meet those criteria, wrote Elizabeth Hitchcock, Acting Director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families (SCHF).

Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Center for Environmental Health, Earthjustice, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Toxic-Free Future also signed onto those comments.

Robert Stockman, senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), said the agency should add to the PBT list Pigment Yellow 83, because it meets the law’s criteria. He noted that two fragrance chemicals were excluded from rapid action because a manufacturer asked for risk evaluation. There is no evidence that the EPA has begun those evaluations.

Exposure information

In their comments to the August consultation, NGOs argued that the information collected by the EPA thus far underestimates exposure and health risks.

While the EPA document notes that reported US production of decaBDE dropped dramatically between 2012 and 2015, multiple commenters cited studies showing continued presence of the substance in consumer products. For example, under Washington state’s disclosure law, the substance was reported 145 times between 2012 and 2017 in children’s products.