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EPA Proposal to Expand List of Chemicals of Concern

Posted on September 14, 2011


EPA Proposed Expansion of Chemicals of Concern List Shows Need for Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act

The national Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition generally praised the proposal made on August 18th by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to apply science-based criteria to expand its list of chemicals of concern that require action to protect public health and the environment. The praise however comes with caveats.  

Andy Igrejas, SCHF Campaign Director, expressed concerns about the rigidity of the data sources used to expand the list.  He says the EPA could be overly restricting themselves in an already limited reach of toxic chemical regulation.  In his public comments on the EPA discussion guide, he made it clear the EPA needs to ensure flexibility in assessment of chemicals to allow inclusion of evidence of neuro toxicity and other red flags.  He also made it clear that he agrees with EPA that these are small steps, and the most important step is full reform of the Toxic Substance Control Act. 

Richard Denison, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Health Fund, has more to say about the EPA proposal. Read his blog post EPA proposes a sensible approach to identifying chemicals of concern

Last week the coalition especially lauded EPA’s inclusion of criteria to target chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBTs) or which cause persistent exposure due to widespread use in consumer products. Once finalized, EPA will use the criteria proposed on August 18 to identify the next batch of chemicals for which it will develop action plans under its Enhanced Chemicals Management Program. Read more about the EPA proposed process on their Priorotization Discussion Guide.

"To date, EPA has issued Chemical Action Plans for 10 chemicals or classes of chemicals, including bisphenol A and phthalates..."

To date, EPA has issued Chemical Action Plans for 10 chemicals or classes of chemicals, including bisphenol A and phthalates, and has another plan under development for siloxanes. The plans highlight possible regulatory measures as well as programmatic and voluntary initiatives to address exposures of vulnerable populations like children, workers and wildlife to these toxic chemicals.

Check out our factsheet to learn more about the known concerns, at-risk populations, major uses, and consumer product uses for each of the 10 chemicals that already have action plans. 

The very limited authority provided to EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) constrains the Agency from taking more aggressive action.  A consensus has developed that TSCA must be overhauled to ensure chemical safety and restore public confidence.  The offices of Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and James Inhofe (R-OK) are leading a bipartisan process to consider TSCA reforms, in response to introduction of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 by Sen. Lautenberg in April (S. 847).  Senate action on TSCA reform is expected in the coming months.

"We strongly agree with EPA’s forthright acknowledgment that today’s proposal represents only a small step toward ensuring chemical safety."

We strongly agree with EPA’s forthright acknowledgment that today’s proposal represents only a small step toward ensuring chemical safety.  The necessary review and prioritization of tens of thousands of existing chemicals for safety assessments and risk management can only be achieved through fundamental reform of TSCA.  Of the nearly 85,000 chemicals on the current TSCA inventory in the United States, fewer than two percent have received any substantive, data-informed review.  

We believe that the development of more and better data will reveal that a substantial number of chemicals on the market today present health or environmental concerns.  Based on very limited health and environmental data, Canada reviewed its inventory of about 23,000 chemicals and found that about 4,000 of them met statutory criteria as chemicals of concern.  Canada has targeted about 500 of those as priorities for greater scrutiny.  Several U.S. states, including Maine, Minnesota and Washington, have identified about 1,750 chemicals of concern based on application of authoritative criteria, again despite serious data limitations.

The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition intends to publish its own list of chemicals of concern later this year to encourage the market to pursue safer alternatives as long as Congressional action to reform TSCA remains uncertain.


"EPA is taking steps to expand its list of chemicals of concern" Yes at the time when we heard about this issue we also get enjoyed but unfortunately in this New Year the Government has decided to shut down the EPA globally. I do not think it was good for the civilization. How could the Government could decide such kind of idiotic things!

Posted by: Provacyl Review | Jan 10, 2012 10:00:55 PM

Chemicals in our environment are bipartisan-- they effect all of us! It is imperative that legislators understand that we, as people who care about our health and that of our environment, must do the right thing and hold the chemical industry accountable... Meanwhile, we would do best to work with our schools to send home educational material (to parents) to raise awareness about health risks from exposures to unnecessary toxic chemicals used in every day personal and home cleaning products, not to mention, lawn chemicals...

Posted by: Alyssa | Sep 30, 2011 12:06:03 PM

Excellent post. I'm thankful the EPA is taking steps to expand its list of chemicals of concern, but this is still woefully inadequate progress, given that it has such an inadequate list to start with. Let's hope the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 overhauls TSCA completely so that the EPA can begin to accomplish meaningful change.

Posted by: Sam | Sep 21, 2011 7:08:43 PM Please sign the petition asking for the long-awaited report on the effect of TCE exposure on children to be released to the public. Thousands of people were exposed to TCE at Camp LeJeune and this may be the biggest environmental disaster in the history of our country. We have been waiting for this report for years and have a right to see the report.

Posted by: susan utsey | Sep 19, 2011 6:28:33 PM

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