EPA Uses New Law for “Expedited Action” on Five Key Chemicals

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act)— signed into law by President Obama in June of this year — gives the EPA important new powers and mandates for conducting risk evaluations on chemicals. Specifically, it requires the EPA to evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines, it introduces a new risk-based safety standard, and it increases public transparency for chemical information. Some industry observers are wondering how exactly the EPA will carry out these new requirements, and where the EPA will begin its process. Today’s press release from the EPA provides important clues as to how the Agency intends to proceed.

In its announcement, the EPA lists five chemicals that will receive expedited action in order to “reduce exposure to certain persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals.”

Those five chemicals are:

  • Decabromodiphenyl ethers (DecaBDE), a flame retardant
  • Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD), used in the manufacture of rubber compounds and lubricants and as a solvent
  • Pentachlorothio-phenol (PCTP), an agent used to make rubber more pliable
  • Tris (4-isopropylphenyl) phosphate, used as a flame retardant
  • 2,4,6-Tris(tert-butyl)phenol, used as a fuel, oil, gasoline or lubricant additive

The EPA calls the above chemicals selected “of particular concern” because of the length of time they can remain in the environment and in living creatures exposed to them. The agency also emphasized the urgency to address these particular substances due to the risks they pose.

“The new law directs us to expedite action to reduce risks for these chemicals, rather than spending more time evaluating them.” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator in EPA’s office of chemical safety and pollution prevention, in a prepared statement. After EPA completes its analysis of where these chemicals are used and how people are exposed to them, they will move directly to propose limitations on their use.

The EPA closes its press release by noting that it believes its actions “will help bring significant improvements to public health.” For more information, you can visit the EPA’s page on the Lautenberg Act here.

Consumers and industries of all sorts stand to be impacted by this news.  As noted in a previous blog post, the construction industry can expect to be impacted particularly by a review of chemicals used as flame retardants. (Two of the five chemicals included in this review are flame retardants). However, all chemical manufacturers should prepare to identify replacements for many of the materials they now use, or be prepared to acquire, store, and use them under greater restrictions. There will be compliance obligations and work involved in identifying these materials in chemical inventories, and in documenting alignment with the limitations that will eventually emerge. Additionally, end-users of these chemicals should be aware that new formulations of existing products may be coming, potentially resulting in new labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) for those products.

Let VelocityEHS Help

The EPA is showing that it considers taking action on these five chemicals to be a top priority for protection of human health and the environment, and can be expected to strictly enforce compliance with the limitations it will eventually publish. A powerful compliance management tool that assigns and schedules tasks, tracks follow-up and sends escalating notifications when required actions approach or exceed due dates will greatly assist in the management of the steps needed to align with EPA requirements. Additionally, a comprehensive SDS and chemical management platform will simplify the identification and tracking of these five chemicals, giving you the control and visibility you need to manage them effectively and maintain compliance. By having the right solutions in place, you’ll be well-prepared to meet obligations related to the five chemicals in this news release, as well as those for any future requirements that may develop due to the Lautenberg Act.