TSCA risk management may include new risk assessments
EPA is reviewing all of the first 10 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) chemical risk evaluations to determine whether the agency needs to reopen those risk evaluations to include additional chemical use and exposure pathways that were previously excluded (e.g., EPA had determined not to include air emissions that were already regulated under the Clean Air Act) and, if so, whether the risk determinations for those chemicals need to change. EPA also reiterated that it would not assume the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when assessing the safety a chemical substance. Even if every entity in a particular industry provided EPA with documentation that they require their workers to wear specific PPE sufficient to protect themselves, EPA will assume that there is some worker who does not wear the required PPE or their employer fails to provide such PPE. This new assumption will obviously lead to additional conditions of use being found to present an unreasonable risk.
If EPA wants to include a previously excluded pathway, NGOs are telling the agency that it can do so by merely including this new pathway and the associated risk assessment in a proposed risk management rule. It appears EPA is not currently adopting such an approach for risk management, as the agency’s recent court filings indicate that EPA will release for public comment any revised risk evaluations. Of course, EPA may change course and adopt the NGO community’s preferred path forward.
SAICM, NRDC examine addressing chemicals in textile industry
The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), has published a report and a policy brief on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as a chemical class in the textile industry. The publications examine the scientific, policy, and practical reasons for approaching PFAS as a class.
The report, titled ‘Engaging the textiles industry as a key sector in SAICM: A review of PFAS as a chemical class in the textile sector,’ notes the textile sector’s environmental significance and the scope of PFAS used within it. Its global value chain includes companies of all sizes, which provides lessons for capacity building and enabling conditions that can extend to other sectors.
The report notes the opportunity to scale up actions and mainstream sound chemicals management across the entire value chain in the textiles sector.
The policy brief, titled ‘A review of PFAS as a Chemical Class in the Textiles Sector,’ recommends governments:
- eliminate non-essential PFAS productions/uses and prohibit such exports to the developing world;
- promote research and development on safe alternatives for essential uses;
- review uses deemed essential to account for the development of alternatives;
- improve and expand global access to testing methods;
- facilitate data gathering, and international cooperation/capacity building;
- facilitate private sector initiatives through purchasing decisions and awareness raising; and
- strengthen collaboration between all actors in the textiles value chain.
The brief suggests the private sector:
- adopt PFAS elimination policy at the highest corporate levels;
- understand the supply chain and provide educational materials/training to suppliers to facilitate PFAS identification;
- inventory known and potential PFAS sources and uses;
- assess essentiality of PFAS uses and alternatives, and publicize results while protecting proprietary information;
- conduct research and development on safe alternatives for identified essential uses;
- improve and expand global access to testing methods;
- implement policy and monitor progress; and
- report policy implementation results transparently and confirm through a third-party audit.
European Union: “Safe And Sustainable By Design”: A possible game-changer in the regulation of chemicals in the EU
The EU Commission’s “Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS),” an ambitious political action plan for chemicals regulation in the EU that was released in October 2020, could well become one of the pillars of chemicals regulation in the EU. The Commission calls in its CSS for a “transition” to chemicals that are safe and sustainable by design in order to reconcile the societal value of chemicals with human health and planetary boundaries.
The Commission presents the “sustainable-by-design” concept as a holistic approach to achieve these objectives: it seeks to integrate “safety, circularity, energy efficiency and functionality of chemicals, materials, products, and processes throughout their life cycle and minimiz[e] the environmental footprint.”
The concept is still at an early stage of inception by EU institutions, with key actions scheduled from 2021-2023.
Today, the concept of sustainability lacks a shared understanding. Defining such a term is a prerequisite for any successful development of a sustainable-by-design concept. The situation is similar to that of integrating the “precautionary principle” in EU legislation, i.e., a debate that has still not been fully resolved.
Chemicals under consideration for UK REACH controls announced
The first work program for UK REACH has disclosed what chemicals may be banned and those that may be used under strict conditions, according to www.endsreport.com.
The program was published by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in mid-June, detailing what it plans to do alongside the Environment Agency (EA) to implement the new regime over 2021/22.
The following substances have been earmarked to be considered as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs):
- A series of tin fatty acid derivatives,
- High temperature solvent bis(2-(2-methoxyethoxy)ethyl) ether (known as tetraglyme)
- Industrial intermediate resorcinol
- Brominated flame retardants BMP, TBNPA and 2,3-DBPA
- Disinfectant, wart medication, preservative, and fixative glutaral
- Fragrance 2-(4-Tert-butylbenzyl)propionaldehyde
- 1,4-dioxane, a possibly carcinogenic solvent
- Sodium orthoborate, thought to be toxic to reproduction
- Suspected endocrine disruptor Dodecylphenol (PDDP)
- Bisphenol B, closely related to the widely-used endocrine disruptor bisphenol A.
A priority list is to be drafted by the end of the year and finalized by the end of March 2022.