Today EPA released a list of the first ten chemicals it will evaluate for risks to human health and the environment under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). These ten chemicals, drawn from a list of 90 in EPA’s 2014 TSCA Work Plan, will undergo complete risk evaluations within three years. If EPA finds a chemical presents an “unreasonable risk” to humans and the environment, it must mitigate that risk within two years. In theory, then, these ten chemicals may be more thoroughly regulated within the next five years.
EPA’s chosen chemicals include likely and known human carcinogens and those with aquatic or reproductive toxicity. Here is a list of the chemicals, their uses, and their hazard information, as described by EPA:
|Asbestos||Chlor-alkali production, consumer products, coatings and compounds, plastics, roofing products, and other applications; found in important products like brakes, friction products, gaskets, packing materials, building materials||Known human carcinogen; acute and chronic toxicity from inhalation exposure|
|Carbon Tetrachloride||Commercial/industrial products; present in biomonitoring, drinking water, indoor environments, surface water, ambient air, groundwater, soil||Probable human carcinogen|
|Methylene Chloride (MC)||Consumer products; present in drinking water, indoor environments, ambient air, groundwater, soil||Probable human carcinogen|
|Trichloroethylene (TCE)||Consumer products; present in drinking water, indoor environments, surface water, ambient air, groundwater, soil||Probable human carcinogen|
|Tetrachloroethylene (aka perchloroethylene)||Consumer products, dry cleaning; present in biomonitoring, drinking water, indoor environments, ambient air, groundwater, soil||Probable human carcinogen|
|1,4-Dioxane||Consumer products; present in groundwater, ambient air, indoor environments||Possible human carcinogen|
|1-Bromopropane||Consumer products; present in drinking water, indoor environments, surface water, ambient air, groundwater, soil||Possible human carcinogen|
|Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster (HBCD)||Flame retardant in extruded polystyrene foam, textiles, electrical and electronic appliances||Acute aquatic toxicity|
|Pigment Violet 29 Anthra[2,1,9-def:6,5,10-d’e’f]diisoquinoline-1,3,8,10(2H,9H)-tetrone||Consumer products||Aquatic toxicity|
|N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP)||Consumer products; present in drinking water, indoor environments||Reproductive toxicity|
I’m relieved to see that the list includes asbestos, a known human carcinogen. But it will be important to keep an eye on the risk evaluation for this and the other chemicals under a Trump administration. Trump has long supported asbestos, even calling it 100% safe. In fact, as recently as 2012, Trump bemoaned the chemical’s removal from buildings, tweeting, “[i]f we didn’t remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn’t work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down.” (In fact, the Twin Towers contained asbestos, which accounted for 4% of the dust created in their collapse.)
While publication of this list signals EPA’s much needed action to regulate these chemicals, it also reveals certain holes. Under the current five-year timeline, even these 10 chemicals will remain under regulated for quite some time. And some have noted chemicals that should have made the cut: in particular, lead is notably missing from the list. But as EPA completes each risk evaluation, it must begin another one. And EPA must have at least 20 ongoing chemical risk evaluations by the end of 2019. So perhaps the risk evaluation for lead is coming soon.