TSCA Update: EPA Selects First 10 Chemicals for Risk Evaluation

Asbestos included in first 10 chemicals EPA will evaluate for human and environmental risks under TSCA

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:

Chemical Uses Hazard
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 outside-asbestosfor 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.

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Reader Comments

3 Replies to “TSCA Update: EPA Selects First 10 Chemicals for Risk Evaluation”

  1. “…..If EPA finds a chemical presents an “unreasonable risk” to humans and the environment, it must mitigate that risk within two years….”

    Carbon dioxide is not included on the new TSCA list of chemicals that present an “unreasonable risk” to humans and the environment. If carbon dioxide is not an unreasonable risk then why is there so much clamor over climate change? Perhaps carbon dioxide is not so risky when properly evaluated using good scientific methods which EPA seems to be adopting in the wake of the recent election. Is this a signal that the clamor over climate has calmed down?

  2. It’s interesting that only one known carcinogen is on this first Risk Evaluation. Researching possible carcinogens is important, but I feel that imposing stricter regulations on known carcinogens should have precedence. Although who knows how far this evaluation will get before Trump & co. intervenes. He has previously said “we are going to get rid of [the EPA] in almost every form” and I feel like that might be one statement he doesn’t back peddle on. How can any environmental stewardship take place when the country is being run by someone who has said asbestos is 100% safe?!

  3. Asbestos is a classification of six naturally occurring silicate minerals. It has been used for thousands of years for its durable fibrous tensile strength, its fantastic insulative properties in both acoustic dampening and heat resistance, and its incredible fire and electricity resistance. Asbestos is truly a miracle material. When evaluating risk , it is important to consider a risk-benefit analysis.
    Thousands of workers have contracted mesothelioma and asbestosis as a result of the rampant and reckless use during the industrial era. We can observe similar issues in miners with the “black lung,” lead poisoning, and Mad hatter syndrome from mercury exposure in photography. What is the benefit of Asbestos and was it banned prematurely when it could have been regulated and exposure controlled? The mechanism for asbestos exposure is airborne inhalation or ingestion. Asbestos has two forms that determine its risk; the stable non-friable form and the unstable friable form.
    When Donald Trump said that asbestos is “perfectly safe,” people are quick to dismiss his claim as bogus due to the overwhelming evidence confirming the carcinogenicity of asbestos. However, the carcinogenicity only occurs if it is in its particulate form. When asbestos is in the form of stucco, vinyl tile, mastic, insulation encapsulated inside of a sealed wall, or buried underground in Transite piping, it poses no risk of exposure. If there is no risk of exposure, then the risk is eliminated and there is no risk of cancer. This article references that the World Trade Center had asbestos in it and uses that information to disprove the theory that its fire resistance would have saved it, but upon closer examination of the facts, the use of asbestos was halted after the 64th floor due to the 1971 ban.
    Is asbestos extremely dangerous? Absolutely. Asbestos is a tricky little bugger that sticks itself in anything and everything. I just don’t understand what the purpose of this risk evaluation is for. Hazwoper operations, asbestos awareness programs, required safety standards for the handling and mitigation of asbestos containing material are comprehensive and widely used in the industries that are certified to handle it. Doesn’t increased regulation requiring disturbing and mitigating otherwise an otherwise stable and beneficial material help to increase exposure, the very thing they are trying to avoid. This is a simple case of “don’t poke the bear.”
    If we want to prevent exposure to asbestos, more awareness programs and easier accessibility to proper equipment needs to be encouraged rather that fines and overregulation.

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About Julia

Julia Forgie is an Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law. Her research interests include climate change mitigation and adaptation, l…

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