Monday, April 12, 2010

EPA Official Says They Have No Time for TSCA Reset

Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, Director of EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics, told a chemical trade conference recently that the USEPA is postoning indefinitely an initiative to "reset" the TSCA Inventory. The TSCA reset was an integral part of the industry plan to prioritize chemicals for future data collection, since they argue that the vast majority of the approximately 85,000 chemicals on the Inventory aren't actually in commerce any more.

It's not surprising that EPA doesn't have the resources to reset the Inventory given that it's funding has not kept pace with its statutory mandates over the years. In addition, EPA is quite busy right now both in its efforts to get TSCA reformed (or modernized) and its renewed emphasis on forcefully using what it sees as its existing authority under the current TSCA law. Cleland-Hamnett outlined several of the ways EPA has enhanced its chemical management program, including:

1) Taking risk management actions on a variety of specific chemicals such as lead, mercury, formaldehyde, PCBs, glymes and nanomaterials.

2) Developing a series of chemical actions plans for an initial list of six chemicals: phthalates; short-chain chlorinated paraffins; perfluorinateed chemicals; penta, octa, and decabrominated ethers (PBDEs); bisphenol A; and benzidine dyes. All of these have well-known toxicological issues and EPA proposes to use the authority of several sections of TSCA to regulate them.

3) Another set of chemicals for future action plans was released on March 17th, including: Nonylphenol/nonylphenol ethoxylate; HBCD; Siloxanes; and Diisocynates. Again, these are rather "long-hanging fruit" in that health effects are well studied.

4) Filling gaps in HPV data. There are many gaps in the data provided by industry in the previous voluntary High Production Volume Challenge program and EPA is seeking data to fill those gaps by using test rules (to collect missing data), continuing to develop hazard characterizations for those chemicals with data, and addressing chemicals that became HPV after the Challenge program was inititated and thus were not covered.

5) Making changes to the Inventory Update Rule (IUR). EPA is expecting to make a proposal sometime this spring to address problems experienced during the 2006 IUR collection and to expand the data requirements to better match the data collected with EPA's data needs.

6) EPA is also making an effort to better understand how to regulate nanoscale materials under TSCA. The previous voluntary Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program failed to provide the participation or data needed for adequate evaluation of any special risks of nanoscale materials. So EPA is developing TSCA regulations to ensure that these materials receive appropriate regulatory review.

7) EPA is putting more emphasis on their "Design for the Environment" (DfE) program in which it assists companies to design greener chemistries.

8) And finally, EPA has taken several actions to increase transparency in the Agency, including putting the public version of the Inventory on the internet for easy (and free) access, efforts to increase public awareness, etc.

So it seems EPA is quite busy in this administration using its current TSCA authority to the greatest extent possible. Meanwhile, EPA continues to work with Senator Lautenberg as he develops a "new TSCA" bill that he says he intends to introduce shortly. Most insiders feel that he will do so on Earth Day, April 22nd, though of course it could come any time and in part will depend on his cancer therapy schedule.

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