Wednesday, August 18, 2010

EPA Issues Three New Action Plans to Assess Flame Retardants, Dyes and NonylPhenols

The USEPA posted on their web site three new "action plans" in their continuing efforts to "strengthen and reform chemical management" and make the most of the authority under the current chemicals law, TSCA, while Congress debates ways to modernize it.  These plans summarize EPA's intent to regulate potential health risks of benzidine dyes, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and nonylphenol (NP)/nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). According to their release, "the chemicals are widely used in both consumer and industrial applications, including dyes, flame retardants, and industrial laundry detergents."

Benzidine dyes are primarily "used in the production of textiles, paints, printing inks, paper, and pharmaceuticals."  EPA's main concern is the potential for these dyes "to be leached from textiles, such as clothing, that are in prolonged contact with human skin." According to the action plan, EPA believes that the following actions would be warranted:
      1. Initiate rulemaking to add four benzidine-based dyes to an existing TSCA section 5(a)(2) significant new use rule (SNUR) for benzidine-based substances at 40 CFR 721.1660. A SNUR requires manufacturers who intend to use a chemical for the identified significant new use to submit an application to the Agency for review prior to beginning that activity.
      2. Initiate rulemaking to establish a new TSCA section 5(a)(2) SNUR for benzidine congener-based dyes, including 44 specific such dyes.
      3. Consider proposing to eliminate the article exemption applied to SNURs to address potential concerns for exposure to these dyes on imported finished textiles.
      4. Consider initiating action under TSCA section 6, if EPA learns that these dyes are present in imported finished textiles.
      5. Consider additional regulatory action, if EPA determines that there are other ongoing uses for these dyes and needs to obtain information necessary to determine whether those uses present concerns which need to be addressed.

Similar actions are planned for nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates.  NP and NPE are "nonionic surfactants that are used in a wide variety of industrial applications and consumer products. Many of these, such as laundry detergents, are “down-the-drain” applications."  EPA is especially concerned because NP and NPEs are manufactured in very large volumes, and due to their common usage in detergents lead to "to widespread release to the aquatic environment."  NP is persistent, bioaccumulative and extremely toxic in the environment, and according to EPA "has also been shown to exhibit estrogenic properties in in vitro and in vivo assays.

The third action plan is for the brominated flame retardant, hexabromocyclododecane.  HBCD is "used in expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) in the building and construction industry, as well as in consumer products. People may be exposed to HBCD from products and dust in the home and workplace, as well as its presence in the environment."  EPA's concern with HBCD is that it is persistent, bioaccumulates, can be transported long distances, and there are "animal test results indicating potential reproductive, developmental and neurological effects."

I'll take a look at these further in future posts, but for now you can access the full documents at:

Benzidine Dyes

NP and NPE



ben said...

so how common are these chemicals in everyday products, and how likely is it that they are harmful to us?

The Dake Page said...

Well, the flame retardants and NP/NPEs are in a lot of products. Same is true for the benzidine dyes. EPA believes that they are harmful, or at least that they have the potential to be harmful based on the lab studies that they already have. But the don't think they have enough information so these action plans are their way of getting more data. Some combination of regulatory action and voluntary phase-outs will happen if they deem them to be too risky.

Steady On said...

You always wonder how much damage is done while risk is being assessed. What a very thorough article, wonderful writing and research

Susan Hamlin

The Dake Page said...

Thank you Susan. Yes, there are many who believe we spend too much time assessing risk and not enough time preventing it. But then we don't live in a risk-free world, nor could we. Some chemicals are inherently hazardous, but not particularly risky because their use is controlled. The problem is how to do this efficiently.

karen said...

I left a comment the other day, now it's gone ? You asked for more info on the new greener flame retardants, the company website is for general info, I'm happy to connect you with one of the advocacy leaders for more info. K

The Dake Page said...

Hi Karen

You say your earlier comment is gone? I'm sorry to hear that. I'll check into any glitches that may have occurred when I switched my design format for the site.

Thanks for the web site for the greener flame retardants. Going to check them now.