EPA Begins Process to Prioritize Five Chemicals for Risk Evaluation Under Toxic Substances Control Act
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is beginning the process to prioritize five additional toxic chemicals for risk evaluation under the nation’s premier chemical safety law. If, during the 12-month long statutory process, EPA designates these five chemicals as High Priority Substances, EPA will then begin risk evaluations for these chemicals.
EPA plans to prioritize the following chemicals for risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA):
- Acetaldehyde (CASRN 75-07-0),
- Acrylonitrile (CASRN 107-13-1),
- Benzenamine (CASRN 62-53-3),
- 4,4’-Methylene bis(2-chloroaniline) (MBOCA) (CASRN 101-14-4), and
- Vinyl Chloride (CASRN 75-01-4).
“Under the Biden-Harris Administration, EPA has made significant progress implementing the 2016 amendments to strengthen our nation’s chemical safety laws after years of mismanagement and delay. Today marks an important step forward,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “Moving forward to comprehensively study the safety these five chemicals that have been in use for decades is key to better protecting people from toxic exposure.”
“Most vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, which poses significant health and environmental problems that have been known for over 50 years. This is one of the most important chemical review processes ever undertaken by the EPA. I applaud the EPA for launching this review,” said Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator.
This step is consistent with a commitment from the Biden-Harris Administration to understand and address environmental and toxic exposures as part of the Cancer Moonshot’s mission to end cancer as we know it, and as progress on delivering environmental justice.
Going forward, EPA expects to initiate prioritization on five chemicals every year, which will create a sustainable and effective pace for risk evaluations. Prioritization is the first step under EPA’s authority to regulate existing chemicals currently on the market and in use – to evaluate whether health and environmental protections are needed. This process also advances the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of environmental justice for all by evaluating, sharing information on, and providing a process to, as appropriate and needed, address the impacts of toxic chemicals in use on workers, consumers, and communities. If at the end of the risk evaluation process EPA determines that a chemical presents an unreasonable risk to health or the environment, the agency must immediately start the risk management process to take action to eliminate these unreasonable risks.
Acetaldehyde is primarily used in the manufacturing and processing of adhesives, petrochemicals, and other chemicals, as well as intermediates for products like packaging and construction materials. Exposure to acetaldehyde may result in a range of health effects such as irritation of the respiratory system. It is a probable human carcinogen.
Acrylonitrile is primarily used in the manufacturing and processing of plastic materials, paints, petrochemicals and other chemicals. Exposure to acrylonitrile may result in a range of health effects such as irritation of the respiratory system. It is a probable human carcinogen.
Benzenamine is used in the manufacturing and processing of dyes and pigments, petrochemicals, plastics, resins and other chemicals. Exposure to benzenamine may result in a range of health effects such as adverse effects on the blood, fetal development, and reproduction. Benzenamine is a probable human carcinogen.
MBOCA is used in the manufacturing and processing of rubbers, plastics, resins and other chemicals. It is a probable human carcinogen. There is also extensive data that demonstrate exposure to MBOCA may damage genetic material in cells, potentially leading to other adverse health effects, particularly when exposure occurs to infants and children.
Vinyl chloride is primarily used in the manufacturing and processing of plastic materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), plastic resins, and other chemicals, many of these materials are used for pipes, insulating materials, and consumer goods. This chemical was also involved in the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Exposure to vinyl chloride may result in a range of health effects such as liver toxicity. It is also a known human carcinogen. In the 1970s, the White House Council on Environmental Quality and EPA officials raised serious concerns about the health impacts of vinyl chloride. These concerns were the impetus for Congress to write a law to ensure chemicals were made and used safely, which led to passage of the “original” TSCA in 1976.
All five chemicals were selected from the 2014 TSCA Work Plan, which is a list of chemicals identified by EPA for further assessment based on their hazards and potential for exposure.
In selecting these five chemicals, EPA considered numerous factors including how they are used and whether they affect overburdened communities or potentially-exposed susceptible sub-populations (like children and workers), their known hazards and exposures, and the availability of information on each chemical to allow for fulsome risk evaluations to be completed. Between September and November 2023, EPA met with federal partners, industry, environmental organizations, labor organizations, state and local governments, and Tribes to discuss the prioritization process and presented a list of 15 chemicals that EPA was considering for prioritization. EPA took feedback from these discussions into consideration when selecting this set of five chemicals for prioritization.
Upon publication of the Federal Register notice, EPA will open a public comment period and request further information on all of these factors, as well as any other information relevant to the potential risks of these chemicals that will inform the Agency’s review of these chemicals. EPA is particularly interested in information regarding the chemicals’ uses and encourages companies that make and use them to submit comment.
Although EPA expects these chemicals to be designated as high-priority for risk evaluation during the prioritization process, EPA will continue to review and screen reasonably available and submitted information to make a final designation. EPA will review the hazard and exposure potential of each chemical, whether it builds up in the environment, whether there are potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations, whether the chemical is stored near significant sources of drinking water, how the chemical is used, and the volume in which it is manufactured or processed.
EPA will accept public comments on these chemicals for 90 days after publication at the Regulations page under docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-0601.