EPA Releases Screening Methodology to Evaluate Chemical Exposures and Risks to Fenceline Communities
WASHINGTON (Jan. 21, 2021) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released for public comment and peer review version 1.0 of a proposed screening level methodology to evaluate potential chemical exposures and associated potential risks to fenceline communities in Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluations.
TSCA requires EPA to evaluate all of a chemical’s conditions of use when conducting a risk evaluation. Under the previous Administration, the first 10 risk evaluations under TSCA generally did not assess air, water, or disposal exposures to the general population. Narrowing the scope of these risk evaluations left some chemical exposures to the general population unaccounted for. The approach to exclude certain exposure pathways also resulted in a failure to consistently and comprehensively abide by TSCA’s statutory direction to evaluate exposures to potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations, including fenceline communities that are near industrial facilities and may be disproportionately exposed to chemicals over long periods of time. If TSCA risk management rules are finalized for these substances without first evaluating these potential exposures, the rules could leave these communities less protected.
The Biden-Harris Administration reversed this policy in June 2021. As an initial step to understanding risks to fenceline communities, EPA has developed version 1.0 of a screening methodology that will be used to further examine whether the policy decision to exclude air and water exposure pathways from the risk evaluations will lead to a failure to identify and protect fenceline communities.
“To protect human health and the environment, we must evaluate and understand all chemical exposures to communities, particularly historically underserved communities who have been disproportionately exposed to pollution for generations,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “The screening methodology released today will help ensure those communities are protected from any additional risk in the air or water.”
The proposed screening level methodology uses reasonably available data, information, and models to quantify environmental releases, evaluate exposures to fenceline communities and characterize risks associated with such releases and exposures for certain air and water pathways previously not evaluated in published risk evaluations.
The screening level methodology will next go through public and peer review, including by the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC). EPA will then use this feedback to modify the proposed screening level methodology, as appropriate. EPA plans to use the screening level methodology to determine the risks to fenceline communities from the air and water pathways that were not assessed previously for seven of the first ten chemicals for which EPA published risk evaluations. For the next 20 chemicals undergoing risk evaluation and beyond, EPA plans to expand this first version of the framework to include a method to address broader potential environmental justice concerns and cumulative or aggregate exposures to chemicals.
As part of the proposed screening level methodology, EPA has also provided three case study chemicals to illustrate the application of the proposed screening level methodology. Two case studies are provided for the air pathway screening level methodology (1-Bromopropane (1-BP) and Methylene Chloride (MC)) and two case studies are provided for the water pathway screening level methodology (MC and n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP)).
Once the screening methodology for a substance is completed, EPA will determine whether the risk management action being considered for that substance would address the unreasonable risks to fenceline communities that the methodology identified. As one hypothetical example, if the fenceline screening methodology identifies risks to fenceline communities located near manufacturing facilities of the substance, and the previously-published risk evaluation supports a ban on the manufacture of the substance, EPA could conclude that the unreasonable risk to fenceline communities would be addressed. As a second hypothetical example, if the fenceline screening methodology identifies an unreasonable risk to fenceline communities that cannot be addressed through the risk management rule for the substance that is supported by the previously-published risk evaluation, EPA could supplement the risk evaluation with additional analysis before proposing a risk management action for the substance.
EPA will hold a public virtual meeting of the SACC on March 15-17, 2022, to peer review the screening level methodology. This review will ensure that the approach incorporates independent scientific advice and recommendations, and that EPA follows a transparent process. Information on registering to attend the public virtual meeting will be available in February 2022 on the SACC website.
Written comments on the documents undergoing peer review should be submitted on or before February 22, 2022. Comments may be submitted to the public docket through www.regulations.gov (Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2021-0415).