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January 11, 2010
Volume 88, Number 2
p. 9
Article appeared online January 5, 2010

Targeted For Regulation

Toxic Substances: EPA names four categories of chemicals for action, including restrictions and bans

Cheryl Hogue

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Phthalates, used in some toys, are among the compounds in EPA's action plans. Shutterstock
RUB-A-DUB-DUB Phthalates, used in some toys, are among the compounds in EPA's action plans.

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Four categories of chemicals are squarely in the sights of the Environmental Protection Agency for possible regulation that could go as far as banning their production.

Targeted by the agency are phthalates, some perfluorinated compounds, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and short-chain chlorinated paraffins, which are defined as having chains of between 10 and 13 carbons and three to 12 chlorines per molecule. EPA is concerned about the toxicity of all the chemicals, and some could also be persistent, bioaccumulative, or both.

The agency announced the first set of chemical action plans on Dec. 31, 2009. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson had called for the plans as part of her chemical management reform efforts (C&EN, Oct. 19, 2009, page 28).

"We will continue to use our authority under existing law to protect Americans from exposure to harmful chemicals and to highlight chemicals we believe warrant concern," Jackson says.

Under the action plan, EPA is considering regulations to restrict or even ban eight phthalates, all short-chain paraffins, and two types of perfluorinated compounds: perfluorinated sulfonates and perfluoroalkyl carboxylates. The agency has not attempted to ban a chemical since 1989, when a federal court overturned EPA's ban of asbestos.

In addition, EPA says it will invoke a section of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act that it has never before used to allow the agency to create a list of chemicals that "may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment." EPA says it intends to add the eight phthalates and commercial penta-, octa-, and decabromodiphenyl ethers (BDEs) to that list.

Inclusion on the list publicly signals the agency's "strong concern about the risks that those chemicals pose and the agency's intention to manage those risks," EPA says. "Once listed, chemical companies can provide information to the agency if they want to demonstrate that their chemical does not pose an unreasonable risk."

Also, EPA intends to add six of the phthalates to the Toxics Release Inventory later this year. The remaining two of the eight are already listed.

Through a planned new regulation, EPA would reinforce a voluntary phaseout of commercial decaBDE by major manufacturers and importers (C&EN, Jan. 4, page 10). That regulation would require an EPA review of any new uses of this flame retardant before the chemical could return to the market.

The American Chemistry Council, an association of chemical manufacturers, says EPA's initial set of action-plan chemicals "seems to have been selected based on little more than their current 'high profile' nature." The process for choosing the chemicals, "to date, provides no evidence of a systematic, science-based approach to chemicals management," ACC President Calvin M. Dooley says.

More information on EPA's chemical action plans is available at epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/ecactionpln.html.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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