April 30, 2024

EPA alert


EPA’s final action, also known as a risk management rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is the second risk management rule to be finalized using the process created by the 2016 TSCA amendments.

Methylene chloride is used by consumers for aerosol degreasing and paint and coating brush cleaners, in commercial applications such as adhesives and sealants, and in industrial settings for making other chemicals. For example, methylene chloride is used in the production of more climate-friendly refrigerant chemicals.

Since 1980, at least 88 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride, largely workers engaged in bathtub refinishing or other paint stripping, even, in some cases, while fully trained and equipped with personal protective equipment. While EPA banned one consumer use of methylene chloride in 2019, use of the chemical has remained widespread and continues to pose [a] significant and sometimes fatal danger to workers. EPA’s final risk management rule requires companies to rapidly phase down manufacturing, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses, including its use in home renovations.

Consumer use [of methylene chloride] will be phased out within a year, and most industrial and commercial uses will be prohibited within two years.

For a handful of highly industrialized uses, EPA has created a Workplace Chemical Protection Program. This workplace chemical protection program has strict exposure limits, monitoring requirements, and worker training and notification requirements that will protect workers from cancer and other adverse health effects caused by methylene chloride exposure.

Uses that will continue under the Workplace Chemical Protection Program are highly industrialized and important to national security and the economy. These are uses for which EPA received data and other information that shows workplace safety measures to fully address the unreasonable risk could be achieved. These uses include:

  1. Use in the production of other chemicals, including refrigerant chemicals that are important in efforts to phase down climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons under the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing Act.
  2. Production of battery separators for electric vehicles.
  3. Use as a processing aid in a closed system.
  4. Use as a laboratory chemical.
  5. Use in plastic and rubber manufacturing, including polycarbonate production.
  6. Use in solvent welding.

Additionally, specific uses of methylene chloride required by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Aviation Administration will also continue with strict workplace controls because sufficient reductions in exposure are possible in these highly sophisticated environments, minimizing risks to workers.

Compliance Under the Risk Management Rule

For uses of methylene chloride continuing under the Workplace Chemical Protection Program, most workplaces will have 18 months after the finalization of the risk management rule to comply with the program and would be required to periodically monitor their workplace to ensure that workers are not being exposed to levels of methylene chloride that would lead to an unreasonable risk. In consideration of public comments on the proposal, EPA extended the compliance timeframe to give workplaces ample time to put worker protections in place.

EPA also revised several other aspects from the proposal including ensuring the Workplace Chemical Protection Program applies to the same uses whether they are federal or commercial uses, establishing a de minimis concentration, and provisions to strengthen and clarify aspects of the Workplace Chemical Protection Program such as monitoring requirements.

EPA will also host a public webinar to explain what is in the final rule and how it will be implemented. The agency will announce the date and time in the coming weeks.

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Posted by Diane Samuels at 11:29 am

April 23, 2024

EPA alert


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that strengthens its process for conducting risk evaluations on chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). These improvements to EPA’s processes advance the goals of this important chemical safety law, ensure that TSCA risk evaluations comprehensively account for the risks associated with a chemical, and provide a solid foundation for protecting public health, including workers and communities, from toxic chemicals. The rule also includes changes to enhance environmental protections in communities overburdened by pollution, complementing the Administration’s environmental justice agenda.

The 2016 TSCA amendments require that EPA establish a procedural framework rule on the process for conducting chemical risk evaluations. TSCA risk evaluations are the basis for EPA’s risk management rules. Although EPA finalized a risk evaluation framework rule in 2017, that rule was challenged in court. EPA’s final rule includes revisions made to respond to the court’s ruling, as well as several changes to improve EPA’s process for TSCA risk evaluations, including:

  • Consideration of real-world exposure scenarios such as multiple exposure pathways (e.g., in air and water) to the same chemical, and combined risks from multiple chemicals when EPA has the scientific information to do so, which may be particularly important for communities who face greater exposures or susceptibilities to chemicals than the rest of the general population.
  • A requirement that risk evaluations are comprehensive in scope and do not exclude conditions of use or exposure pathways.
  • Clarifications to ensure EPA appropriately considers risks to all workers in its risk evaluations.
  • Consideration of chemical uses that may be required for national security or critical infrastructure by other Federal agencies.
  • Assurance the agency will continue to use the best available science to conduct risk evaluations, that decisions are based on the weight of the scientific evidence and that risk evaluations will be peer reviewed in accordance with both federal and EPA guidance.
  • Discussion of chemical-specific fit-for-purpose approaches that allow for varying types and levels of analysis so that risk evaluations focus less rigorously on the conditions of use that are expected to pose low potential risk and can reliably be completed within the timeframes required by the statute.
  • A clear requirement for risk evaluations to culminate in a single risk determination on the chemical substance, rather than on individual chemical conditions of use in isolation, and improved communications regarding the uses that significantly contribute to the unreasonable risk.
  • New procedures and criteria for whether and how EPA will revise scope and risk evaluation documents, to improve transparency.
  • Adjustments to the process for submission and review of manufacturer requests for risk evaluations of chemicals to better align with the process and timeline associated with EPA-initiated risk evaluations, while also ensuring that the agency can use the authorities provided under the law for gathering any needed additional information on such chemicals.
  • A requirement that risk evaluations must explicitly consider overburdened communities when identifying potentially exposed and susceptible populations as relevant to the risk evaluation.

EPA announced many of the changes included in the final rule in 2021 and has incorporated them into TSCA risk evaluation activities over the past three years. EPA then proposed a revised procedural framework rule in October 2023 and, after considering public comment on the proposed rule, released today’s final rule. EPA is submitting this document for publication in the Federal Register (FR).

The procedures outlined in the rule apply to all risk evaluations initiated 30 days after the date of publication of the final rule or later. For risk evaluations that are currently in process, EPA expects to apply the new procedures to those risk evaluations to the extent practicable, taking into consideration the statutory requirements and deadlines.

TSCA Risk Evaluation Process

The Risk Evaluation process is the second step, following Prioritization and before Risk Management, in EPA’s existing chemical process under TSCA. The purpose of risk evaluation is to determine whether a chemical substance presents an unreasonable risk to health or the environment, under the conditions of use, including an unreasonable risk to a relevant potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation. As part of this process, EPA must (1) evaluate both hazard and exposure, (2) exclude consideration of costs or other non-risk factors, (3) use scientific information and approaches in a manner that is consistent with the requirements in TSCA for the best available science, and (4) ensure decisions are based on the weight-of-scientific-evidence. Learn more about the TSCA risk evaluation process.


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Posted by Diane Samuels at 3:10 pm