EPA Lays Down Concrete Steps to Address Chemical Risks
Addressing the potential health risks of benzidine dyes, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and nonylphenol (NP)/nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released action plans that will apply previously unused Toxic Substances and Control Act authority to safeguard health and the environment.
Benzidine dyes are used in the production of consumer textiles, paints, printing inks, paper, and pharmaceuticals and may pose health problems, including cancer. HBCD is used as a flame retardant in expanded polystyrene foam in the building and construction industry, as well as in some consumer products. HBCD has been shown to be persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment and may pose potential reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects in people. NP/NPEs are used in many industrial applications and consumer products such as detergents, cleaners, agricultural and indoor pesticides, as well as food packaging. These chemicals have been detected in people.
The range of actions on these chemicals include adding HBCD and NP/NPE to EPA’s new Chemicals of Concern list, issuing significant new use rules for all three chemicals, and, for HBCD and benzidine dyes, imposing new reporting requirements on EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory and potentially banning or limiting the manufacture or use of the chemicals.
The Textile Rental Services Association, which represents 98 percent of the industrial laundry facilities in the United States, has committed to voluntarily phase out the use of NPEs in industrial liquid detergents by Dec. 31, 2013 and industrial powder detergents by the end of 2014.
“While EPA intends to address the potential risks associated with these chemicals,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We are pleased that the industrial laundry industry has decided to not wait for regulatory action to be completed by the agency and is voluntarily taking steps now to phase out the use of NPEs.”
EPA first announced that it planned to develop the Chemicals of Concern list last December, which indicates that the chemicals may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.