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EPA proposes rules to evaluate chemicals for health risks

Washington – The Environmental Protection Agency is offering a blueprint for prioritizing and evaluating chemicals that may pose risks to workers and other individuals.

On Jan. 17, EPA proposed three rules that would clarify the process for assessing thousands of chemicals for possible health risks. Final processes must be in place no later than June 22.

EPA faces a daunting task to determine which chemicals to target first, as more than 62,000 chemicals could be subject to review.

The three proposed rules, according to the agency are:
Inventory Rule: EPA’s inventory currently totals more than 85,000 chemicals, many of which are no longer actively produced. The rule would require manufacturers to notify EPA and the public on the number of chemicals still being produced.
Prioritization Rule: This rule would establish how EPA will prioritize chemicals for evaluation. EPA will use a risk-based screening process and criteria to identify whether a particular chemical is either high or low priority. A chemical designated as high priority must undergo evaluation. Chemicals designated as low priority are not required to undergo evaluation.
Risk Evaluation Rule: This rule would establish how EPA will evaluate the risk of existing chemicals. The agency will identify steps for the risk evaluation process, including publishing the scope of the assessment. Chemical hazards and exposures will be assessed, along with characterizing and determining risks. This rule also outlines how the agency intends to seek public comment on chemical evaluations.

To comment, visit www.regulations.gov and enter “HQ-OPPT-2016-0426” for the Inventory Rule, “HQ-OPPT-2016-0636” for the Prioritization Rule and “HQ-OPPT-2016-0654” for the Risk Evaluation Rule in the search bar.

“After 40 years, we can finally address chemicals currently in the marketplace,” Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a press release. “Today’s action will set into motion a process to quickly evaluate chemicals and meet deadlines required under, and essential to, implementing the new law.”

For decades, EPA lacked the tools to evaluate chemicals that were grandfathered in as part of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. But passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act in 2016 gave the agency the ability to restrict chemicals that affect the health of “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations … such as infants, children, pregnant women, workers, or the elderly.”

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