Federal agencies Chemical Manufacturing

EPA ‘eliminates backlog’ of new chemical reviews

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Washington – The Environmental Protection Agency has cleared a backlog of more than 600 safety reviews of new chemicals, the agency announced Aug. 7.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, signed into law in 2016, amended the Toxic Substances Control Act to mandate that EPA evaluate existing chemicals under specific deadlines, and “make an affirmative finding on the safety of a new chemical or significant new use of an existing chemical before it is allowed into the marketplace.”

“EPA has a tremendous responsibility to review new chemicals intended to enter the U.S. market for safety,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in an Aug. 7 press release. “EPA can either be a roadblock to new products, or it can be [a] supporter of innovation and ever-improving chemical safety. … With the ongoing commitment of the staff working on TSCA reviews, and input from stakeholders, our goal is to ensure a new chemicals program that is both protective of human health and the environment, while also being supportive of bringing new chemicals to market.”

Chemical manufacturer associations, including the American Chemistry Council and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, applauded the move.

“[The] announcement shows real and deliberate progress toward this important goal, but there is still work to be done to completely clear the backlog and prevent it from recurring,” ACC stated in an Aug. 7 press release. “U.S. businesses, jobs, innovation and competitiveness depend on the success of a fully functioning new chemicals program as envisioned by Congress when it passed the law.”

At least one environmental group expressed concern at the speed with which the chemicals were approved. In an Aug. 7 blog post, Richard Denison, Ph.D. and lead senior scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, accused the agency of bowing to “relentless pressure” from the chemical industry.

“While many details of the shifts EPA is making remain murky,” Denison wrote, “EDF is concerned that EPA is moving away from the law’s clear requirements that EPA rigorously review both intended and reasonably foreseen uses of new chemicals and, where EPA identifies potential risks or lacks sufficient information, it issue an order imposing conditions on the manufacturer of the new chemical sufficient to mitigate the potential risk.”

In its press release, EPA stated that the agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics plans to release, later this year, “draft documents that will provide the public with more certainty and clarity regarding how EPA makes new chemical determinations and what external information will help facilitate these determinations.”

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