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EPA publishes final revised risk evaluation for HBCD

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Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final revised risk determination that states Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster “as a whole chemical substance” poses “unreasonable” risk under certain conditions.

The document represents a reversal of previous findings that the chemical substance, also known as HBCD, presents no unreasonable risk of injury to humans or the environment. HBCD – which includes a sub-cluster that’s used as a flame retardant in extruded polystyrene foam, textiles, and electrical and electronic appliances – is among the first 10 chemicals under evaluation for potential health and environmental risks under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

According to the draft, occupational use scenarios that present unreasonable risk include:

  • Importing
  • Processing by incorporation into a formulation, mixture or reaction products
  • Processing by incorporation into articles
  • Recycling of extruded/expanded polystyrene foam, resin and panels containing HBCD
  • Commercial or consumer use of HBCD in construction or building materials
  • Disposal in construction and demolition waste

“Workers using products containing HBCD should continue to follow label instructions and applicable workplace regulations and should properly use appropriate personal protective equipment,” EPA advises.

EPA’s initial evaluation of HBCD, released as a draft in July 2019 and finalized in September 2020, found that the chemical presents no unreasonable risk to the general population, workers or the environment. However, a revised draft risk evaluation published in the Dec. 29 Federal Register states the draft revision “supersedes the condition of use-specific no unreasonable risk determinations” and “makes a revised determination of unreasonable risk for HBCD as a whole chemical substance.”

EPA extended the comment period for the draft revision multiple times before establishing a final deadline of April 21.

The revision aligns with EPA’s June 2021 announcement to change certain aspects of the process under the Lautenberg Act with the objective of ensuring “the public is protected from unreasonable risks from chemicals in a way that is supported by science and the law.”

A corresponding action to that end includes using a “whole substance” approach when determining unreasonable risk – rather than basing determinations on separate conditions of use – as well as revisiting the assumption that personal protective equipment is always provided and worn properly by workers when making risk determinations.

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