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EPA requests comment on revised draft risk evaluation for perchloroethylene

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Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency is accepting comment until Aug. 1 on a draft revised final risk evaluation that states perchloroethylene – as a whole chemical substance – poses “unreasonable risk” to workers under certain conditions.

According to a notice published in the June 30 Federal Register, perchloroethylene – also known as tetrachloroethylene or PCE – is frequently used in consumer products.

EPA – which released the original final risk evaluation on Dec. 14, 2020, says PCE poses unreasonable risk to workers involved in operations including:

  • Paint and coating removal
  • Adhesive and sealant processing
  • Dry cleaning
  • Vapor degreasing
  • Pesticide, fertilizer and other agricultural chemical manufacturing
  • Spot cleaning in textile processing
  • Wood furniture manufacturing

A 2017 study published in the journal BMJ Open concluded that occupational exposure to PCE may increase women’s risk of head and neck cancer. Additionally, EPA found that the chemical may be associated with neurological, kidney, liver and immunological effects. The substance 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.

 

The revision is consistent 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.

“By removing the assumption of PPE use in making the whole chemical risk determination for PCE,” EPA says, the agency has identified an additional use for which unreasonable risk exists: industrial and commercial use as a solvent for penetrating lubricants and cutting tool coolants.

The Spring 2022 regulatory agenda lists a publication date of February for proposed regulations on PCE, with the intention of finalizing them no later than August 2024.

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