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Oil and gas companies challenge EPA’s revised draft risk evaluation for perchloroethylene

Photo: RonFullHD/iStockphoto

Washington — Concerned about what it views as an agency oversight related to petroleum refining, the American Petroleum Institute is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to reassess a draft revised final risk evaluation that states perchloroethylene – as a whole chemical substance – poses “unreasonable risk” to workers under certain conditions.

API contends that EPA’s proposed changes to PCE regulations “could lead to serious impediments to the refining process” because refineries use PCE as a chloriding agent to regenerate catalysts, “a process that is essential to create fuels compliant with EPA regulations.”

About 45% of gasoline blends nationwide are processed using the chemical, API says, noting that PCE abates safety risks by helping to lower reaction temperatures and carbon dioxide emissions during refining.

In public comments to EPA, API writes that the revised risk evaluation “does not take into account the unique conditions of use in petroleum refineries” nor incorporate science that has evolved since the initial risk evaluation. API writes that EPA continues to use a model that assumes incidental release of PCE in each use, resulting in chemical skin exposure.

“API urges EPA to reevaluate the risk finding according to the new modeling outputs and assume a more realistic condition of use where accidental releases do not occur every time PCE is used, and that OSHA regulations and basic industrial hygiene standards are being followed,” API commented.

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

PCE 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.

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