The power of 10
EPA just met a major chemical safety milestone — completing the first 10 chemical risk evaluations under the Lautenberg Act amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), our nation’s primary chemical management law. This was an enormous effort, representing countless hours of EPA experts’ time, hundreds of hours of outside peer review, thousands of public comments, and the review of innumerable scientific studies — ultimately making an immeasurable contribution to protection of public health and the environment.
The 2016 amendments to TSCA were passed with bipartisan support. We all agreed that there needed to be a program in place to ensure the safety of chemicals already on the market. Prior to the amended law, there was no mandate to review the safety of the tens of thousands of chemicals in the marketplace. TSCA provides the framework and deadlines under which EPA must work. The Trump administration tackled this task head on, finalizing rules, honing processes, and implementing procedures to meet these high standards and deliverables.
These 10 risk evaluations represent the first time our country has undertaken and completed a comprehensive review of the potential risks of chemicals in the marketplace. Cumulatively, these risk evaluations represent 875 documents outlining the uses, exposures, hazards, and scientific support for the risks we found.
The first 10, much like the goal of amending TSCA, united many different stakeholders across the federal government, industry, advocacy organizations, and other groups under a common goal – using our work under TSCA to advance chemical safety. Across all 10 risk evaluations, we provided 22 opportunities for public comment and received and responded to 45,956 public comments, furthering this administration’s commitment to transparency. We also reached beyond what TSCA required by having each risk evaluation peer reviewed by an independent panel of experts, representing 53 organizations and nine weeks of peer review meetings.
Our final risk evaluations for these chemicals serve as the guide for the actions EPA will take over the next few years to protect public health from the identified risks. As a result of these evaluations, EPA will be developing actions to eliminate the unreasonable risks from more than 250 uses of these 10 chemicals. I’m proud to say we’ve already hit the ground running to find ways to address these risks. We’ve started early outreach to stakeholders, including nine public webinars, to find workable solutions that protect the health of people who work with and use these chemicals every day.
The Trump administration has been able to deliver on a variety fronts, balancing our work on these risk evaluations with taking action to protect public health from some immediate risks from chemicals. We banned consumer sales of paint removers containing methylene chloride, keeping these dangerous products out of the hands of American consumers. We also closed a 30-year-old loophole that allowed old asbestos uses and products to come back to the market without any reviews or restrictions from EPA, preventing the American public from experiencing the adverse health effects of asbestos. We stopped the most persistent of per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from being imported into the country.
Our work on these first 10 are the tip of the iceberg. They will serve as a guide for the other chemicals moving through the risk evaluation process. We’ve got over 20 more chemicals in the queue and will continue to add more as we move through the process required by TSCA.
The work that we’ve been able to complete over the past four years under the Trump administration, culminating in these risk evaluations, is a powerful statement on what can be accomplished through hard work, common sense, and following the science. With these first 10 we have achieved the highest bar of public health and environmental protection, setting the stage for chemical safety for years to come.
Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
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