US rewrites toxic chemical rules

US environmental watchdogs are tightening rules to cover dangerous toxic chemicals used in consumer goods and industrial processes.

Those using hazardous flame retardants, dyes, dry cleaning detergents and other chemicals will now have to comply with tighter regulations.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published action plans for a number of chemicals that would come into force under the proposed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said: “The action plans announced today are examples of EPA’s renewed dedication to improve chemical safety to protect the health of the American people and the environment.

“These action plans lay out concrete steps EPA intends to take to address the risks associated with chemicals commonly used in this country.”

The plans look at ways of reducing the health risks posed by benzidine dyes, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and nonylphenol (NP)/nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs).

Benzidine dyes are used to make textiles, paints, printing inks, paper, and pharmaceuticals and may pose health problems, including cancer.

HBCD is used as a flame retardant in expanded polystyrene foam in the building and construction industry and in some consumer products.

It is persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment and could cause reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects in people.

NP/NPEs are used in many industrial applications and consumer products such as detergents, cleaners, agricultural and indoor pesticides and food packaging. These chemicals have all been detected in people.

Mr Owens welcomed industry steps to address some of these issues. “While EPA intends to address the potential risks associated with these chemicals we are pleased that the industrial laundry industry has decided to not wait for regulatory action to be completed by the agency and is voluntarily taking steps now to phase out the use of NPEs,” he said.

The EPA first announced plans to develop the Chemicals of Concern list last December. It indicates that the chemicals may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.

The agency claims that this implementation of the previously unused TSCA authority signals its commitment to use the tools currently available while supporting legislative reform of the TSCA.

David Gibbs

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