Hazardous Waste Operations

A Closer Look: What Are the Aquatic and Reproductive Toxins Slated for EPA Review?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the first 10 chemicals it will evaluate for potential risks to human health and the environment under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform. The chemicals were drawn from EPA’s 2014 TSCA Work Plan, a list of 90 chemicals selected based on their potential for high hazard and exposure, as well as other considerations. The new law gives the EPA the power to require safety reviews of all chemicals in the marketplace.

TSCA, as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, required the EPA to publish this list by December 19, 2016. Keep reading to find out what chemicals were the first 10 to fall into EPA’s crosshairs, what hazards they pose, and how they were selected.

Choosing Chemicals

Publication of the 10 chemicals in the Federal Register triggers a statutory deadline, requiring the EPA to complete risk evaluations for these chemicals within 3 years. The evaluation will determine whether the chemicals present an unreasonable risk to humans and the environment. If it is determined that a chemical presents an unreasonable risk, the EPA must mitigate that risk within 2 years. Under the newly amended law, the EPA must release a scoping document within 6 months for each chemical. This will include the hazard(s), exposure(s), conditions of use, and the potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation(s) the agency plans to consider for the evaluation.

The original, 90-chemical list was created using selection criteria that focused on chemicals that meet one or more of the following factors:

  • They are potentially of concern to children’s health (for example, because of reproductive or developmental effects).
  • They have neurotoxic effects.
  • They are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT).
  • They are probable or known carcinogens.
  • They are used in children’s products.
  • They are detected in biomonitoring programs.

Aquatic and Reproductive Toxins

Two of the chemicals selected for evaluation by the EPA are aquatic toxicity; one other is a known reproductive toxin. These are:

Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster. The EPA is grouping and evaluating flame retardants with similar characteristics together rather than individually. The cyclic aliphatic bromide cluster is a group of three chemicals used as flame retardants in extruded and expanded polystyrene foams (XPS/EPS), polystyrene (PS) products, and textiles. Flame retardants tend to be persistent in the environment, and this cluster is believed to have acute aquatic toxicity. The cluster includes:

  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD, CASRN: 25637-99-4)
  • 1,2,5,6,9,10-Hexabromocyclododecane (CASRN: 3194-55-6)
  • 1,2,5,6-Tetrabromocyclooctane (CASRN: 3194-57-8)

Pigment Violet 29. This is a colorant used in consumer products, including plastics and paints. It is estimated to have moderate releases to the environment. Although most sources list it as a nontoxic, nonhazardous chemical, the EPA plans to investigate the possibility that the pigment is an aquatic toxin.

N-Methylpyrrolidone. N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) is a solvent with many uses and applications, including paint and coating removal, petrochemical processing, engineering plastics coatings, agricultural chemicals, electronic cleaning, and industrial/domestic cleaning. It is a reproductive toxin.

Tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at the seven known and potential human carcinogens that the EPA is also planning to review.