EPA Says New Reg Could Delay Evaluation of ‘The Most Dangerous Chemicals’

The EPA is expressing concern over potential for abuse in a new House bill targeting hazardous chemical regulation.

Under the proposed bill, the EPA would have to find that exposure to a chemical poses a risk to human health or the environment — or have a risk assessment requested by a manufacturer — in order to begin a formal assessment of that chemical. Or, in the language of the bill, review would only occur when the EPA:

“(A) finds a reasonable basis for concluding that the combination of hazards from and exposure to the chemical substance under the intended conditions of use has the potential to be high enough to present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment; or (B) the manufacturer of a chemical substance requests such a risk evaluation.”

At yesterday’s hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, Jim Jones — the EPA’s assistant administrator of its Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention — said the EPA is concerned that this new bill could “delay evaluations for some of the most dangerous chemicals indefinitely” by leaving open a potential loophole for abuse.

More specifically, the EPA is concerned that the proposed system could be abused if companies requested evaluations of so many inert chemicals from their catalogs that the EPA would not be able to devote adequate time or resources to identifying and evaluating the truly dangerous ones.

The proposed bill also contains deadlines requiring the EPA to take action within certain timeframes in these cases. Under the proposed bill, the EPA must complete risk evaluations on chemicals that it itself selects within 3 years, and on evaluations initiated by manufactures within 180 days (and in some special cases, within 90 days). This new timeline requirement may also be a source of the EPA’s concern, as it would necessarily impose restrictions on how long it had to test.

The new draft legislation was put forward by Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), chair of the subcommittee.

“I think we all want EPA to do objective, science-based examinations of some of the chemicals that are already on the market,” said Representative Shimkus in his opening remarks at the hearing. “EPA already has some of these in mind to evaluate because EPA thinks they have potential for unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment. Meanwhile, if manufacturers want to take a pro-active approach and ask the agency to perform a risk evaluation, we are okay with that as long as it meets the same rigorous science requirements as the ones EPA itself initiates; and the manufacturer is willing to pay the EPA administrative cost of performing the work.”

Representative Shimkus has previously introduced legislation intended to update the Toxic Substances Control Act. In early 2014, he also introduced a discussion draft aimed at modernizing the Act.

During yesterday’s hearing Mr. Jones and Representative Shimkus had several direct exchanges related to the EPA’s concern over this alleged testing loophole. At the conclusion of the hearing, Representative Shimkus said the committee would take these concerns under advisement in its revisions.

The final version of the bill is scheduled to be released on May 14.