EPA Releases New Draft Risk Assessment for 1-Bromopropane

Today the EPA released a draft risk assessment for 1-Bromopropane (1-BP), a common solvent used in dry cleaning, degreasing, adhesives, and aerosol solvents. The EPA invites public comment and peer review of the new draft for the next 60 days.

1-BP is an organobromide compound containing carbon bonded to bromine, and is a clear liquid in its purest form. In the 21st century, its use has risen drastically because it can be “used as a substitute for ozone-depleting chloro-fluorocarbons and similar regulated compounds,” according to the CDC.

Yet even though 1-BP may be safer for the ozone layer than similar solvents, concern has been raised about its safety in the workplace.

In 2013, OSHA and NIOSH issued a hazard alert regarding 1-BP, citing the facts that “use of 1-BP has increased in workplaces over the past 20 years” and “1-BP can cause irritation (for example, of the eyes, mucous membranes, upper airways and skin) and can damage the nervous system.” OSHA also notes that the National Toxicology Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that 1-BP can be reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Federal OSHA does not currently have a specific exposure standard or permissible exposure limit (PEL) for 1-BP, but Cal-OSHA has adopted a PEL limit of 5ppm as a time-weighted average for it. OSHA recommends that chemical replacement, engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE be used to minimize the effects of 1-BP in workplaces.

In addition to warnings issued by regulatory entities, 1-BP has also received recent attention from mainstream media outlets. In 2013, the New York Times published an extensive profile of 1-BP’s use in manufacturing in the United States. The article specifically targeted its use in the cushion manufacturing industry in North Carolina, and found that 140 American cushion factory workers have, in recent years, reported adverse health effects, with many being left severely “sickened and unable to walk,” due to on-the-job exposure to 1-BP.

Possibly in response to this media coverage, the North Carolina Department of Labor issued a special safety and health guide for working with 1-BP the following year.

In today’s press announcement, a representative of the EPA stated that today’s draft assessment “will provide workers and consumers with critical information about the risks associated with using 1-BP.”

The EPA release also said that it currently “recommends the public carefully follow product label directions and take precautions that can reduce [1-BP] exposures, such as using the product outside or in an extremely well ventilated area and wearing appropriate protective equipment to reduce exposure, particularly inhalation.”

Anyone seeking to provide comment on the draft risk assessment is invited to do so starting today at www.regulations.gov, using docket number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2015-0084.