Chemical Risk Evaluation Process Strengthened Under Proposed EPA Rule
Federal environmental regulators are looking at new ways to determine whether certain chemicals are a risk to consumers and workers, which will include examining more ways that people could be exposed.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on October 19, announcing a proposed rule (PDF) to strengthen the chemical risk evaluation process under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
The agency claims that the changes will strengthen its ability to evaluate chemical risks, including a commitment to using the best available science, consideration of how some chemicals may cause disproportionate harm to already overburdened communities, and more consideration of workers’ risks in its chemical safety evaluations.
In addition, the EPA will now make a single determination of whether a chemical presents an unreasonable risk, instead of focusing on individual chemical uses, and will make the revision process more transparent.
Proposed Changes Focus on Worker and Consumer Protection
The new rules strengthen the evaluation process in an effort to better protect workers and at-risk communities. It lays out a framework for how to conduct risk evaluations and certain measures that must be met during the evaluations.
The proposed rules for chemical risk evaluation were first finalized under a different framework in 2017. But those rules were challenged in court, leading to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit remanding several provisions for reconsideration.
The EPA later announced changes in 2021 and plans to codify them through the new risk evaluation rules.
“Providing workers and communities with meaningful protections from toxic chemical exposures has to be grounded in sound science,” Michael Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the EPA, said in the press release. “This rule will strengthen our chemical risk evaluations which will in turn lead to more protective rules for workers and communities.”
The proposed risk evaluation rule may affect manufacturers of petroleum, chemicals, plastics, pipes, foam, urethane, tires, rubber, and other types of manufacturing.
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However, the main goal of the new risk evaluation rules focuses on protecting workers of the various manufacturing industries from potential harm posed by the chemicals they may work with on a daily basis.
Workers in the affected industries face a greater risk and susceptibility to exposure to various chemicals while on the job. Companies cannot simply satisfy safety requirements by providing protective equipment. Instead, the EPA must evaluate whether the chemicals used during manufacturing pose a risk of harm.
Public comment will be accepted on the proposed rule for 45 days under docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-0496 at www.regulations.gov.
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