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Policy

EPA Sets Standards To Compare Chemicals' Safety

by Cheryl Hogue
December 6, 2010 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 88, ISSUE 49

New EPA guidelines lay out criteria for comparing the safety of chemical substances that are possible alternatives to chemicals currently in use that may pose a concern to human health or the environment. The agency’s benchmarks include health considerations such as carcinogenicity or neurotoxicity and environmental factors including persistence and bioaccumulation. The agency’s Design for the Environment program will use the criteria to assess alternatives for six controversial substances or classes of compounds: bisphenol A, decabromodiphenyl ether, hexabromocyclododecane, nonylphenol, nonylphenol ethoxylates, and phthalates. The program evaluates data for chemicals that are potential alternatives to less safe substances and assigns each a hazard level of high, moderate, or low for human health and environmental concerns. Steve Owens, EPA assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, says the new criteria represent “an important step toward ensuring that the chemicals used in this country are safe. Making this information available will not only lead to the manufacture of safer products, it will increase the public’s access to critical chemical information.”

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