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EPA Chemical Risk Program Criticized

by Jeff Johnson
May 6, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 18

A new approach by EPA to improve risk assessments for toxic chemicals used in commerce was criticized last week in a Government Accountability Office report (GAO-13-249). The report examines EPA efforts under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the agency’s attempt since 2009 to strengthen its review of the thousands of chemicals listed for possible commercial use in the U.S. EPA prioritized 83 chemicals for risk assessments, GAO notes, but only seven assessments were begun last year. EPA plans to begin just 18 more in 2013 and 2014. At the agency’s current pace, GAO estimates, it will need more than a decade to complete assessments for all 83. Moreover, for 58 of the 83 chemicals, EPA does not have toxicity and exposure data needed to conduct risk assessments, and the agency has not clearly articulated how it will obtain this needed information. Among its recommendations, GAO urges EPA to use its TSCA authority to require chemical companies to report to EPA data that they already gave to the European Chemicals Agency. In response, EPA said it could not be successful in implementing TSCA without legislative reform.


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