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Pollution

US EPA deems 1-bromopropane a hazardous air pollutant

The solvent is the first chemical added for regulation under the Clean Air Act since 1990

by Britt E. Erickson
June 19, 2020

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The US Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to add the common solvent 1-bromopropane to a list of hazardous air pollutants. The move marks the first time since the Clean Air Act (CAA) was amended in 1990 that the agency has granted a petition to add a chemical to the list.

1-Bromopropane was once touted as an alternative to chlorinated solvents and ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons. The chemical, however, increases the risk of cancer, as well as reproductive and neurological disorders. It is used in metal degreasers, spray adhesives, dry cleaning stain removers, lubricants, and many other products.

Last year, the EPA determined in a draft assessment that certain uses of 1-bromopropane pose “unreasonable risks” to the health of workers and consumers. The agency conducted that assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). 1-Bromopropane is one of the first 10 chemicals that the EPA is evaluating under the 2016 revisions to TSCA.

The Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance (HSIA), which represents manufacturers of chlorinated solvents, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation petitioned the EPA nearly a decade ago to regulate 1-bromopropane as a hazardous air pollutant under the CAA. The petitions claimed that air emissions of 1-bromopropane cause adverse effects to human health. HSIA argued that 1-bromopropane is marketed as an alternative to the solvent trichloroethylene, often without mention of its toxicity.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler says in a statement that the EPA is granting the petitions to “protect human health and the environment.” But the timing of the action suggests that the agency will use the listing of 1-bromopropane as a hazardous air pollutant to justify omitting inhalation risks to the general population in its evaluation of the chemical under TSCA. The EPA’s chemical advisory committee criticized the agency for ignoring such risks in its draft TSCA evaluation. The EPA said it would address inhalation risks to the general population by regulating 1-bromopropane under the CAA. The agency is expected to finalize the TSCA evaluation of 1-bromopropane later this year.

Once the EPA issues a rule adding 1-bromopropane to the hazardous air pollutants list, the agency is required to set limits for industrial air emissions of the chemical. It is unclear when the agency will release that rule.

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