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Chemical Regulation

Chemical screening method aims to protect fence-line communities

by Britt E. Erickson
January 29, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 4


A chain-link fence topped with strings of barbed wire.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US Environmental Protection Agency has developed a screening method to predict whether air and water exposures pose unreasonable risks to fence-line communities.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is taking a closer look at whether certain chemicals released by industrial facilities into air and water pose unreasonable risks to surrounding communities. The agency ignored such pathways when it evaluated the first 10 chemicals under 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act. It completed those assessments during the Donald J. Trump administration and is now revising them. For 7 of the 10 chemicals, the EPA plans to apply a new screening method to predict whether fence-line communities face unreasonable risks from air and water exposures. It also plans to use the method for chemicals undergoing risk evaluation in the future. The method relies on data provided by industry from the Toxics Release Inventory and discharge monitoring reports. The EPA demonstrates the method with case studies for 3 of the 10 chemicals—1-bromopropane, methylene chloride, and N-methylpyrrolidone. The agency is seeking public comments on the method until Feb. 22. It plans to have the method peer-reviewed by a group of external advisers during a March 15–17 meeting.


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