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Chemical Regulation

EPA proposes workplace controls for carbon tetrachloride

Restrictions aim to protect workers and fence-line communities from the toxic solvent

by Britt E. Erickson
July 19, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 24


Carbon tetrachloride in a dark glass bottle in a chemistry lab.
Credit: Shutterstock
Laboratories that use carbon tetrachloride will be subject to new safety requirements under a rule proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The US Environmental Protection Agency plans to require strict inhalation limits and skin protections for workers who handle carbon tetrachloride, according to a proposed rule released July 17. The proposal would also ban uses of the solvent that have already ceased.

Laboratories that use carbon tetrachloride would be subject to new controls, including the use of a fume hood, skin protections, and recordkeeping requirements.

Carbon tetrachloride is primarily used to manufacture other chemicals, including hydrofluoroolefin refrigerants, aerosol propellants, foam blowers, and chlorinated agricultural products. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission banned its use in consumer products in 1970 because of concerns about liver toxicity and cancer.

“The science is clear. Exposure to carbon tetrachloride is dangerous and we have a responsibility to protect the public from the risks it poses,” Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, says in a statement. “Today’s proposal is an important first step to ensuring carbon tetrachloride can be used safely by workers and that surrounding communities are protected.”

If finalized, the rule would require companies using carbon tetrachloride to ensure that engineering controls put in place to comply with the rule do not increase air emissions. The EPA is also seeking input on steps to reduce exposure in fence-line communities, including a requirement to monitor ambient air around the perimeter of facilities.

Carbon tetrachloride is one of the first 10 high-priority chemicals that the EPA is evaluating under amendments made to the Toxic Substances Control Act in 2016. The agency hasn’t met any of its deadlines for regulating the 10 chemicals. So far it has proposed rules for carbon tetrachloride and three other substances—asbestos, methylene chloride, and perchloroethylene. Next up will likely be a proposed rule for trichloroethylene, Freedhoff said in June at a meeting of the Environmental Law Institute.



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