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Chemical Regulation

EPA updates list of chemicals used in the US

More than half are no longer made, processed, or imported

by Britt Erickson
February 20, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 8


Of the 86,228 chemicals listed in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s inventory of substances covered by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), only 40,655 or about 47% are actually in use, the EPA reported on Feb. 19. Of the chemicals in use, 7,757 have confidential identities, the agency noted.

The EPA was required to update the inventory so that it only evaluates chemicals that are actively being manufactured, processed, and imported in the US. Revisions to the TSCA enacted in 2016 required the agency to narrow down the inventory to chemicals used during the 10–year period ending June 21, 2016, the day before the revisions were enacted. The EPA automatically adds new chemicals to the inventory as it approves them, so chemicals that entered US commerce after TSCA was amended are also included in the inventory.

The effort will help the agency prioritize which chemicals to evaluate for health risks, Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention said in a statement. “This information also increases transparency to the public,” she added.

The EPA is grappling with how to review and substantiate claims of confidential business information (CBI) that allow manufacturers to shield the identities of some chemicals. Under the revised TSCA, the agency must assign each of those chemicals a unique identifier that protects the identity of the substance while providing the public with a way to find health and safety information about the chemical.

“EPA is supposed to finalize a rule establishing a review plan for these CBI claims within one year from now,” says Richard Denison, a lead senior scientist at the environmental group, Environmental Defense Fund. “It has yet to even propose the rule, and there is little indication it has started that work,” he notes. EPA is required to review the claims within five years of finalizing the rule, with the possibility of a two-year extension.


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