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Chemical Regulation

EPA updates policy for assessing risks of new chemicals

Agency requires modeling all potential exposures, even those below certain thresholds

by Britt E. Erickson
August 25, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 30


Chemical manufacturers will need to consider all potential exposures before new chemicals can enter the market, even when the risks are expected to be low, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced Aug. 22.

The updated policy replaces one established in the 1990s that let companies ignore potential exposures when chemicals are released into air or water below certain thresholds. The EPA’s justification at that time was that it needed to focus limited resources on exposures with the greatest risk to human health and the environment.

The agency now claims that advances in computational modeling have made it easier to calculate all potential exposures. Removing the exposure thresholds will also better protect overburdened and vulnerable communities, such as those near industrial facilities and landfills, the EPA says.

The announcement surprised chemical manufacturers and law firms that serve the industry. “There had been signals that EPA was taking this approach on a case-by-case basis, but to our knowledge, EPA did not solicit broader engagement with stakeholders to vet the issue,” the law firm Bergeson & Campbell says in a commentary published Aug. 22. The EPA also did not provide any peer-reviewed scientific justification for the change, the firm says.

The EPA says it will implement the change “when feasible.” The agency expects the updated policy to have “minimal impact on the amount of time it takes to complete new chemical reviews.”



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