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Chemical Regulation

US Environmental Protection Agency finalizes framework for chemical risk evaluation

Rule makes it harder to reverse changes to controversial process

by Britt E. Erickson
April 25, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 13


A close-up of a sign that reads "United States Environmental Protection Agency" on the agency's headquarters building.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a rule that will make it harder for future administrations to change how the agency evaluates the health risks of chemicals.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a rule that strengthens a controversial process for reviewing the human health and environmental risks of chemicals that are already on the market. The agency has been following many parts of the process since it first announced the changes in 2021. The new rule cements these changes, making it harder for future administrations to reverse them.

The EPA is required to establish a process for conducting chemical risk evaluations on high-priority chemicals under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The agency’s initial process, finalized in 2017, landed in court. As a result of that litigation, the EPA made several changes to the process, which are reflected in the new rule.

The agency will now consider exposure to chemicals in air and water and, when possible, combined risks from exposure to multiple chemicals. The EPA will also consider risks to workers without assuming that they are wearing personal protective equipment. And it will consider chemical uses required for national security or critical infrastructure.

“This rule charts the path for our risk evaluations to ensure we meet the core objective to protect public health under our nation’s premier chemical safety law,” Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, says in a statement. The new process “will in turn lead to rules that workers and communities can count on to keep them safe.”

The American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical makers, opposes the rule. “EPA’s codification of approaches too hastily will create confusion, delay, and uncertainty among stakeholders and the regulated community,” the group says in a statement. “This rule will hinder EPA’s ability to meet its statutory requirements and impede implementation of TSCA and other federal statutes.”



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