EPA to Address Chemicals of Concern

EPA continued its progress toward regulating several high-priority toxic chemicals today with an announcement that the agency is ready and willing to use its authority to restrict or even ban chemicals that pose the greatest health risk to consumers and the public.

Here’s what the Agency announced:

“a series of actions on four chemicals raising serious health or environmental concerns, including phthalates. For the first time, EPA intends to establish a “Chemicals of Concern” list and is beginning a process that may lead to regulations requiring significant risk reduction measures to protect human health and the environment. The agency’s actions represent its determination to use its authority under the existing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to the fullest extent possible, recognizing EPA’s strong belief that the 1976 law is both outdated and in need of reform.

In addition to phthalates, the chemicals EPA is addressing today are short-chain chlorinated paraffins, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorinated chemicals, including PFOA. These chemicals are used in the manufacture of a wide array of products and have raised a range of health and environmental concerns.”


“The actions announced today include:

Adding phthalates and PBDE chemicals to the concern list.

Beginning a process that could lead to risk reductions actions under section 6 of TSCA for several phthalates, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, and perfluorinated chemicals.

Reinforcing the DecaBDE phaseout – which will take place over three years – with requirements to ensure that any new uses of PBDEs are reviewed by EPA prior to returning to the market.”

In the short time that EPA has been under new leadership, the Agency has taken significant and laudable steps toward chemical policy reform, which NRDC has highlighted in our new report the Obama Record.  Some key items worth spotlighting right now include:

  • Speaking honestly about the risks posed to public health and the environment by exposure to toxic chemicals and the importance of protecting the public;
  • Calling on Congress to amend, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the weak and out-of-date law intended to protect the public from industrial chemicals, and issuing a set of Principles to guide the development of legislation;
  • Initiating efforts to expand the public’s right to know about their exposure to toxic chemicals, including information about the chemical ingredients contained in pesticides and other products.

Today’s announcement is an excellent step forward.  EPA is demonstrating a commitment to use its existing authorities to focus on chemicals of concern, including phthalates, brominated flame retardants, and other toxic chemicals.  The measures announced today will help increase public awareness and expand the public’s right to know about these chemicals, and start the agency down the road toward reducing or eliminating the use of these toxic substances.

EPA can ring in the New Year proudly. The Agency has accomplished a lot in 2009 and has redeemed its once-tarnished reputation as protector of health and the environment.