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EPA Proposes Significant New Use Rules for Certain Chemicals under TSCA

March 21, 2012
On March 20, EPA announced proposed significant new use rules (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to compel companies to report all new uses of five groups of chemicals: polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), benzidine dyes, a short chain chlorinated paraffin, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and phthalate di-n-pentyl phthalate (DnPP).

These chemicals have been used in a range of consumer products and industrial applications over the years, including paints, printing inks, pigments and dyes in textiles, flame retardants in flexible foams and plasticizers. While these chemicals are no longer manufactured or used in the United States, EPA pointed out they still may be imported in consumer goods or used in products.

The proposed rules would require that anyone who intends to manufacture, import or process any of the chemicals for an activity that is designated as a significant new use to submit a notification to EPA at least 90 days before beginning the activity. This notification means EPA can evaluate the intended new use and take action to prohibit or limit that activity, if warranted.

“Today’s proposed actions will ensure that EPA has an opportunity to review new uses of the chemicals, whether they are domestically produced or imported, and if warranted, take action to prohibit or limit the activity before human health or environmental effects can occur,” said Jim Jones, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

EPA also is issuing a proposed test rule under section 4(a) of TSCA that would require manufacturers or processors to conduct testing on health and environmental effects of PBDEs.

ASSE: Don't Rely on PPE

In a March 20 comment to EPA, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) argued that the new rules rely too heavily on PPE, especially respirators, to protect workers from carbon nanotubes and fullerenes, molecules composed entirely of carbon. ASSE President Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, CSPI, encouraged EPA to revise the rules to mandate implementation of feasible engineering controls in order to reduce exposure to nanomaterials.

"An appropriate risk assessment based on the hierarchy of controls requires that engineering controls be considered first, and if deemed feasible, implemented before considering the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators, gloves and clothing. Yet, no mention is made of engineering controls in EPA's required protections," Norris wrote.

She added that EPA's proposal could put users in violation of OSHA's general duty clause, which specifies how employers must protect employees.

Norris also noted that the EPA has failed in this proposal to incorporate its own recommendations for the use of engineering controls found in its February 2007 white paper on nanotechnology, which stated: “Engineering controls, and particularly those used for aerosol control, should generally be effective for controlling exposure to airborne nanoscale materials."

Additional information on EPA's chemical-specific rules and the agency’s action plans, including additional actions under consideration or development, can be found at

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