NCHR Comment to EPA on Procedures for Prioritization of Chemical for Risk Evaluation

Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT)
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460-0001

National Center for Health Research’s Public Comment on
Procedures for Prioritization of Chemicals for Risk Evaluation under the
Toxic Substances Control Act
[Docket Number: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0636]

Thank you for the opportunity to express our views of chemical prioritization under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act.  The implications for the health of all Americans is substantial, making this an extremely important issue.

The National Center for Health Research is a nonprofit think tank that conducts, analyzes, and scrutinizes research, policies, and programs on a range of issues related to health.  We do not accept funding from companies that make products that are the subject of our work.

The 2016 Frank H. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is the first major reform of the 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act. This law requires the EPA to systematically prioritize and assess the tens of thousands of existing chemicals. We support many aspects of the proposed rule on EPA’s steps for prioritization, but want to caution the EPA against designating chemicals as low-priority primarily because there is little information about risks.

We agree with EPA that given the lack of data on many chemicals, even limited data are sufficient to indicate that a chemical has the potential to cause harm to people, therefore requiring a classification as high-priority for risk evaluation. Otherwise, many dangerous chemicals will be designated as low priority and not tested for years.  We agree with EPA that when there are questions about a chemical’s potential for harm or a lack of data demonstrating lack of harm, the default should be to designate the chemical a high-priority. We also agree that it is important that prioritization includes all uses of a chemical, rather than excluding some uses from risk evaluation.

In contrast, the decision to designate a chemical substance as low-priority should be based on sufficient, high-quality data. These chemicals will be seen by consumers and workers as designated “safe.” This would be misleading and potentially very harmful if it is based on lack of data rather than reassuring evidence of safety.  In addition, a low-priority designation based on lack of data could also delay recognition and study of newly identified harms caused by these chemicals.

We agree with the EPA that the listed exposure and hazard considerations for identifying chemical substances during the pre-prioritizing process are important. However, it is essential that other considerations should also be considered. These include effects on fetal development, potential mutagenicity, endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, and sensitization. It would be especially dangerous to the developing fetus as well as young children if harms were not identified or considered because they were not evaluated.

For the EPA to complete full and critical evaluations of chemicals, it will require sufficient information about hazards, use, exposures, and vulnerable populations. We strongly support the EPA using its authority to gather the available data on these chemical substances and requiring the collection of additional information as needed prior to and throughout the prioritization process. We appreciate that the EPA will include public comment after initiation of prioritization and after the status is proposed.

The Frank H. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support because it protects workers, consumers who use chemicals, and people who live where chemicals are released into the environment. Prioritization is one step in the process to evaluate chemicals. Through systematic and comprehensive assessment and evaluation processes the EPA can reduce the risks of chemicals on the U.S. market, saving lives and improving the health of people who live and work in the United States.

 The National Center for Health Research can be reached through Stephanie Fox-Rawlings at or at (202) 223-4000.