NCHR Comment on EPA’s New Chemical Review Program

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
New Chemicals Review Program Under the Amended Toxic Substances Control Act; Notice of Public Meeting and Opportunity for Public Comment

[Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0658]

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.

We strongly support efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve chemical review, as required by the new Frank H. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The new law requires evaluation of risks before new chemicals go onto the market, instead of only after people have been harmed. The new law and the EPA’s improved chemical evaluation program can greatly reduce the risks that many chemicals pose to the health of consumers, workers, and the U.S. public.

The EPA’s efforts to implement the law are moving in the right direction. The EPA must continue to improve efforts to thoroughly evaluate new chemicals and oppose industry’s unnecessary and inappropriate attempts to weaken those evaluations.  We understand that, industry often opposes regulations in general, and especially when those regulations would delay in getting their products to market.  However, the health of children and adults in America is more important and must take precedence, as the law mandates.

The law requires more information about new chemicals to allow EPA reviewers to better determine risks associated with their production, use, and disposal. Unfortunately, many of the applications were incomplete and for that reason, it is taking reviewers longer to evaluate the submitted materials.  Those delays are not the fault of the law or of the EPA reviewers, they were due to shortcomings of the submitted materials.

Much of this additional information is basic information about the chemical, its manufacture, use, and exposure. Delays will decrease as industry adjusts to the new requirements of the law, and as EPA staff gain experience in conducting reviews. The EPA seeks to review applications and respond within the same 90 day period that it used before the law. But the law clearly allows the agency more time if it is needed, so that chemicals are not allowed to be manufactured due to expiration of the review period.

When evaluating new chemicals, the EPA needs to focus on risks to vulnerable populations. Vulnerable populations included both workers and users who may be exposed to higher levels of the chemicals, as well as fetuses and children who are likely to be more sensitive to small exposures.

The EPA’s risk assessments must be based on good science. Even related chemicals, such as analogs or chemicals with similar structures, can have dramatically different exposure and health effects.  It would be inappropriate to rely on shortcuts instead of adequate and appropriate testing, because to do so would put children and adults at risk.

The law was designed to protect workers, consumers who use chemicals, and people who live where chemicals are released into the environment.  As a think tank focused on public health, we strongly agree that chemicals should be carefully evaluated before they are sold, as well as afterwards. People who work around new chemicals should be informed of the risks and the appropriate protections. Thorough evaluations of new chemicals by the EPA can reduce the risks of many new chemicals, saving lives and improving the health of people who live and work in the United States.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the implementation of chemical safety reform.