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EPA Publishes Proposed Rule to Ban Certain Uses of TCE

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By Allison Torrence

 

On December 7, 2016, EPA published a proposed rule to ban certain uses of trichloroethylene (TCE) under section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) due to risks to human health from those uses. The proposed rule would prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, distribution in commerce and commercial use of TCE for aerosol degreasing and for spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities.

As we previously reported on this blog, EPA recently included TCE on its list of the first 10 chemicals it will evaluate broadly for potential risks to human health and the environment pursuant to requirements of the 2016 TSCA Reform Act. In a 2014 risk assessment, EPA identified serious risks to workers and consumers associated with TCE uses, concluding that the chemical can cause a range of adverse health effects, including cancer, development and neurotoxicological effects, and toxicity to the liver.

Based on the 2014 risk assessment, EPA has preliminarily determined that the use of TCE in aerosol degreasing and for spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health and is proposing to prohibit such uses. EPA’s risk assessment also preliminarily indicated that the use of TCE in vapor degreasing presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health. EPA has stated that it intends to issue a separate proposed rule for TCE use in vapor degreasing by the end of the year. EPA then plans to issue one final rule covering both the current proposed ban on aerosol degreasing and spot cleaning and the forthcoming vapor degreasing proposal.

EPA issued a press release and statement from Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, praising the new authority granted to EPA under the TSCA Reform Act and the recent actions of EPA under that Act:

For the first time in a generation, we are able to restrict chemicals already in commerce that pose risks to public health and the environment. Once finalized, today’s action will help protect consumers and workers from cancer and other serious health risks when they are exposed to aerosol degreasing, and when dry cleaners use spotting agents. I am confident that the new authority Congress has given us is exactly what we need to finally address these important issues.

The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register in the coming days. Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted by the public for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Notably, the comment period on the proposed rule will run past the end of the Obama administration and any final rule issued after the comment period would be promulgated under the Trump administration, which could change or withdraw the proposal.

More information on the proposed rule is available at the EPA website.