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EPA Seeks Public Comment on Protecting Human Health and the Environment from PBT Chemicals

Vipin Saini
Vipin Saini
EPA

In accordance with Biden-Harris Administration executive orders and directives, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is asking for additional public input on five final rules for persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals issued on January 6, 2021 under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). These rules, which went into effect last month, address exposure to toxic chemicals that remain in the environment for long periods and build up in the body.  

“These rules are intended to provide critical health protections for Americans, including children, workers, other potentially at-risk groups, and the environment,” said Michal Freedhoff, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Re-examining these rules under the Biden-Harris Administration and making any necessary changes to them will ensure we’re delivering on the promise to protect human health and the environment by reducing exposure to toxic chemicals.” 

As a first step in its efforts to immediately review these rules, EPA is opening a 60-day comment period for the public to provide new input on: 

Whether the rules sufficiently reduce exposure to these chemicals, including exposures to potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations, and the environment. 

Newly-raised compliance issues associated with the final rule on phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) (PIP (3:1)) including the compliance dates for certain regulated articles. 

Whether to consider additional or alternative measures or approaches. 

This review is being done in accordance with the Protecting Public Health and Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle to Climate Crisis Executive Order, which asks all agencies to review their actions to ensure that they meet statutory obligations, are guided by the best available science, ensure the integrity of federal decision-making, and protect human health and the environment. 

EPA will use the feedback received during this public comment period to determine the best path forward, which could include amending the current rules to include additional or alternative exposure reduction measures or extending compliance dates for certain regulated products and articles. Upon publication of the Federal Register notice, EPA will accept public comments in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2021-0202 on www.regulations.gov for 60 days. 

As noted above, the notice seeks comment on newly-raised issues associated with the March 8, 2021, compliance date for the prohibitions on processing and distribution of Phenol, Isopropylated Phosphate (3:1) (PIP (3:1)) for use in articles, and the articles to which PIP (3:1) has been added. Stakeholders recently informed EPA that the prohibition on processing and distribution of PIP (3:1) could impact articles used in a wide variety of electronics, from cell phones, to robotics used to manufacture semiconductors, to equipment used to move COVID-19 vaccines and keep them at the appropriate temperature. Stakeholders note that the complexity of international supply chains makes locating the presence of, and finding alternatives to, PIP (3:1) in components challenging. They assert that an extension to the compliance deadline is necessary to avoid significant disruption to the supply chain for a wide variety of articles. It was not EPA’s intent during the development of the rule to have such a broad disruptive impact. Thus, EPA is also announcing its expectation that this specific issue will be addressed as part of the broader re-examination of these rules. Based in part on the information collected as part of the effort announced today, EPA intends to extend compliance dates as necessary for the prohibitions on processing and distribution of PIP (3:1) for use in some articles, and some of the articles to which PIP (3:1) has been added. 

For these same reasons, EPA is issuing a temporary 180-day “No Action Assurance” indicating that the agency will exercise its enforcement discretion regarding the prohibitions on processing and distribution of PIP (3:1) for use in articles, and the articles to which PIP (3:1) has been added. The agency is taking this action to ensure that the supply chain of these important articles is not interrupted while EPA continues to collect the information needed to best inform subsequent regulatory efforts and allow for the issuance of a final agency action to extend the March 8, 2021, compliance date as necessary.   

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