EPA Proposes to Restrict Use of N-Methylpyrrolidone

Multiple occupational uses of n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) would be banned and others would be restricted under a proposed rule published by EPA on June 14, 2024.  The proposed rule follows EPA’s 2020 determination that NMP presents an unreasonable risk to human health due to health effects including fetal death and reduced fertility.

According to the proposed rule, NMP is a widely used solvent with applications in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries, “semiconductors, polymers, petrochemical products, paints and coatings, and paint and coating removers.”  2020 Chemical Data Reporting rule data indicates that total annual production ranged from 100–250 million pounds from 2016 to 2019, EPA says.

The proposed rule would ban the manufacture, processing, distribution, and use of NMP for industrial and commercial use in lubricants, anti-freeze products, automotive care products, and cleaning products, among others.  All industrial and commercial uses not prohibited would be subject to a workplace chemical protection program (WCPP) to minimize direct dermal contact with NMP through incorporation of the hierarchy of controls.  Where controls are insufficient, EPA proposes to require implementation of a PPE program.

The proposed rule would also implement prescriptive controls for certain industrial and commercial uses, such as capping the allowed concentration of NMP in industrial and commercial paints and stains at 45%. Similar concentration maximums would apply to a handful of consumer products, including adhesives.

Although no consumer products would be banned, EPA proposes to implement container size limitations and labelling requirements for some consumer uses, including paint removers, paints, automotive care products, and cleaning products.

EPA proposes that the bans take effect under a staggered schedule, varying from one to two years after publication depending on whether an entity is a manufacturer, processor, distributor, or user of NMP.  Private entities subject to WCPP requirements would have one year to establish the program, and consumer product container size limitations and labelling requirements would also take effect after one year.

Comments on the proposed rule are due on July 29, 2024.

EPA Proposes to Request Unpublished Studies for 16 Chemicals

On March 26, 2024, EPA published a proposed rule that would require manufacturers of sixteen chemical substances to submit a wide breadth of unpublished studies to the Agency.

If finalized, the rule would amend the list of chemicals subject to health and safety reporting located at 40 CFR 716.120 by adding the following:

  • 4,4-Methylene bis(2-chloraniline) (CASRN 101–14–4)
  • 4-tert-octylphenol(4-(1,1,3,3- Tetramethylbutyl)-phenol) (CASRN140– 66–9)
  • Acetaldehyde (CASRN75–07–0)
  • Acrylonitrile (CASRN 107–13–1)
  • Benzenamine (CASRN 62–53–3)
  • Benzene (CASRN 71–43–2)
  • Bisphenol A (CASRN 80–05–7)
  • Ethylbenzene (CASRN 100–41–4)
  • Naphthalene (CASRN 91–20–3)
  • Vinyl Chloride (CASRN 75–01–4)
  • Styrene (CASRN 100–42–5)
  • Tribomomethane (Bromoform) (CASRN 75–25–2)
  • Triglycidyl isocyanurate; (CASRN 2451–62–9)
  • Hydrogen fluoride (CARN 7664– 39–3)
  • N-(1,3-Dimethylbutyl)-N′-phenyl-pphenylenediamine (6PPD) (CASRN 793– 24–8)
  • 2-anilino-5-[(4-methylpentan-2-yl) amino]cyclohexa-2,5-diene-1,4-dione (6PPD-quinone) (CASRN 2754428–18– 5).

EPA proposed to prioritize five of the listed chemicals (underlined above) for TSCA section 6 risk evaluation in December 2023.  The proposed rule also includes 10 chemicals EPA is considering including in its December 2024 initiation of prioritization.  The last substance, a 6PPD transformation product, was included as a result of EPA’s decision to grant a citizen’s petition on 6PPD.

Pursuant to 40 CFR 716.10 and 716.50, the requested information would include studies on health and safety, environmental effects, physical-chemical properties, exposure, and degradation.  Copies of unpublished studies, lists of known unpublished studies not in the submitter’s possession, and lists of ongoing studies would all be required.  Copies of each study previously listed as ongoing would also be required upon completion, regardless of the study’s completion date.

Studies previously submitted to EPA pursuant to a requirement under TSCA would be exempted from the request.  However, EPA proposes not to apply the typical exemption for persons manufacturing one of the 16 substances only as an impurity.

In addition to current manufacturers (including importers), persons who have manufactured or proposed to manufacture a listed substance within the past ten years would be required to submit the requested information.  Comments on the proposed rule are due on May 28, 2024.

Summary Judgment Denied in “Krud Kutter” Greenwashing Class Suit

A class action suit alleging that Rust-Oleum Corporation mislabeled products as “non-toxic” and “Earth friendly” can go to trial, the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled on January 26, 2024.

The case, Bush v. Rust-Oleum Corp, No. 3:20-cv-03268, concerns the environmental claims made on the labels of Rust-Oleum’s “Krud Kutter” cleaning products.  Plaintiff Anthony Bush alleges that the claims would lead a reasonable consumer to believe that the products do not contain ingredients that are harmful to humans, animals, or the environment.  Bush alleges that these claims are misleading because the products contain multiple ingredients that are known to cause toxic effects.

Rust-Oleum moved for summary judgment, pointing to testimony given by the plaintiff and his expert toxicologist in which they acknowledged that risk can never be fully eliminated; even water can be hazardous in excess.  Rust-Oleum argued that this evidence shows that a reasonable consumer would not believe that the products are completely risk-free.  In addition, Rust-Oleum contended that the labels themselves contradicted the plaintiff’s theory of deception: the phrase “Caution: Eye and Skin Irritant” is included next to the words “Non-Toxic,” and the rear of the products’ labels include a definition of the “Earth friendly” claim.

Judge Laurel Beeler rejected Rust-Oleum’s arguments, saying that “[d]eposition testimony of individuals…is at best anecdotal evidence that isn’t dispositive of how a reasonable consumer interprets the challenged claims.”  Beeler also found that genuine disputes of material fact exist regarding the qualifying language included on the products’ label.  The plaintiff’s expert toxicologist alleges toxic effects besides eye and skin irritation and the defendant’s own surveys show that most customers do not read the small font explanation of the “Earth friendly” claim, she said.

Also at issue in the case are the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides, which help marketers avoid making misleading environmental claims.  Bush cited the Green Guides’ commentary on the phrase “non-toxic”—“[a] non-toxic claim likely conveys that a product, package, or service is non-toxic both for humans and for the environment generally”—in his complaint, but Beeler agreed with Rust-Oleum that the Green Guides are not decisive under the reasonable-consumer test.

EPA Proposes to Revise Rules for PBTs DecaDBE and PIP (3:1)

On November 24, 2023, EPA released a proposed rule to revise the final rules for decabromodiphenyl ether (“decaBDE”) and phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) (“PIP (3:1)”), two persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic substances (PBTs) subject to regulation under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Section 6(h) of TSCA (as amended by the Lautenberg Amendments in 2016) required EPA to take expedited action to complete TSCA section 6(a) rules on certain PBTs.  In January 2021, EPA released final rules for decaBDE, PIP (3:1), and three other PBTs.  The final rules for decaBDE and PIP (3:1) generally prohibit their manufacture, processing, and use beginning in March 2021, though the rules contained phased-in prohibitions and exclusions for certain uses; EPA has extended certain phased-in prohibitions for PIP (3:1) multiple times since.

In light of new information and the Agency’s reinterpretation of the directive in TSCA section 6(h)(4) to “reduce exposures to the substance to the extent practicable,” EPA is proposing revisions to the final rules for decaBDE and PIP (3:1).  For decaBDE, the proposed revisions include:

  • Requiring a label on existing plastic shipping pallets containing decaBDE,
  • Requiring use of PPE for certain activities involving decaBDE,
  • Prohibiting releases to water during the manufacturing, processing, and commercial distribution of decaBDE and decaBDE-containing products,
  • Extending the current compliance extension for the processing and distribution in commerce of decaBDE-containing wire and cable insulation for use in nuclear power generation facilities, and
  • Requiring export notification for decaBDE-containing wire and cable for nuclear power generation facilities.

The proposed revisions to the PBT rule for PIP (3:1) include:

  • Narrowing the exclusion of prohibition for PIP (3:1) use in lubricants and greases to only include use in aerospace and turbine applications,
  • Replacing the exclusion from prohibition for motor and aerospace vehicle parts containing PIP (3:1) with phased-in prohibitions,
  • Excluding from prohibition the processing and commercial distribution of PIP (3:1) and PIP (3:1)-containing products for use in wire harnesses and circuit boards, and
  • Requiring PPE during manufacturing and processing of PIP (3:1).

In the proposed rule, EPA states that the Agency is not reconsidering the final rules for the other three PBTs–2,4,6-TTBP, HCBD, and PCTP–subject to final rules in January 2021.

According to EPA, decaBDE is a flame retardant that is used in textiles, plastics, adhesives, and polyurethane foam, and PIP (3:1) is a flame retardant, a plasticizer, and an anti-compressibility and anti-wear additive used in lubricants, hydraulic fluids, and in the manufacture of other compounds.

EPA Releases Draft Supplement for 1,4-Dioxane

In July 2023, EPA announced the release of a draft supplement to the Risk Evaluation for 1,4-dioxane for public comment and peer review.  1,4-dioxane is solvent used to manufacture other chemicals such as adhesives and sealants.  It is also used as a processing aid and laboratory chemical. In addition, some manufacturing processes, such as the process used for making commercial and consumer dish soaps, result in the chemical being present as a byproduct.

The draft supplement focuses on air and water exposure pathways that were not included in the 2020 Risk Evaluation.  The 2020 Risk Evaluation focused on health risks to workers, consumers, and the general public, but not from drinking water, the air, or exposure where 1,4-dioxane is present as a byproduct.  The omission was identified by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) as an oversight.  The SACC informed EPA that failure to assess the risks posed to the general population from exposure to the chemical may present a risk to human health – with an emphasis on drinking water as an exposure pathway.

The draft supplement identified cancer risk estimates higher than 1 in 10,000 for 1,4-dioxane present as a byproduct and higher than 1 in 1 million for general population exposure scenarios associated with 1,4-dioxane in drinking water sourced downstream of release sites and in air within 1 km of releasing facilities.

The draft supplement did note that the risk estimates include inherent uncertainties and the overall confidence in specific risk estimates fluctuates.  However, the document also stated that the information is beneficial in helping the Agency make a determination on whether the chemical poses an unreasonable risk to people with occupational exposure, through sources of drinking water, and breathing air near release sites.

DuPont De Nemours Inc. Sues EPA Regarding GenX Test Order

Earlier this year, the US Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit ordered EPA to provide documentation regarding the Agency’s decision to order DuPont De Nemours Inc. to provide information on GenX chemicals through two section 4 test orders under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). DuPont brought this case to challenge the testing requirements imposed on the company, asserting that EPA had incorrectly identified the company as a manufacturer of the chemicals identified in the test orders:  hexafluoropropylene oxide (also known as trifluoro(trifluoromethyl)oxirane) and 6:2 Fluorotelomer sulfonamide betaine, two GenX chemicals. The test orders required testing on the inhalation effects toxicity of the chemicals in order to enable EPA to further understand protentional risks posed to human health and the environment. In addition to the cost of the toxicity studies, the manufacturers subject to the orders were assessed a fee of $11,650 to be split evenly amongst them.

After receiving the order to provide documentation, EPA requested several time extensions, but eventually stipulated to an agreement dismissing the case. The motion filed in May 2023 released DuPont from the test orders on 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonamide betaine and hexafluoropropylene oxide. The Court then dismissed the case.

New Study Finds Multiple Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Products

This May, the American Chemical Society published a new study evaluating the presence of toxic chemicals in consumer products.  The study found use of at least one chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer, reproductive issues, and/or developmental issues in over one hundred types of consumer products.

The study’s authors used data from the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Consumer Product Regulatory Program, which collects data on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in California consumer products.  They then cross-referenced this data against the list of harmful chemicals regulated under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, commonly known as Proposition 65 or Prop 65, to determine the hazards posed by each product category.  It should be emphasized that the study provides only a partial picture of the use of hazardous chemicals in consumer products; only about 200 of the 865 Prop 65-listed substances are VOCs.

More than 100 product categories contained at least one VOC chemical listed under Prop 65 (a “listed chemical”).  Consumers were exposed to the greatest number of listed chemicals in categories that included personal care products, cleaners, and household products; for workers, adhesives had the greatest number of listed chemicals.  The study also determined that more than 5,000 tons of listed chemicals were released from California consumer products in 2020.

In general, the product categories with the most listed chemicals were also the categories in which exposures to especially hazardous listed chemicals were highest.  After comparing the product categories with the highest numbers especially hazardous chemicals with the categories with the highest potential exposures, the researchers assembled a list of 30 product categories and 11 especially hazardous chemicals—including formaldehyde and methylene chloride—that they believed should be prioritized for regulation.

In addition, the study noted that certain occupations put workers at particular risk of exposure to listed chemicals.  For example, janitors could be exposed to five prioritized product categories, including cleaners, detergents, and degreasers.  Construction workers, nail/hair salon employees, and automobile maintenance/repair workers were also described as particularly at-risk.

Because CARB only makes data available by product category, the study did not identify particular brands or products in their analysis.

Vinyl Institute Seeks Judicial Review of EPA Test Order

Congress granted EPA new test order authority through the 2016 Lautenberg Amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  In May 2022, EPA received its first legal challenge to this new authority from the Vinyl Institute.  The Vinyl Institute is a coalition of seven companies which manufacture a solvent, 1,1,2-trichloroethane, that EPA listed as a priority chemical in December 2019 and that is currently undergoing risk evaluation.  The Vinyl Institute is seeking judicial review of a test order for 1,1,2-trichloroethane, for an avian reproduction test.  Specifically, the petition to the DC Circuit Court argues that EPA has not adequately explained the need for the data.  1,1,2-trichloroethane is used as a solvent and an intermediate in the production of 1,1-dichloroethane.  During the risk prioritization process, the Agency determined that it had insufficient data on the substance to understand if it has the potential to harm wildlife and issued the test order.

The Vinyl Institute stated in their petition that the Test Rule is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.  It alleges that EPA failed to:

  • Adequately explain why the avian reproduction test is necessary,
  • Consider all available information and data for the substance,
  • Cite reliable and representative information and data in support of the Test Order,
  • Adequately justify the need for the test without first requiring screening level testing, and
  • Consider the relative costs of the Test protocols, along with availability of facilities and personnel to perform the testing.

As of this date, the parties have filed motions regarding whether additional submission may be made to the record.

EPA Evaluation of PFAS Leaching in Fluorinated Containers

On September 8, 2022, EPA announced findings of the Agency’s evaluation of PFAS leaching in fluorinated containers.  Specifically, the evaluation assessed the extent to which PFAS that are present in the packaging leach into the contents of the containers.  The study tested the leaching potential of PFAS over a 20-week test period into water, methanol and similar solutions that were packaged in different brands of HDPE fluorinated containers.  EPA undertook this evaluation after learning of PFAS contamination in some mosquitocide products, and after conducting a study of other pesticides stored in fluorinated high-density polyethylene containers.   In both cases the Agency found varying levels of PFAS in the contents of the containers.

The announcement reported that EPA has determined that any liquid products packaged in HDPE containers that have been treated with fluorination technology could be contaminated with PFAS, including water-based products.  The Agency also reported that the amount of PFAS that leach into the products could increase over time.   EPA noted that the Agency does not know if all fluorinated containers will leach PFAS because the Agency’s analysis did not test all the different fluorination technologies.

The announcement included a reminder that pesticide registrants must notify the Agency if they discover PFAS in any of their products.  Under FIFRA §6(a)(2) and 40 CFR §159.179, “additional factual information on unreasonable adverse effects, including metabolites, degradates and impurities (such as PFAS)” must be reported to EPA within 30 days after the registrant “first possesses or knows of the information.”  Note that the Agency considers any level of PFAS to be potentially toxicologically significant and therefore reportable.

The announcement also noted that in many cases, the manufacture of PFAS from the fluorination of polyolefins is subject to the Agency’s significant new use rule  for long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (LCPFACs) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Companies must notify EPA at least 90 days before starting manufacturing or processing of these chemical substances for this significant new use.  TSCA requires significant new use notification in these situations to allow EPA review any associated risks and impose any needed protections.

Implementing Statutory Addition of Certain PFAS Substances to the Toxics Release Inventory Reporting

In July 2022, EPA released a final rule adding five PFAS to the list of chemicals required to be reported to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA). TRI tracks the management of certain toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to human health or the environment and provides this information to the public. Pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), EPA is required to automatically add PFAS to the TRI whenever it takes one of the following actions:

  • EPA finalizes a toxicity value for a PFAS or class of PFAS;
  • EPA determines that a PFAS or a class of PFAS is covered by a TSCA Significant New Use Rule (SNUR);
  • EPA adds PFAS or a class of PFAS to an existing SNUR; or
  • EPA finds that a PFAS or class of PFAS is active in commerce (under TSCA Section 8).

Under this rule, facilities in specific industry sectors that manufacture, process, distribute, or use any of the five PFAS added to the TRI, must submit a TRI report if they exceed the PFAS reporting threshold of 100 pounds. Four of the substances are added to the list effective January 1, 2022, and the remaining substance is effective January 1, 2021, meaning TRI reporting due in 2023 must account for these substances.