Petition to Remove Polyvinyl from EPA’s Safer Choice and Safer Chemical Ingredients List

On November 15, 2022, BlueLand and Plastic Pollution Coalition filed a petition with EPA on behalf of itself and numerous non-profit organizations fighting plastic pollution and climate change, requesting that EPA require health and environmental testing and regulation of polyvinyl alcohol under TSCA, and that the substance be removed from EPA’s Safer Choice and Safer Chemical Ingredients lists. TSCA section 21 permits any person to petition EPA to initiate a proceeding for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of a rule or order under TSCA section 4 (rules or order requiring chemical testing), section 5(d) or (f) (orders affecting new chemical substances) section 6 (rules imposing regulatory controls on chemicals), and section 8 (rules requiring information).

Polyvinyl alcohol, also referred to as PVA or PVOH, is commonly used in consumer-packaged goods, including laundry and dishwasher detergent pods and sheets. PVA is a petroleum-based polymer that serves as the thin layer of plastic film on these pods. The film dissolves in the water during a washing machine or dishwasher cycle. However, the PVA itself does not; tiny pieces of plastic debris called microplastics are contained in the wastewater.

Microplastics are suspected of contributing to plastic pollution in oceans and waterways. A recent study detailed in Degradation of Polyvinyl Alcohol in US Wastewater Treatment Plants and Subsequent Nationwide Emission Estimate stated that approximately 75 % of PVA from these pods persists through conventional wastewater treatment, ultimately ending up in waterways and ecosystems. Additionally, microplastics have been found in human food and water sources, the human bloodstream, and human breast milk.

The petition argues that under TSCA (15 U.S.C 2603), EPA has the authority to and should require extensive health and environmental safety testing of PVA once it is released into ecosystems and waterways. The petition also requests that PVA be removed from EPA’s Safer Chemicals Ingredient List developed by EPA’s Safer Choice Program; the list arranges chemicals by functional-use class to help manufacturers find safer chemical alternatives than traditional chemicals that meet the criteria of the Safer Choice Program. The petition argues that based on PVA’s bioaccumulative and persistence qualities, when applied to the Safer Choice Program’s guidance on polymers, PVA does not meet the requirements to be listed.

EPA Releases Supplemental Proposed Rulemaking to Modify TSCA Fees Rule

On November 16, 2022, EPA published a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) (87 FR 68647) addressing fees for the administration of TSCA. The SNPRM modifies and supplements the Agency’s proposed TSCA fees rule issued on January 11, 2021. The 2021 proposed rule was released pursuant to TSCA section 26(b)(4)(F), which requires EPA to review and, if necessary, adjust fees every three years. EPA determined this SNPRM was necessary based on comments on the proposed rule, adjustments to EPA’s cost estimates, and additional experience in implementing the 2018 Fee Rule. Modifications include:

  • Increasing fee amounts and the estimates of EPA’s costs for TSCA administration.
  • Expansion of the fee requirements to companies required to submit information for test orders.
  • Narrowing the proposed exemptions for the test rule fee activities to only: (1) importers of articles containing a chemical substance; (2) producers of a chemical substance as a byproduct; (3) manufacturers (including importers) of a chemical substance as an impurity; (4) producers of a chemical as a non-isolated intermediate; (5) manufacturers (including importers) of small quantities of a chemical substance solely for research and development and; (6) manufacturers (including importers) of chemical substances with production volume less than 1,100 lbs of a chemical subject to a TSCA section 4 test rule.
  • Adjustments to the self-identification and reporting requirements of EPA-initiated risk evaluation and test rule fees to reduce the burden of calculating and reporting production volumes to comply with the 2021 proposed recordkeeping requirements. EPA is considering using ranking methodologies and reporting production volume ranges instead of averages.
  • The proposal of a partial refund of fees for PMNs withdrawn any time after the first 10 business days during the assessment period for the chemical.
  • Adjustment of the fee payment obligations to require payment by processors subject to test orders and enforceable consent agreements.
  • Extending the time frame for test orders and test rule payments.

The proposed fee increases are as follows:

Fee Category 2018 Fee Rule Current Fees* 2022 Supplemental Proposed Rule
Test order $9,800 $11,650 $25,000
Test rule $29,500 $35,080 $50,000
Enforceable consent agreement $22,800 $27,110 $50,000
PMN and consolidated PMN, SNUN, MCAN, and consolidated MCAN $16,000 $19,020 $45,000
LoRex, LVE, TME, Tier II exemption, TERA, Film Articles $4,700 $5,590 $13,200
EPA-initiated risk evaluation $1,350,000 Two payments totaling $2,560,000 Two payments totaling $5,081,000
Manufacturer-requested risk evaluation on a chemical included in the TSCA Work Plan Initial payment of $1.25M with final invoice to recover 50% of actual costs Two payments of $945,000, with final invoice to recover 50% of actual costs Two payments of $1,497,000, with final invoice to recover 50% of actual costs
Manufacturer-requested risk evaluation on a chemical not included in the TSCA Work Plan Initial payment of $2.5M, with final invoice to recover 100% of actual costs Two payments of $1.89M, with final invoice to recover 100% of actual costs Two payments of $2,993,000, with final invoice to recover 100% of actual costs

*The current fees reflect an adjustment for inflation required by TSCA and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

EPA states that increased fees will ensure recovery of 25% of implementation costs, consistent with the direction of the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill. The Agency also states that the fee increases will strengthen its ability to successfully implement TSCA in a manner that is both protective and sustainable.  Furthermore, EPA asserts that the fee increases will improve on-time performance and quality significantly.

EPA officials have repeatedly argued that the 2016 Lautenberg Amendments tasked the Agency with many new responsibilities but did not increase the TSCA budget accordingly. According to the Agency, while there was a fee increase in 2018, EPA was only able to collect about half of the 25% target fees since the 2018 rule’s finalization. Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff commented, “[f]or the last six years, we’ve lacked the needed resources to build a sustainable chemical safety program that’s grounded in science, protects communities from dangerous chemicals, and supports innovation; with today’s action, we’re continuing to adjust TSCA fees to account for the full costs of running the program the way that Congress intended.”

EPA will hold a webinar on December 6, 2022, from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM to provide stakeholders with an overview of the SNPRM and accept public comments. Registration closes on December 1, 2022; you can register for the webinar here.

California Department of Toxic Substances Hosted Engagement Sessions on Sustainable Chemistry Definition

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (CDTSC) hosted two engagement sessions encouraging stakeholders to share their perspectives on an actionable definition of sustainable chemistry that was provided by the Expert Committee on Sustainable Chemistry (ECOSChem). ECOSChem is a 20-person group including representatives from academia, government, industry, and non-governmental organizations.  The group has been tasked with establishing “an ambitious, actionable definition and criteria for sustainable chemistry that can enable effective government policy, inform business and investor decision making, enhance chemistry education, and spur the adoption across all supply chains of chemicals that are safer and more sustainable.”

In its draft, ECOSChem defined sustainable chemistry as “the practice and application of chemistry that eliminates negative impacts to humans and ecosystems, as well as benefits current and future generations.” The definition was drafted with five criteria in mind (1) health and safety through hazard elimination, (2) climate and ecosystem impacts, (3) circularity, (4) equity and justice, and (5) transparency. In addition to the definition, , ECOSChem provided the following indicators of what sustainable chemistry will look like:

A sustainable chemical, material, process, or product will…

  • Eliminate all associated hazards and hazardous emissions to all people and ecosystems across its existence.
  • Not result in releases, including releases of byproducts or breakdown products, that negatively persist or bioaccumulate.
  • Eliminate impacts on climate and biodiversity by utilizing earth-abundant, non-toxic chemical building blocks that minimize habitat and resource degradation, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon footprints, and energy consumption, including for transportation and distribution.
  • Be designed to have [a] lifetime appropriate for its use and enable safe reuse and non-toxic recycling.
  • Prioritize resource and energy conservation and reclamation, reduce consumption of finite resources, and waste prevention, minimization, and elimination.
  • Be designed such that all associated negative social impacts are eliminated.
  • Be made or implemented to prioritize the remediation of harms for communities and societies that have been disproportionately impacted by traditional chemistries, chemicals, and chemical processes, and/or support the needs of workers, marginalized groups (e.g., immigrant communities, and communities of color), and vulnerable groups (e.g., pregnant women and children).
  • Be made or implemented in a way that does not create new problems or shift harm to other communities or societies.
  • Have had its health, safety, and environmental data disclosed in an accessible format to individuals, workers, communities, policymakers, and the public.
  • Use independent, third-party systems to verify sustainability, health, safety, and other claims. The sources for verification should be openly accessible.

ECOSChem members will use the feedback received at the meeting to revise the definition to ensure that the language is clear and actionable.

 

 

 

 

Biden-Harris Administration Expands Cybersecurity Partnership in Chemical Sector

On October 26, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration announced it is expanding its Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Cybersecurity Initiative to the chemical sector. The ISC Cyber Security Initiative was launched in April 2021 to strengthen the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure across the country through private sector and government collaborations. The focus of the collaboration is to facilitate the deployment of technologies and systems that provide threat visibility, indications, detections and warnings, and facilitate responses. The Initiative is currently underway in other industrial sectors including water and wastewater, and energy.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) and the nation’s leading chemical companies are jointly developing the Chemical Action Plan over the next 100 days. The Plan will detail the chemical industry self-assessment of current cybersecurity practices, lessons learned and best practices. The plan will include the following:

  • Focus on high-risk chemical facilities that present significant chemical release hazards, with the ultimate goal of supporting enhanced ICS cybersecurity across the entire chemical sector.
  • Drive information sharing and analytical coordination between the Federal Government and the chemical sector.
  • Foster collaboration with sector owners and operators to facilitate and encourage the deployment of appropriate technologies, based on each chemical facility’s own risk assessment and cybersecurity posture (the Federal Government will not select, endorse, or recommend any specific technology or provider).
  • Support the continuity of chemical production critical to the national and economic security of the country.

For more information on CISA’s role in securing critical infrastructure and the Securing Industrial Control Systems initiative, visit the Agency’s website.

 

 

EPA Proposed Rule Making Changes to Clean Air Act Risk Management Program

On August 31, 2022, EPA published a proposed rule, Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act; Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention. The proposed rule aims to address several changes and amplifications to the accident prevention program requirements, enhancements to the emergency preparedness requirements, increase the public availability of chemical hazard information, and provide changes and clarity to definitions currently lacking. The proposed rule applies to a variety of industries, including but not limited to chemical manufacturing.

 

Below is a summary of the key changes and additions within the proposed rule. A table that identifies the full scope of proposed changes and additions can be found here.

 

Subpart C – Program 2 Prevention Program

40 CFR § 68.58 Compliance audits.

The proposed rule revises paragraph (a), advising that a third-party audit may be required under added paragraph (f) of this section. Additionally, the proposed rule adds paragraphs (f), (g), and (h) to this section. Paragraph (f) states that a third-party audit is required when one or more of the following apply: (1) two accidental releases have occurred within five years, meeting the criteria in § 68.42(a) from a covered process at a stationary source; (2) one accidental release as occurred within five years meeting the criteria in § 68.42(a) from a covered process at a stationary source in NAICS code 324 or 325, located within one mile of another stationary source in NIACS code 324 or 325; or (3) an implementing agency requires a third-party audit due to conditions at the stationary source that could lead to an accidental release of a regulated substance or when a previous third-party audit failed to meet the competency or independence requirements of § 68.59(c).

 

40 CFR § 68.59 Third-party audits.

Section 68.59 is added in its entirety. The 2019 reconsideration rule rescinded third-party compliance audit requirements, but EPA seeks to reinstate these requirements stating it found there “are likely no legitimate reliance interests associated with the 2019 reconsideration rule’s elimination of these requirements.” EPA has ensured that the proposed section is consistent with existing OSHA PSM requirements.

 

40 CFR § 68.62 Employee participation.

The proposed rule adds § 68.62 in its entirety and addresses employee participation in Program 2 prevention programs. Paragraph (a) of this section requires the owner or operators to “develop a written plan of action regarding the implementation of the employee participation required [by paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section].” Paragraph (b) requires the owner or operators “to develop and implement a process to allow employees and their representatives to anonymously report unaddressed hazards that could lead to a catastrophic release, unreported RMP-reportable accidents, or any other non-compliance with 40 CFR part 68.” Paragraph (c) states that the owner or operator must “provide to employees and their representative’s access to the hazard reviews and to all other information required to be developed under this rule.”

 

Subpart D – Program 3 Prevention Program

40 CFR § 68.79 Compliance audits.

The modifications to this section mirror those in 40 CFR § 68.58 detailed above.

 

40 CFR § 68.80 Third-party audits.

The modifications to this section mirror those in 40 CFR § 68.59 detailed above.

 

40 CFR § 68.83 Employee participation.

The modifications to this section mirror those in 40 CFR § 68.62 detailed above.

 

Subpart E – Emergency Response

40 CFR § 68.90 Applicability.

The proposed rule amends paragraph (b)(1) to extensively detail all components required within the facility’s community response plan, which under the current regulation is only referenced as “the community response plan developed under 42 U.S.C. 11003.” The proposed rule also revises paragraph (b)(3) to include specific relevant information that should be included when notifying emergency responders that there is a need for a response, whereas the current regulation states only that “appropriate mechanisms” to notify must be in place. The proposed rule further adds paragraph (b)(6), requiring that “the owner or operator maintains and implements, as necessary, procedures for informing the public and the appropriate Federal, state, and local emergency response agencies about accidental releases of RMP-regulated substances and ensure that a community notification system is in place to warn the public within the area potentially threatened by the release.”

 

40 CFR § 68.95 Emergency response program.

Paragraph (c) is completely rewritten to address issues with responding facilities notifying the public of releases. The revision requires facilities to provide necessary entities with initial RMP accidental release information during the release of regulated substances to efficiently convey such information to the public and the appropriate federal, state, and local emergency agencies. This information includes the regulated substance released, the estimated time the release began, the estimated quantity of the substance already released, the potential quantity to be released, and the potential consequences of the release on human health and the environment.

 

Subpart G – Risk Management Plan

40 CFR § 68.160 Registration.

The proposed rule adds paragraph (b)(22), which requires adding the method of communication and location of the notification of a chemical hazard to the public residing within six miles of the stationary source to the registration form included in the RMP.

 

Subpart H – Other Requirements

40 CFR § 68.210 Availability of information to the public.

The proposed rule amends § 68.210, adding paragraphs(d), (e), and (f). Paragraph (d) details the chemical hazard information a facility must provide to any requesting member of the public residing within six miles of the stationary source. This information includes (1) regulated substance information, (2) SDS for all regulated substances at the facility, (3) five-year accident history, (4) the emergency response program, (5) a list of the scheduled and required exercises, and (6) LEPC contact information. Paragraph (e) dictates that the company must provide ongoing notification on its website, social media platforms, or through other publicly accessible means. Such notifications should convey that the information in paragraph (d) is available and accessible to community members living within 6 miles of the RMP facility. Paragraph (f) requires that the owner or operator of the facility provide the information outlined in paragraph (d) within 45 days of receiving the request.

EPA Releases Draft Toxicological Review of Hexavalent Chromium

EPA recently released its draft Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) toxicological review of hexavalent chromium (also known as chromium-6). Hexavalent chromium is used in pigment manufacturing, metal finishing and chrome plating, stainless steel production, leather tanning, and wood preservatives. It has various other industrial applications as well. The metal is also emitted into the air when fossil fuels are burned.

The metal gained significant attention in 2000 with the release of the movie Erin Brokovich. The film detailed the story of a class action lawsuit by Californians against Pacific Gas & Electric Company for dumping wastewater containing chromium into ponds, subsequently polluting groundwater supplies.

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen in humans when inhaled, including increased lung cancer rates found in workers exposed at higher than normal levels in industries that process or use chromium or chromium compounds. The metal is also known to cause nasal and sinus cancers, kidney and liver damage, nasal and skin irritation, and other adverse health effects.

Less information has been known about the effects of ingesting hexavalent chromium. EPA’s current standard for the metal in drinking water is a maximum contaminant level of 100 parts per billion. The draft IRIS reports that ingestion through drinking water is likely carcinogenic, and once finalized, EPA will use the IRIS review to make assessments of risk related to ingestion exposure.

The draft is currently open for public comment until December 19, 2022. EPA Scientific Advisory Board will hold a hearing to discuss hexavalent chromium following the closing of the comment period.

 

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.

EPA Proposes to Stop Authorized Use of Certain PFAS in Pesticide Products

EPA is proposing to remove 12 PFAS substances from the current list of inert ingredients approved for use in pesticide products. Under EPA’s 2021 PFAS Strategic Roadmap the Agency is reviewing substances approved as inert ingredients in pesticides and potentially taking action to limit their use. Inert ingredients in pesticides serve to increase effectiveness and product performance including improving the ease of pesticide application and extending shelf life.

The 12 chemical substances proposed for removal are no longer in any registered pesticide product, but EPA believes it is important to remove these chemicals.  This means that a review of available information for these chemicals would be required for their future use in pesticide products. In discussing the proposal Michal Freedhoff, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention stated, “ensuring that these 12 chemicals can no longer be used in pesticides is an important step to protect workers, the public, and our planet from unnecessary PFAS exposure.”

CoverGirl Cosmetics and Coty Inc PFAS Suit

CoverGirl Cosmetics and Coty Inc. are facing a class action lawsuit for marketing their TruBlend Pressed Powder as sustainable and safe while allegedly it contained PFAS.  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.  According to the complaint, independent lab testing found that the product contained increased fluorine levels, an indicator of the presence of PFAS.   The complaint also notes that defendants misrepresent the product in their marketing materials which state that they hold themselves to the highest quality standards when it comes to safety and efficacy of their products.  Plaintiffs argued that these acts violate the California Unfair Competition Law and the California False Advertising Law, and constitute fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

The plaintiff asserts that the presence of PFAS is a concern because PFAS exposure through inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact can result in PFAS entering the body. The makeup in question is applied directly to the face and is prolonged skin contact.  Plaintiff contends that PFAS are present at a greater concentration than recommended by the current EPA health advisory limit for safe consumption.