WASHINGTON - Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency named the first 10 chemicals it will evaluate under the new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the first update since 1976 of the nation’s primary toxic substances law.
The safety reviews could lead to bans or restrictions on a number of hazardous chemicals in consumer products and workplaces, including asbestos, paint strippers, flame retardants and solvents.
The first 10 were selected from the Toxic Substances Control Act Work Plan, a list of 90 chemicals chosen based on their hazards and the public’s potential exposure, as well as other considerations such as persistence and bioaccumulation. Half of the chemicals contaminate drinking water, and setting health-based standards for them has been on the EPA’s to-do list for years.
Another substance targeted for action is the notorious carcinogen asbestos. The EPA first moved to ban asbestos more than 25 years ago, but was overruled by a federal court in 1991. Under the EPA’s strengthened authority, asbestos, which EWG Action Fund found kills up to 15,000 Americans each year through diseases it triggers, could finally be banned.
“Many of the chemicals the EPA has listed for its first wave of reviews are highly toxic substances that can be found in everything from cosmetics, to insulation, paint strippers and household cleaning products,” said Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for EWG. “We applaud the EPA for moving quickly to exercise its strengthened authority to protect the public from dangerous chemicals, but we will also keep up the pressure to ensure the agency stays the course under the incoming Trump administration.”
While selection of the first 10 chemicals is an important milestone, this list contains just the first of 1,000 chemicals in need of urgent EPA review. Under the new law, for each risk evaluation the EPA completes, it must start another. By 2020, the EPA must have at least 20 chemical risk evaluations ongoing at any given time.
Find out more about the first 10 chemicals for review, including their health risks and how consumers and workers may be exposed, in EWG’s new analysis.