24 July 2012 19:21 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The growing controversy over flame retardants and their human health effects has become a prime example of why the ?xml:namespace>
James Jones, an administrator with the office of chemical safety and pollution prevention within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the agency’s long-standing efforts to determine the environmental status of flame retardants “stands as a clear illustration of the need for TSCA reform”.
TSCA, the 36-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act, is the principal legal authority for EPA regulation of chemicals in commerce.
The committee was hearing testimony on Tuesday regarding the EPA’s declared inability to fully and definitively determine the health and environmental risks of flame retardants under TSCA.
Tuesday’s hearing was seen as a curtain-raiser for another Environment and Public Works Committee meeting on Wednesday in which a Democrat-sponsored bill to modernise TSCA is expected to be completed and approved for consideration by the full Senate.
In his testimony, Jones said that the EPA first reviewed a new flame retardant compound in 1995 for use in polyurethane foam and was unable to identify bioaccumulative or toxic effects.
Later, however, “after the chemicals were in commerce, information became available that showed the chemicals were being found in humans and the environment”, Jones said.
“This is an example that highlights the critical need for the agency to have greater evidence that new chemicals are safe prior to commercialisation and to be able to take effective action after commercialisation,” he said.
Marshall Moore, director of technology at Great Lakes Solutions, a unit of flame retardants producer Chemtura Corp, told the panel that some of the public and media attention to flame retardants this year is “inaccurate and misleading”.
He said that Chemtura submitted 15 studies to the EPA, including those on potential exposure to consumers and the potential for bioaccumulation.
“Based on these studies, our scientists concluded – and EPA agreed – that TBB [the component in Firemaster 550] is less persistent and less likely to bioaccumulate than the product it replaced,”
Senator James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the panel, was critical of the Democrats’ plan to give committee approval on Wednesday to S-847, the “Safe Chemicals Act”, which has no Republican support and is widely opposed by industry.
That bill, which has been re-introduced several times in recent years by Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey), has been broadly criticised by the
Inhofe said that he and other Republicans on the Democrat-majority committee were disappointed that their “sincere efforts to work on bipartisan TSCA reform have been rebuffed and that we will be going through a partisan political exercise tomorrow, effectively ending hopes for TSCA modernisation this year”.
Although Lautenberg’s bill is expected to be approved by the Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, and could well win passage by the full Senate, it is not expected to get any traction or even consideration in the Republican-controlled House.
Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy
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