The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will review the safety of 23 chemicals, including 20 of the flame retardants found in furniture, electronics and other products that members of Congress have identified as particularly risky. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg and 22 other lawmakers called on the EPA to evaluate whether flame retardants threaten the health of American citizens. The reviews will be conducted as part of a Toxic Substances Control Act plan. James Jones, acting assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, had this to say in a statement:
EPA is committed to more fully understanding the potential risks of flame retardant chemicals, taking action if warranted, and identifying safer substitutes when possible.
The lawmakers claimed that studies linked flame retardants to cancer and neurological and developmental diseases. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), according to the Senators, has found the chemicals do not even adequately protect against fires. The State of California proposed new flammability standards in February that would lessen the need for flame retardants.
The American Chemistry Council, a trade group for chemicals makers, expressed support for the EPA reviews in a statement. However, it maintained that the flame retardants under review “provide significant benefits and many have been subjected to reviews by national and international government bodies.” The group said further in a statement:
We encourage EPA to work with stakeholders to fully understand what information is already available to the agency on these chemicals, to see what further information may be needed for these assessments and to assure there is sufficient time to provide that information to the agency.
The chemicals under review include trisphosphate (TCEP), as well as hexabromocyclododecane and related congeners. The EPA says it will perform full risk assessments for four of the flame retardants. The agency is grouping similar flame retardants together with the chemicals under full-risk review.
The EPA has identified about 50 flame retardants unlikely to harm human health, making them possible substitutes for flame retardants found to be dangerous. Jones said that, even though the reviews represented “a significant step forward on chemical safety,” TSCA “remains in dire need of reform in order to ensure that all Americans are protected from toxic chemicals in their environment.”
A Senate committee advanced a TSCA reform bill, the Safe Chemicals Act, last summer, but the legislation failed to garner support from Republicans. Sen. Lautenberg, who for years has led the effort to update the TSCA, plans to introduce a new reform bill. Hopefully, he will be successful.
Source: Chicago Tribune
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