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TSCA Work Plan Chemicals Program: What’s working, what more could be done?

EPA is continuing to use the Agency’s existing authority to improve the way chemicals are regulated under TSCA. EPA’s latest approach to conducting targeted risk assessments on priority work plan chemicals has landed the Agency on virtually solid ground, although EPA’s methodology still needs some fine tuning to ensure it can produce high quality, scientifically sound assessments of chemicals in commerce, as Chemical Watch reported:

[quote]In general, industry groups are backing the EPA’s approach which has taken the draft assessments as part of its work plan chemicals programme but is at the same time seeking clarifications and seeking changes that trade bodies say would improve the assessment methodology.[/quote]

What’s working so far

It’s important to acknowledge that EPA is taking an approach that will help make the best use of the Agency’s resources and that addresses real world needs by conducting targeted quantitative assessments that focus on the potential risks associated with certain uses and applications of the work plan chemicals. We also commend EPA for employing a margin of exposure (MOE) approach to human health evaluations and for conducting assessments that are focused appropriately on risks that have not already been determined to present minimal or negligible risk for ecological or human health endpoints.

And not to be overlooked, we appreciate that EPA sought public comment on the draft work plan assessments and draft peer review charge questions — an iterative process that can help ensure that the final assessments benefit from expertise outside of the agency early in the process and improve transparency of the peer review.

What work still needs to be done

ACC has provided constructive feedback to EPA to improve its methodology and approach to evaluating risk, as Chemical Week reporter Rebecca Coons reported.

Among those recommendations, ACC suggests the agency develop a clear framework for prioritizing specific use scenarios, refine risk evaluations beyond screening-level assessment and enhance stakeholder input to further increase transparency and opportunities to solicit additional expertise. It is also important that EPA rely on the best available data and use replicable state of the science approaches to evaluate risk. The assessments also need to consider and account for OSHA’s existing standards and regulations in certain assessments so that the public and workers are not receiving potentially conflicting and confusing guidance.

In addition, since the work plan chemical assessments use a screening-level methodology based on assumptions that tend to overestimate risk, ACC believes the results should not be used for further regulatory action until the quality of the assumptions is refined and improved to more accurately reflect real world circumstances.

Faulty data can lead to flawed decisions

EPA is on the right track with its latest approach to work plan chemical assessments, but there’s room for improvement. Increasing the reliability of the data and process upfront will allow EPA and others to have more confidence in the conclusions. Risk assessments based on flawed science do not lead to sound or expedient regulatory decisions. They certainly don’t have a track record of improving safety, either.

ACC looks forward to continuing to work with EPA and other stakeholders to help make the work plan program a success and looking for additional ways to improve TSCA.

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