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July 12, 2013
Nonylphenol proposed for TRI

An EPA proposal that would add a category for nonylphenol to the federal toxic release inventory (TRI) would affect about 70 facilities nationwide, says the Agency.  The Agency adds that nonylphenol’s toxicity, chemical properties, and widespread use as a chemical intermediate have raised concerns about the potential risks to aquatic organisms exposed to the substance. 

Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requires certain facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use listed toxic chemicals in amounts above specified reporting thresholds to report their environmental releases and other waste management quantities of such chemicals annually. These facilities must also report pollution prevention and recycling data for such chemicals.

In addition, under Section 313, Congress established an initial TRI list composed of more than 300 chemicals and 20 chemical categories.  EPCRA authorizes the EPA to expand the TRI list with any chemical that is known to cause, or can reasonably be anticipated to cause, chronic or acute human health effects or effects on the environment because of its toxicity or persistence or tendency to bioaccumulate. 

“The observed effects from nonylphenol exposure occur at very low concentrations demonstrating that nonylphenol is highly toxic to aquatic organisms,” notes the EPA.

Industrial uses

Nonylphenol is an organic chemical whose main use is in the manufacture of nonylphenol ethoxylates, which are nonionic surfactants used in a wide variety of industrial applications and consumer products.  The chemical industry reported that U.S. demand for nonylphenol was about 260 million pounds in 2004. 

Because there is no one Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number (CASRN) that adequately captures what is referred to as nonylphenol and because of the apparent confusion that has resulted from the use of multiple CASRNs, the EPA is proposing to add nonylphenol as a category defined by a structure.  The Agency’s proposal provides a graphic illustrating the chemical structure of the nonylphenol category accompanied by a textual description. 

2010 TSCA action plan

To back up its proposed addition of a nonylphenol category to the TRI list, the Agency points to research that acute and chronic toxicity levels of nonylphenol have been identified for many freshwater and saltwater species. As part of its effort to enhance the existing chemicals program under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), in August 2010, the EPA issued an action plan for nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates.  The plan outlined the courses of action the Agency is considering pursuing in the near term to address its concerns about these chemicals.  One of the steps identified in the plan was to add nonylphenol to the TRI.

According to the EPA, 57 facilities are expected to submit a total of 57 TRI Form Rs containing release and waste management data for nonylphenol.  The other 13 facilities are expected to submit the shorter TRI reporting Form A.

EPA’s proposal to require TRI reporting for a nonylphenol category was published in the June 20, 2013, FR

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