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April 12, 2013
2013 TSCA work plan

Twenty substances used in flame retardants dominate the list of 23 chemicals the EPA will begin assessing in 2013 under its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Work Plan.  The flame retardants listed are chemicals used in a wide range of products, including furniture, textiles, and electronic equipment. 

According to the Agency, most of these chemicals have never been assessed for safety.  The depth of the assessments will depend on the amount and quality of environmental and health data in EPA’s possession.  For chemicals with limited data, the Agency will seek additional information from the public, industry, and other government and research bodies. 

Existing chemicals

The TSCA Work Plan for assessment and risk reduction is one of three prongs in the Agency’s Existing Chemicals Program Strategy, which was introduced in 2012 and represents the Agency’s latest effort to exercise the very limited authority TSCA provides to the EPA to regulate existing chemicals.  The other prongs of the strategy address data collection and screening and public access to chemical data and information.  

Using criteria that included determining whether the chemical is persistent and bioaccumulative, is used in consumer or children’s products, has dispersive uses, or has been detected in human or environmental biomonitoring, the EPA identified 83 chemicals for Work Plan review.  In 2012, draft assessments for the first five chemicals were issued for public comment. 

Full assessments

The EPA says it will conduct full risk assessments for 4 of the 20 flame retardants that have sufficient data, three of which are on the TSCA Work Plan and were once the subject of an Action Plan developed under TSCA.  The Work Plan was preceded in 2009 by a chemical Action Plan process that set out to summarize available hazard, exposure, and use information on certain chemicals; outline the risks each chemical may present; and identify specific steps the Agency is taking to address those concerns. 

Full assessments in 2013 are planned for:

  • 2-Ethylhexyl ester 2,3,4,5- tetrabromobenzoate (TBB)
  • 1,2- Ethylhexyl 3,4,5,6-tetrabromo-benzenedicarboxylate or (2-ethylhexyl)-3,4,5,6 tetrabromophthalate (TBPH)
  • Tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP)
  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)—subject of an Action Plan

Chemical groupings

The EPA says it will utilize a structure-based approach, grouping eight other flame retardants with similar characteristics together with the chemicals targeted for full assessment in three groupings.  The EPA will use the information from these assessments to better understand the other chemicals in the group, which currently lack sufficient data for a full risk assessment.

The Agency will also begin environmental fate investigations for eight other flame retardant chemicals that rank high for persistence, bioaccumulation, and/or exposure potential, but for which there are not adequate data to conduct risk assessments.

During its review of data on flame retardant chemicals in commerce, the EPA also identified approximately 50 flame retardant chemicals that are unlikely to pose a risk to human health, making them possible substitutes for more toxic flame retardant chemicals.

In addition to the flame retardant chemicals, the EPA intends to begin risk assessment development on three other TSCA Work Plan chemicals—octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4); 1-bromopropane; and 1,4 dioxane.

Click here for a description of TSCA Work Plan activities for 2013.

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