Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act - Top 10 Chemicals the US Environmental Protection Agency is Evaluating

And the top 10 are:

2016 TSCA reform is now being referred to as the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act (LSCA) to honor the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg, a strong proponent of TSCA reform. The amended TSCA Section 6(b)(4), completed last December provides the first ten chemicals the EPA has designated for evaluation. These chemicals were chosen to determine whether they present an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment in either the manner in which they are produced or used.  These chemicals are listed here.

  • 1, 4 Dioxane;
  • Methylene Chloride;
  • 1-Bromopropane;
  • N-Methylpyrolidone;
  • Asbestos;
  • Pigment Violet 29;
  • Carbon Tetrachloride;
  • Trichloroethylene;
  • Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster (HBCD); and
  • Tetrachloroethylene.

Those of us working in the chemical industry may be familiar with some or all of these. I personally have worked with seven of these as an analytical chemist performing chromatography quantitation.  Some I used as solvents and some for standardization and calculation. As per OSHA regulations, we read and reviewed the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical we came into contact with.  I was particularly diligent regarding safety and limiting exposure by using the proper protective clothing (lab coat, gloves, goggles, etc.), and equipment (ventilation hoods for prep and over equipment).

So why the EPA did chose these ten chemicals?  I thought we should take a closer look at them.

The breakdown

1, 4 Dioxane

General information on this chemical can be found on the EPA website.  While the data is from 2014, it gives some excellent details on the properties of the compound. Certainly the concern of drinking contaminated water is the reason this chemical makes the list.  There recent (Feb. 2017) news on 1,4 Dioxane is that Governor Cuomo from New York State is asking the EPA to set a standard for this chemical in drinking water.

Methylene Chloride

This substance is commonly used as a solvent in the lab for dissolving polymers of all types. Turning plastic to liquid says more than enough about it. Guidance from OSHA on monitoring exposure can be found here. The primary concern is with Methylene Chloride (also called dichloromethane or DCM), which is commonly used in paint stripping products sold both commercially and by retailers. The EPA is considering a proposal to ban DCM from these products.  This link explains why, and is also a good overview of paint stripping products.

1-Bromopropane

I was not as familiar with this chemical. The summary on this is; “1-Bromopropane (1-BP) is a solvent that is used in degreasing, dry cleaning, spray adhesives, and aerosol solvents. Occupational exposure to 1-BP has been linked to neurological illnesses. Animal studies show that 1-BP may also cause cancer and reproductive disorders. Controls and personal protective equipment are available to protect workers from 1-BP exposure.,” which can be found on this OSHA site:

N-Methylpyrolidone

This is another very strong solvent used in paint and coatings removal available to consumers. The EPA’s concern here is to improve label warnings, although I do not see discussion of a ban for this chemical.

Asbestos

Issues with asbestos are certainly nothing new.  Many people made a good living removing asbestos back in the 1990’s.  Any HGTV advocates like me, often hear of folks purchasing an older home for remodel, and then getting slammed with a large bill for asbestos removal. It is found in building materials, in the walls or insulation and requires a certified professional for abatement. Here is the EPA site for everything asbestos.

Pigment Violet 29

While I’m not directly familiar with this specific chemical, I have worked with dyes and pigments for polymer products.  This chemical is used as a pigment and vat dye.  It is reddish-purple or violet in color and commonly used in textiles as well as paints. Here are two sites that provide more information, though it’s not as comprehensive as the links related to the other nine chemicals on this list.

Carbon Tetrachloride

This chemical is as widely known toxin and poison, and I have not worked with it since college (and that was over 30 years ago! This chemical was widely used at one time and was produced in large quantities to make refrigerants and propellants for aerosol cans, as a solvent for oils, fats, lacquers, varnishes, and rubber waxes, and resins, and as a grain fumigant and a dry cleaning agent. In general, use is now limited for reasons listed on this site.

Trichloroethylene

Once used for anesthesia because it suppresses the central nervous system, we have come a long way in finding safer alternatives to anesthetics. They are used in industry to produce hydrofluorocarbon chemicals used as refrigerants and as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts. It is also used in dry cleaning to remove spots and is found in some aerosol cleaning product for home and auto usage. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/tce_508.pdf.  There is significant evidence that this chemical can cause cancer

In addition, the EPA just prohibited this substance for vapor degreasing;

The chemical industry has asked for an extension to the commenting period until April 20, 2017.

Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster (HBCD)

This chemical is used primarily as a flame retardant in expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) and extruded polystyrene foam (XPS), but it is also used in some consumer products such as floor mats, headliners, and potentially other interior fabrics in automobiles.

In this case, the EPA’s concern seems to be that “Americans are often exposed to flame retardant chemicals in their daily lives”. The chemicals are widely used in products such as household furniture, textiles, and electronic equipment. Many flame retardant chemicals persist in the environment, and studies have shown that some may be hazardous to both people and animals.”

Tetrachloroethylene

This chemical is the majority player as a dry cleaning agent. Like trichloroethylene it can be used to degrease metal parts. They have similar structures and both are believed to cause cancer.  There is just and extra chlorine molecule here.

Summary table

Have a look at this summary table of the means of exposure and the potential hazards from these chemicals. Looking at these collectively, we can see why they are on this first list of the LSCA top ten; they are all very common chemicals AND used in consumer products which creates a high potential for exposure in the general population. There has been a significant amount of testing to prove these CHEMICALS are harmful, with significant risk to human and environmental health. Several of these are potential cancer causing agents. We see THEM used in building materials, paint strippers, dry cleaning agents, in textiles, as refrigerants, grease removers, and flame-retardants. These chemicals ALSO have the potential to be in products you COMMONLY use and on things you touch. Exposure and risk depend on the frequency of contact and how the chemical is used. Painters, builders, home remodelers, AND dry cleaners should take all necessary precautions to reduce exposure and risk.