Beveridge & Diamond

EPA, Industry Propose New Prioritization Scheme for Chemicals of Concern

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., September 12, 2011

As part of its efforts to “enhance” management of chemicals under its current Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) authority, EPA is shifting from its “Chemical Action Plans” to a new program for identifying priority chemicals.  While the Chemical Action Plans will continue to be operative for the chemicals for which they have already been issued,1 EPA announced in mid-August that it is seeking comment on a new approach to chemical prioritization.2 

As a mechanism for gathering input from stakeholders and the public on the new approach, EPA held a well-attended webinar and lively discussion forum on September 7, 2011.  It has also opened an online discussion forum, which will remain open for comment through September 14, 2011.3  A number of comments have already been added.  Once the online discussion forum closes, EPA will place discussion forum comments to docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2011-0516.  At the webinar, the Director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, indicated that the prioritization process will be implemented and a first slate of chemicals will be identified by the end of 2011. 

EPA’s Discussion Guide identifies a two-step process.  First, in Step 1, EPA will identify an initial group of roughly a few hundred priority chemicals for review by using a specific set of data sources to identify chemicals that meet the priority factors.  EPA has tentatively identified the following prioritization factors:

  • Chemicals identified as potentially of concern for children’s health (e.g., chemicals with reproductive or developmental effects).
  • Chemicals identified as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT).
  • Chemicals identified as probable or known carcinogens.
  • Chemicals used in children’s products.
  • Chemicals used in consumer products.
  • Chemicals detected in biomonitoring programs.

EPA is also seeking comment on potential data sources, which include such sources as EPA’s own data (e.g. Toxic Release Inventory, Integrated Risk Information System) and data and designations from other federal and state agencies.  However, EPA’s Tox21 and ToxCast scientific initiatives, which are specifically oriented toward screening and prioritization of chemicals, are not mentioned.  Moreover, except for Canada’s categorization of chemicals under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999, there is rather little attention to chemicals categorization outside the United States, even in the European Union which has been implementing its Regulation on Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemical Substances (REACH) for several years.  Webinar and online comments appear already divided with respect to the degree to which Canada’s program, in particular, should be a model or a data source. 

The second step would further narrow the set of chemicals based on additional exposure and hazard data sources for further assessment and possible risk management action.  EPA is seeking comment on the data sources for Step 2, as well as any other relevant program elements.

Among the comments provided at the webinar and on the online discussion forum were references to an industry-led prioritization program initiative intended as a supplement to EPA’s proposal.  The American Chemistry Council (“ACC”) released its more detailed prioritization tool the day before EPA’s webinar.4  ACC’s approach would screen chemicals first on the basis of enumerated human health and environmental hazard potential and exposure potential criteria to arrive at initial overall priority groupings.  Second tier considerations within priority groupings would then factor in, for example, biomonitoring data and use in children’s products (which in EPA’s approach are used in Step 1). 

For more information on approaches to prioritization of chemicals under TSCA, please contact Mark Duvall, 202-789-6090,, or Andie Wyatt, 202-789-6086,

For a printable PDF of this article, please click here.

1 See Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., TSCA Developments in Congress and at EPA (Aug. 11, 2011),; EPA, Existing Chemical Action Plans,

2 EPA, Identifying Priority Chemicals for Review,

3 EPA, Discussion Forum: Identifying Priority Chemicals for Review and Assessment,

4 ACC Press Release, ACC Proposes New System to Prioritize Chemicals for Review; Transparent and Scientifically-Sound Process is Key to Successfully Updating TSCA (Sep. 7, 2011),  The briefing document for ACC’s prioritization tool is available at   




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