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1) June 8 [press release] -- EPA Proposes Ban on All Consumer and Many Commercial Uses of Perchloroethylene to Protect Public Health

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced another action to protect public health under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), proposing a ban on most uses of perchloroethylene (PCE), a chemical known to cause serious health risks such as neurotoxicity and cancer. Today’s proposal would protect people from these risks by banning all consumer uses while allowing for many industrial/commercial uses to continue only where strict workplace controls could be implemented, including uses related to national security, aviation and other critical infrastructure, and the Agency’s efforts to combat the climate crisis.

“We know that exposure to PCE is dangerous for people’s health, and today’s rule is an important first step to keeping communities and workers safe,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “We’ve proposed to ban the uses we know can’t continue safely, and we’ve made sure that stringent controls are in place to protect workers for the uses that remain.”

PCE is a solvent that is widely used for consumer uses such as brake cleaners and adhesives, commercial applications such as dry cleaning, and in many industrial settings. For example, PCE is used as a chemical intermediate in the production of two chemical substances regulated under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. This rule proposes to allow for continued processing of PCE to manufacture hydrofluorocarbons (HFC)-125 and HFC-134a in tandem with strict workplace controls, as the two can be mixed with other substances to make more climate-friendly refrigerants. Additionally, the rule proposes to continue to allow the industrial and commercial use of PCE in petrochemical manufacturing, the manufacture of coatings for aircraft skins, and vapor degreasing with PCE to make aerospace parts and engines, as examples of other uses not proposed for prohibition.

EPA determined that PCE presents unreasonable risk to health, driven by risks associated with exposure to the chemical by workers, occupational non-users (workers nearby but not in direct contact with this chemical), consumers, and those in close proximity to a consumer use. EPA identified risks for adverse human health effects, including neurotoxicity from inhalation and dermal exposures as well as cancer effects from chronic inhalation exposure. While EPA identified potential risks to fenceline communities in a small number of instances, the prohibitions and other requirements in EPA’s proposed rule are expected to mitigate to a great extent the potential risks to the neighboring communities.

EPA’s proposed risk management rule would rapidly phase down manufacturing, processing and distribution of PCE for all consumer uses and many industrial and commercial uses, most of which would be fully phased out in 24 months. The uses subject to the proposed prohibitions represent less than 20% of the annual production volume of PCE. For most of the uses of PCE that EPA is proposing to prohibit, EPA’s analysis also found that alternative products with similar costs and efficacy to PCE are reasonably available.

EPA is proposing a 10-year phaseout for the use of PCE in dry cleaning, with compliance dates depending on the type of machine in which PCE is used. The proposed phaseout of PCE in dry cleaning would eliminate unreasonable risk for people who work at or spend considerable time at dry cleaning facilities. This phaseout period would provide dry cleaners, many of which are small businesses, time to transition to an alternative process, and stakeholders have already noted an overall year-to-year decline in the use of PCE in dry cleaning. In addition, President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request proposed funding for new pollution prevention grants that would support small businesses with transitioning to TSCA compliant practices and mitigate economic impacts. If implemented, these grants could be used to support small businesses like dry cleaners in their transition away from PCE.

For the industrial manufacturing, industrial processing and other uses of PCE that EPA is not proposing to prohibit, EPA is proposing a workplace chemical protection program with a strict inhalation exposure limit and requirements to prevent skin exposure to ensure protection for workers. EPA has received data from industry that indicate many workplaces already have controls in place that may reduce exposures sufficient to meet the inhalation exposure limit in the proposed rule or to prevent direct skin contact with PCE.

EPA encourages members of the public to read and comment on the proposed rule. EPA is especially interested in hearing perspectives on the feasibility and efficacy of the proposed requirements for worker protections from entities that would be required to implement the proposed program and the timeline for the phaseout of PCE use in dry cleaning. In the coming weeks, EPA will host a public webinar targeted to employers and workers, but useful for anyone looking for an overview of the proposed regulatory action to discuss the proposed program.

Press release: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-proposes-ban-all-consumer-and-many-commercial-uses-perchloroethylene-protect

2) FRN: June 16 -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to address the unreasonable risk of injury to human health presented by perchloroethylene (PCE) under its conditions of use as documented in EPA's December 2020 Risk Evaluation for PCE and December 2022 revised risk determination for PCE prepared under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). PCE is a widely used solvent in a variety of occupational and consumer applications including fluorinated compound production, petroleum manufacturing, dry cleaning, and aerosol degreasing.

EPA determined that PCE presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health due to the significant adverse health effects associated with exposure to PCE, including neurotoxicity effects from acute and chronic inhalation exposures and dermal exposures, and cancer from chronic inhalation exposures to PCE. TSCA requires that EPA address by rule any unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment identified in a TSCA risk evaluation and apply requirements to the extent necessary so the chemical no longer presents unreasonable risk. PCE, also known as perc and tetrachloroethylene, is a neurotoxicant and a likely human carcinogen. Neurotoxicity, in particular impaired visual and cognitive function and diminished color discrimination, are the most sensitive adverse effects driving the unreasonable risk of PCE, and other adverse effects associated with exposure include central nervous system depression, kidney and liver effects, immune system toxicity, developmental toxicity, and cancer.

To address the identified unreasonable risk, EPA is proposing to prohibit most industrial and commercial uses of PCE; the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of PCE for the prohibited industrial and commercial uses; the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of PCE for all consumer use; and, the manufacture (including import), processing, distribution in commerce, and use of PCE in dry cleaning and related spot cleaning through a 10-year phaseout. For certain conditions of use that would not be subject to a prohibition, EPA is also proposing to require a PCE workplace chemical protection program that includes requirements to meet an inhalation exposure concentration limit and prevent direct dermal contact. EPA is also proposing to require prescriptive workplace controls for laboratory use, and to establish recordkeeping and downstream notification requirements. Additionally, EPA proposes to provide certain time-limited exemptions from requirements for certain critical or essential emergency uses of PCE for which no technically and economically feasible safer alternative is available.

Comments must be received on or before August 15, 2023.
Risk Evaluation for Perchloroethylene (PCE): https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/risk-evaluation-perchloroethylene-pce
Risk Mgt for PCE: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/risk-management-perchloroethylene-pce
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-12495 [72 pages]

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