ChAMP "superseded": EPA shifts into action mode

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

A new entry showed up sometime in the last day on EPA's webpage for its ChAMP initiative.  It reads:  "The Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP) has been superseded by the comprehensive approach to enhancing the Agency’s current chemicals management program announced by Administrator Lisa Jackson on September 29, 2009."

Don't miss this bit at the top of the page:cobweb

Yes, that image is a cobweb, which EPA uses to designate archived web content.  What's happening here?

Lost in the buzz surrounding EPA Administrator Jackson's speech on Tuesday unveiling EPA's new TSCA reform principles was the fact that EPA simultaneously announced a rather sweeping set of changes to its current existing chemicals work aimed at "Enhancing EPA’s Chemical Management Program."

Now, as regular readers of this blog know, EDF has for some time been raising serious concerns with ChAMP.  To review:

  • We noted that, about 18 months ago, EPA had made an abrupt shift from developing hazard characterizations based on the hazard data sets submitted under the HPV Challenge, to cranking out "risk-based prioritizations" that were frequently designating high-hazard chemicals as being low-risk, based on poor and incomplete use and exposure information.
  • We also said EPA was, in the process, obscuring the significance of the data gaps and data quality problems remaining even in supposedly "final" industry data submissions.
  • Finally, we lamented the fact that the only "action" EPA was proposing to take even for the high-concern chemicals it identified under ChAMP was yet more testing and assessment – never getting to any risk mitigation.

So it 's quite heartening to see that EPA's enhancements directly address all of these problems:

  • EPA has returned the focus of its assessment activities to developing hazard characterizations for HPV chemicals, and just posted 100 of them in September.
  • EPA is to publish TSCA Section 4 test rules to tackle HPV Challenge chemical data gaps, not only for unsponsored "orphan" chemicals, but for "sponsored but unfulfilled chemicals."
  • In 2010, EPA will propose a significant revamping of its Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) rule to "make the reporting of chemical use information more transparent, more current, more useful, and more useable by the public."
  • And last but certainly not least, EPA will be taking on a slew of new "regulatory risk management actions" for old enemies like lead and mercury, and developing "chemical action plans" for some of the more recent arrivals on the toxic chemicals scene.  The initial list contains some bold entries:
    • Benzidine dyes and pigments
    • Bisphenol A (BPA)
    • Penta, octa, and decabromodiphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in products
    • Perfluorinated chemicals
    • Phthalates
    • Short-chain chlorinated paraffins

EPA says it "intends to utilize the full array of regulatory tools under TSCA to address risks, including authority to label, restrict, or ban chemicals under Section 6 of TSCA."

Now, I can just hear you saying, "But wait, how will this EPA overcome all of TSCA's hurdles, which you've prattled on about ad nauseum, Richard?"

Well, let me say two things to that.  First, bless their hearts for being willing to try.  Second, in addition to the inherent burdens imposed by TSCA, EPA has been stymied over the years by two other forces:

  • a massively burdensome executive branch process for regulatory development, and
  • a virtual guarantee that industry will challenge EPA's regulations at every opportunity.

So, this new EPA effort will be an interesting test, both for the new Administration's regulatory review process and for industry's new-found religion under which it has acknowledged that EPA needs to be able to exercise greater authority under TSCA.

One image immediately comes to mind; click here.

 

I can also hear you saying, "Gee, if EPA manages to pull this off, what's the need for TSCA reform?"

Again, two responses.  First, I'm in favor of any action EPA can take to reduce chemical risk, and the sooner the better, especially given it'll be some time before:  a) TSCA reform is adopted, and b) TSCA reform is implemented.

Second, as welcome as all this new stuff is, it's hardly the comprehensive approach that's needed.  That looks much more like this and this.

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