Should EPA grant industry’s hypocritical request to now address 1,4-dioxane’s risks as a byproduct, it must meet a number of conditions

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

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) submitted extensive comments last week to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that raise numerous serious concerns with EPA’s draft risk evaluation for the likely human carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.  EDF’s comments are available here.

I want to use this post to highlight one of the many issues:  For years, the industry has urged EPA not to include 1,4-dioxane’s presence as a byproduct in various formulated products within the scope of its risk evaluation for the chemical; see comments specific to 1,4-dioxane from the American Cleaning Institute, Procter & Gamble, and the Household & Commercial Products Association; and more general comments urging exclusions for byproducts and “trace levels” from the American Chemistry Council and the Consumer Specialty Products Association Comment.

Not surprisingly, the Trump EPA’s draft risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane did just that, a major problem EDF objected to on legal and scientific grounds.

Then in late July, the industry abruptly reversed itself.  A comment letter submitted to EPA by the American Cleaning Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association says the industry has changed its mind and is now calling on EPA to include 1,4-dioxane’s presence as a byproduct as a condition of use in its risk evaluation.

Why the shift?  At this late hour it has dawned on the industry groups that any final action by the agency on the chemical that excludes 1,4-dioxane’s presence as a byproduct as a condition of use in its risk evaluation will not preempt states from acting to regulate this condition of use.

The industry’s hypocrisy aside, if EPA decides to grant this industry request, which has arrived long after EPA initiated the risk evaluation process, EPA should do so only subject to conditions that are critical to meet if its decision and risk evaluation are to maintain any semblance of credibility:

  • EPA needs to use its mandatory information authorities to require the submission and development of relevant information on the presence of 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct in industrial, commercial and consumer materials and products, as input into a revised draft risk evaluation.
  • EPA must promptly make all such information it receives public, subject only to redactions of information claimed confidential by the submitters that EPA determines meet all applicable requirements of TSCA section 14. It should be noted that much of the relevant information will constitute health and safety information that is not eligible for protection under section 14 and must be made public.
  • EPA needs to carefully and thoroughly develop and fully integrate an analysis of the potential exposures and risks arising from the presence of 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct into all aspects of its risk evaluation, given that inclusion of the presence of 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct will affect all of the exposure and risk estimates EPA has examined in the current draft risk evaluation.
  • EPA must publish a revised draft risk evaluation for public comment, providing the public with ample time to review the new draft and develop meaningful comments.
  • EPA must subject its revised draft risk evaluation to full peer review by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), providing the committee with ample time to review the new draft and develop meaningful comments.

Any credible evaluation of the contribution to 1,4-dioxane’s overall health and environmental risks due to its presence as a byproduct must be based on complete, reliable information that is publicly accessible, and must reflect input from both the public and expert peer reviewers.  For EPA to do anything less will simply cast yet more doubt on its trustworthiness and independence from industry interests.


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