EPA Proposes Chemical Ban For The First Time in 27 Years

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed strict limits on a common degreasing chemical.

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The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed strict limits on a common degreasing chemical.

Just two weeks ago, the agency announced the first 10 chemicals it will review under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety For The 21st Century Act. Now the EPA is proposing a complete prohibition on one of the chemicals on that list: trichloroethylene (TCE).

TCE is a common chemical used as an aerosol degreaser and at dry cleaning facilities.

The EPA is basing its judgement on a 2014 assessment where it identified potential cancer and other health risks associated with exposure to the chemical in the long and short term.

The EPA is calling for a ban on manufacturing, processing and distribution of TCE in aerosol degreasing and spot cleaning applications. The Office of Management and Budget had already been reviewing plans for a prohibition on TCE in those applications, and is still considering proposed limits on the use of TCE in vapor degreasing.

The proposal also asks that manufacturers provide downstream notification their supply chain about the prohibition.

 “Once finalized, today's action will help protect consumers and workers from cancer and other serious health risks when they are exposed to aerosol degreasing, and when dry cleaners use spotting agents,” Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a statement.  

It’s the first time the EPA has asked for a ban on a chemical since 1989, when its proposed ban on asbestos was overturned in court. Analysts have said that this proposal on TCE will test how effective the new chemical laws will be.

Experts have noted that strong backlash within the industry could stall efforts to finalize the proposal. It’s also unclear what impact the Trump administration will have on the proposal, or if the incoming head of the EPA — Scott Pruitt — will be supportive of the EPA’s actions.

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