EPA proposal would ‘strengthen’ chemical risk evaluations


Photo: jimfeng/iStockphoto

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency wants to expand the scope of chemical risk evaluation policies under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.

EPA published a proposed rule on Oct. 30 that would allow the agency to codify various changes incorporated when it retooled the chemical risk evaluation process in 2021, including:

  • Using a “whole substance” approach – which requires risk evaluations to culminate in a single determination of whether the chemical presents unreasonable risk – when determining whether the public is protected from unreasonable risks from chemicals.
  • Expanding consideration of exposure pathways.

Additional amendments would:

  • Make clarifications to ensure EPA risk evaluations appropriately consider risks to workers.
  • Eliminate consideration of exposure reduction based on workers’ assumed use of personal protective equipment.

“Providing workers and communities with meaningful protections from toxic chemical exposures has to be grounded in sound science,” Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator of the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a press release. “This rule will strengthen our chemical risk evaluations, which will in turn lead to more protective rules for workers and communities.”

As required under the TSCA – which the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act amended – EPA must address risks by proposing within one year regulatory actions such as training, certification, restricted access and/or ban of commercial use, and then accept public comment on any proposals.

Comments are due Dec. 14.

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Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

OSHA announces preparation meeting for UN Sub-Committee on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, Nov. 15

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Transportation will hold a joint, online meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 15 in advance of the United Nations’ Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

The meeting will be held in two parts for the convenience of attendees. From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST, the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will open the meeting and invite comments in advance of the U.N.’s 63rd session on the transport of dangerous goods.

At 1 p.m. EST, OSHA will solicit public input in advance of the U.N.’s 45th session on the handling and use of hazardous chemicals.

Comments and other information gathered in these meetings will be considered in development of the positions of the U.S. government regarding proposals submitted by countries represented on the sub-committee.

Register to receive directions for online participation.

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Original article published by OSHA

OSHA proposal to update hazcom standard under White House review

GHS Labels

Photo: ArtboyAnimation/iStockphoto

Washington — An update to OSHA’s standard on hazard communication is undergoing a final review, according to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website.

The final rule was sent to OIRA on Oct. 11. It’s unknown how long the office will take to complete the review – one of the final steps in the regulatory process.

OSHA is seeking to align the hazcom standard (1910.1200) to the seventh revision of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, also known as GHS. The current standard is linked to the third revision of GHS, an update that occurred in 2012.

January 2021 slideshow details OSHA’s proposed changes, which include:

  • Additional clarification of existing regulatory requirements.
  • Incorporating new hazard classes and categories.
  • Improving and streamlining precautionary statements.
  • Increased alignment with other countries, helping facilitate international trade.

Some of the proposed changes cover Appendices A-D. Appendix A would have revised health hazard definitions, including updated chapters on skin corrosion/irritation and serious eye damage/eye irritation.

OSHA notes that, in Appendix B, the flammable gases category 1 “was extremely broad” and essentially covered all flammable gases. In some instances, that led to employers choosing chemicals with higher risks.

Pyrophoric and unstable gases would be placed under category 1A, under the final rule. Appendix B also is expected to include a new chapter on desensitized explosives and “better differentiation between aerosols and gases under pressure.”

In the final rule, Appendix C could contain updated guidance and precautionary statement clarifications on aerosols, desensitized explosives and flammable gases.

Changes to two sections in Appendix D, on Safety Data Sheets, are proposed. Section 9 (physical and chemical properties) would include particle size, and Section 11 would include interactive effects and the use of “SAR/QSAR/read across.”

The final rule may also potentially fix issues with release for shipment, small packages labeling and SDS preparation.

“OSHA expects the HCS update will increase worker protections and reduce the incidence of chemical-related occupational illnesses and injuries by further improving the information on the labels and Safety Data Sheets for hazardous chemicals,” the agency stated when it issued the proposed rule in February 2021. “Proposed modifications will also address issues since implementation of the 2012 standard and improve alignment with other federal agencies and Canada.”

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Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

CSB Issues New Safety Alert Focused on the Potential Hazards of Emergency Discharges from Pressure Release Valves

Original article published by CSB
safety alert

Photo property of CSB

Washington, D.C. March 6, 2023 – Today, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) issued a new Safety Alert titled “Hazards Posed by Discharges from Emergency Pressure-Relief Systems.” The CSB’s alert highlights hazards identified with emergency pressure-relief systems from four CSB investigations.  The alert advises facilities that while a discharge from emergency pressure-relief systems can help protect equipment from unexpected and undesired high-pressure events, it can also seriously harm or fatally injure workers and cause extensive damage to a facility if the discharge is not made to a safe location.

CSB Chairperson Steve Owens said, “All four of the incidents highlighted in the CSB’s safety alert underscore the importance of thoroughly evaluating emergency pressure-relief systems to ensure they discharge to a safe location where they will not harm people.”

The four incidents highlighted in the CSB’s safety alert resulted in 19 deaths and 207 injuries. They include:

  • On May 19, 2018, an ethylene release ignited, injuring 23 workers at the Kuraray America, Inc. ethylene and vinyl alcohol copolymer plant in Pasadena, Texas. The CSB’s animation of this event shows how this incident occurred during the startup of a chemical reactor system following a turnaround. High-pressure conditions developed inside the reactor and activated the reactor’s emergency pressure relief system, discharging flammable ethylene vapor horizontally into the ambient air in an area where a number of contractors were working.
  • On November 15, 2014, approximately 24,000 pounds of highly toxic methyl mercaptan were released from an insecticide production unit at the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) chemical manufacturing facility in La Porte, Texas. The release fatally injured three operators and a shift supervisor inside a manufacturing building. During the early phases of the investigation, CSB investigators identified a number of worker safety issues—separate from the release scenario— including that several emergency pressure-relief systems at the facility were designed to discharge hazardous materials in a way that posed a risk to workers and the public.
  • On May 4, 2009, highly flammable vapor released from a waste recycling process, ignited, and violently exploded at Veolia ES Technical Solutions, LLC, in West Carrollton, Ohio. The incident injured four employees, two seriously.  Following the initial explosion, multiple other explosions occurred that t significantly damaged every structure on the site. Residences and businesses in the surrounding community also sustained considerable damage. The CSB concluded that uncontrolled venting from emergency pressure-relief valves to the atmosphere allowed tetrahydrofuran (THF) vapors to accumulate to explosive concentrations outside process equipment, and the vapors subsequently found an ignition source.

OSHA, pipeline safety agency seek input for UN meetings on GHS, transport of hazardous goods

Original article published by Safety + Health

Washington — OSHA has scheduled a virtual public meeting for Nov. 16 in advance of the 43rd session of the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

In a notice published in the Oct. 24 Federal Register, OSHA requests information and comments as the federal government prepares for the UNSCEGHS meeting – set for Dec. 7-9 in Geneva, Switzerland.

OSHA, along with the U.S. Interagency Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) Coordinating Group, “plans to consider the comments and information gathered at this public meeting when developing the U.S. government positions for the UNSCEGHS meeting.”

OSHA’s meeting will take place in conjunction with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s discussion of proposals ahead of the 61st session of the UN Sub-Committee on Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, set for Nov. 28-Dec. 6.

Comments must be submitted by Dec. 6.

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EPA final rule sets reporting requirements for 50 chemicals

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final rule that requires anyone who manufactures or imports 50 specified chemicals to report to the agency “certain lists and copies of unpublished health and safety studies” undertaken within the past decade.

This action is being taken, according to EPA, because the Interagency Testing Committee – established under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 – has added the substances to its Priority Testing List. The chemical substances subject to the rule include 20 chemicals EPA has designated as high-priority substances for risk evaluation under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, as well as 30 organohalogen flame retardants the Consumer Product Safety Commission is evaluating for risks under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act of 1960.

Under the rule, published in the June 29 Federal Register and slated to go into effect July 29, manufacturers and importers must submit:

  • Lists and copies of unpublished health and safety studies on health effects, such as toxicity studies on carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental effects, genotoxicity, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and endocrine effects
  • All unpublished studies on environmental effects, environmental fate and physical chemical properties if performed as described in 40 CFR 716.50
  • All unpublished studies on occupational (both users and nonusers), general population, consumer and environmental exposure
  • Studies showing any measurable content of the specified chemical in the tested substance, whether single substances or a mixture; the composition and purity of test substances must be reported if included as part of the study

Additionally, the rule is applicable to anyone who intends to manufacture or import the specified chemicals within 90 days of the EPA notice.

The 20 high-priority chemicals are separate from the first 10 chemicals being evaluated for potential health and environmental risks under the Lautenberg Act. The former group of chemicals includes:

  • Seven chlorinated solvents
  • Six phthalates, or hormone-disrupting substances, linked to several health issues
  • Four flame retardants
  • Formaldehyde
  • One fragrance additive
  • One polymer precursor

Requests to withdraw chemical substances from the final rule are due July 13. The requested information is due Sept. 27.

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EPA publishes final risk evaluation for methylene chloride


Photo: California Department of Public Health

Washington — Methylene chloride poses “unreasonable risk” to workers under certain conditions, according to a final risk evaluation recently released by the Environmental Protection Agency, which now is compelled to propose within one year regulatory action to mitigate the chemical’s hazards.

Frequently used for bathtub refinishing, methylene chloride is among the first 10 chemicals under evaluation for potential health and environmental risks under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. In 2014, EPA found that exposure to the chemical may cause cancer, harm to the central nervous system and toxicity to the liver, among other adverse health effects.

The final evaluation, published June 19, is the first to be released for the 10 chemicals. Announced via a notice published in the June 24 Federal Register, the document states methylene chloride poses unreasonable risk to workers involved in numerous operations, including:

  • Plastic and rubber manufacturing
  • Electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing
  • Oil and gas drilling, extraction and support activities
  • Adhesive/caulk removal
  • Cold pipe insulation
  • Aerosol and non-aerosol degreasing and cleaning

Additionally, EPA determined an unreasonable risk is not present during the following conditions of use:

  • Domestic manufacture
  • Processing as a reactant
  • Recycling
  • Distribution in commerce
  • Industrial and commercial use as a laboratory chemical
  • Disposal

As required under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which the Lautenberg Act amended, EPA must address risks by proposing within one year regulatory actions such as training, certification, restricted access, and/or ban of commercial use, and then accept public comment on any proposals.

“Releasing the first final risk evaluation marks a key milestone in our efforts to fulfill our responsibilities for ensuring the safety of chemicals already on the market,” Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution, said in a June 19 press release. “By following the TSCA process, we can have confidence in our final conclusions and move forward with developing a plan to protect the public from any unreasonable risks.”

In March 2019, EPA published a final rule that prohibits manufacture (including import), processing and distribution of the substance in paint removers for consumer use, as well as requires manufacturers, processors and distributors to notify retailers and others in the supply chain about the ban.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in the release that the action “builds on last year’s ban on consumer sales of certain methylene chloride products and will guide the agency’s efforts to further reduce risks from this chemical.”

Liz Hitchcock, director of the Washington-based advocacy group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, called on the agency to expedite its regulatory actions, contending in a June 19 statement that “the longer EPA drags its feet, the more lives will be lost.” According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, at least 64 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride since 1980.

“The time for study and talk is long past,” Hitchcock’s statement reads. “EPA should take immediate action on the danger it has once again recognized in this risk evaluation and finish the job to protect workers. The agency must immediately finalize its proposed ban on commercial use of these products. To wait any longer to protect workers from these dangerous products when EPA has the ability to ban them now is unconscionable and will result in more preventable deaths.”

In April 2019, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families was part of a coalition of groups representing worker rights that filed a lawsuit against EPA and Wheeler for excluding workers in the final rule.

EPA previously solicited comments on problem formation documents for the first 10 chemicals before releasing its first draft risk evaluation – for Pigment Violet 29 – in November 2018. The agency released its draft risk evaluation for methylene chloride in October.

EPA says it plans to release final risk evaluations for the remaining nine of the first 10 chemicals by the end of the year.

Preparing chemical facilities for extreme weather events: CSB releases safety alert, video

Photo: Chemical Safety Board

Washington — The Chemical Safety Board has published a safety alert and video intended to help hazardous chemical facilities prepare for hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

Announced in a June 23 press release, the safety alert and five-minute video include highlights from a Center for Chemical Process Safety guidance document. Assessment of and Planning for Natural Hazards, published in October, was developed after CSB’s investigation into an August 2017 incident at an Arkema Inc. chemical plant in Crosby, TX.

After flooding from Hurricane Harvey caused an evacuation of the facility, organic peroxide products stored inside a formerly refrigerated trailer decomposed and caught fire, releasing dangerous fumes and smoke into the air. Officials initially chose to keep a nearby highway open and, as a result, 21 people needed medical attention for exposure to hazardous fumes. More than 200 residents living nearby were later evacuated and could not return home for a week.

CSB found “a significant lack of industry guidance on planning for flooding or other severe weather events” despite an increase in flooding throughout the United States in recent years.

“Some experts predict this trend will continue,” CSB Chair and CEO Katherine Lemos says in the video. “The incident at Arkema is not an anomaly.

“When analyzing safety hazards at a facility, companies are not specifically required to consider the risks of extreme weather. For this reason, I’m concerned that other companies may not be aware of the potential for flooding to create process safety hazards.”