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Children's Health Protection

EPA Response To CHPAC Report


[FRL-6228-7]

Response to Recommendations from the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee Regarding Evaluation of Existing Environmental Standards

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: EPA asked the federal Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) to recommend five existing standards that may merit reevaluation in order to further protect children's environmental health. This document includes EPA's response to the CHPAC recommendations. EPA will reevaluate the chloralkali National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (mercury); the implementation and enforcement of the (Farm) Worker Protection Standards; pesticide tolerances for organophosphates (chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, methyl parathion); atrazine pesticide tolerances and Maximum Contaminant Level in drinking water; and will review indoor and ambient air quality as they relate to asthma. EPA's decision to reevaluate is based in large part on recommendations from the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee and public comments in response to a Federal Register document of October 3, 1997.

In September 1996, EPA issued a report on Environmental Health Threats to Children (EPA 175-F-96-001) that described how and why children are affected by an array of complex environmental threats to their health. The report included a National Agenda to Protect Children's Health from Environmental Threats in which EPA called for a national commitment to ensure a healthy future for our children. We called on national, state and local policy makers -- as well as each community and family -- to learn about the environmental threats our children face; to participate in an informed national policy debate on how together we can best reduce health risks for children; and to take action to protect our Nations's future by protecting our children.

The first element of the National Agenda committed the Administration to ". . . ensure, as a matter of national policy, that all standards EPA sets are protective enough to address the potentially heightened risks faced by children -- so as to prevent environmental health threats wherever possible -- and that the most significant current standards be reevaluated as we learn more." We further state that " . . . EPA will select -- with public input and scientific peer review -- five of its most significant public health and environmental standards to reissue on an expedited basis under this new policy."

BACKGROUND: In order to meet our commitment to public input, EPA sought advice through two channels: formal notice and comment, and the formation of a Federal Advisory Committee composed of individuals representing diverse viewpoints. On October 3, 1997, EPA issued a document and request for comments from the public as to existing EPA standards that, if revised as a result of review and evaluation, would strengthen and increase children's environmental health protection. EPA received comments from 18 individuals and organizations. (Attachment A to this document includes the list of submitters, a summary of the comments, and EPA's response to the public comments.) Further, on September 9, 1997, EPA issued a document in the Federal Register that it had established a Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Public Law 92-463, to advise the Administrator on various issues of children's environmental health protection.

One of the first actions undertaken by the CHPAC, at the request of EPA, was to develop a set of recommendations to the Administrator concerning which existing rules EPA should reevaluate. They started by reviewing the public comments that were submitted in response to the October 3, 1997, Federal Register document. Based on extensive deliberations the CHPAC submitted their recommendations in a consensus report dated May 28, 1998. (See Attachment B for the selection criteria used by the CHPAC in their deliberations.) The following section lists the CHPAC recommendations, excerpts the discussion that accompanied the recommendations in the report (in italics), and outlines EPA's response.

We congratulate the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee for their success in deliberating and recommending actions to improve EPA's regulations. We believe that EPA's response to these recommendations advances our goal to better protect our Nation's children.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: If you have a need for further information you may write to Meg Kelly, Office of Children's Health Protection, USEPA (MS1107), 401 M Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20460; (kelly.margaret@epa.gov).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

CHPAC Recommendation: Reevaluate the National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Chloralkali Plants

CHPAC Report Discussion: "The CHPAC recommends that EPA take a holistic approach to evaluate all sources of mercury emissions. Mercury is a relevant issue to more than one media (air, water), which contributes to its entry into the environment, for example, by electricity (coal-burning) generation, incineration and discharge into water sources. Human exposure occurs primarily through fish consumption. Mercury exposure is associated with adverse health effects in humans. Depending on dose, the effects can range from severe to less severe, most notably, neurological, developmental, and reproductive effects.

By the end of 1998, EPA is scheduled to complete a multimedia strategy addressing mercury. We support EPA's multimedia approach and schedule for the issuance of this strategy.

We encourage EPA to proceed diligently with implementation to protect children from mercury emissions, including those from municipal, medical, and hazardous waste combustion.

Although the CHPAC selected the National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for chloralkali plants for reevaluation, EPA resources should not be diverted from the evaluation of other larger sources of mercury emission. Important criteria for its selection are that the standard has not been re-evaluated or revised since its promulgation in 1973, children's health was not considered in the original development of the standard, and new information and data based on peer reviewed science suggest that risks to children and the persistent and bioaccumulative nature of mercury were not considered during the setting of the standard.

The CHPAC recognizes the Water Quality Criteria Standard as one means by which the EPA can regulate the prevention of contaminated fish by mercury and ensure children's protection from hazardous levels of mercury. The CHPAC recommends that EPA address the largest sources of mercury emissions expeditiously and prevent further contamination of fish by revising the Water Quality Criteria Standard. Studies have shown that once mercury enters water, either directly or through air deposition, it can bioaccumulate in fish and animal tissue at the top of the food chain in concentrations much greater than those found in water.

Another specific concern is the emission of mercury from electric (coal-burning) utility boilers (regulatory determination by the EPA is due in November 1998). Important criteria for its selection are that there is currently no regulation of hazardous air pollutant emissions, such as mercury, from electric utility boilers, and electric utility boilers are the largest contributor of overall anthropogenic sources of mercury emissions in the United States (EPA Mercury Report to Congress 1997)."

EPA's Response: EPA agrees with the CHPAC recommendation that the NESHAP for chloralkali plants be revisited and has begun a process to revise this standard. A proposed rule will include emissions limits based on control technology and on management practices. EPA projects a proposal date of November 1999, and expects to issue a final standard in November 2000. In order to ensure protection of children, the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) will analyze the risk from chloralkali plants to support the rule making -- an unusual step for a technology-based standard. However, OAR believes the risk assessment will provide us with information on potential children's risks that is important to determining the appropriate level of the standard. Results of the risk analysis may be used to justify setting a standard more stringent than the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) floor, but any standard set will be no less stringent than the floor.

Discussion: On November 16, 1998, EPA issued a draft Multimedia Strategy for Priority Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic Pollutants (http://www.EPA.gov/pbt/strategy.htm). This strategy includes a multifaceted draft Action Plan for Mercury. EPA believes that this action plan addresses the concerns expressed by the CHPAC in their report. It recognizes the multimedia threat posed by methyl mercury -- the compound to which mercury is transformed through natural environmental processes -- and the need to control human exposure to methyl mercury, through multiple concerted approaches targeted at air, water, sediment and land. Further, EPA is proposing additional reporting of mercury releases under the Toxic Release Inventory to improve citizens' right to know about releases in their environment.

EPA has taken several important steps to reduce the levels of mercury, including reducing emissions from municipal waste combustors and medical waste incinerators. These combined actions, once fully implemented (December 2000 for municipal waste combustors; September 2002 for medical waste incinerators) will reduce mercury emissions caused by human activities by 50% from 1990 levels. EPA also entered into a partnership with the American Hospital Association whose goal is to virtually eliminate hospital mercury waste by the year 2005.

Further, final regulations for hazardous waste combustion facilities (incinerators, cement kilns, lightweight aggregate kilns) are expected to be promulgated in February 1999. The EPA is responding to extensive public comment including new emissions data and comments on the methodology used to estimate mercury emissions.


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