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After Extensive Analysis, EPA Removes Chemicals from Lists of Regulated Pollutants

Release Date: 11/18/2004
Contact Information:


Cynthia Bergman 202-564-9828 / bergman.cynthia@epa.gov
John Millett 202-564-7842 / millett.john@epa.gov


(Washington, D.C. – November 18, 2004) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized several actions that will create incentives for industry to use solvents that are less toxic and may help decrease the formation of ground-level ozone or smog. Each of these actions is based on extensive scientific and technical review over a period of years. These reviews concluded that the chemicals pose less risk than previously thought and that reclassifying them would not compromise public health, and may even benefit public health if they are substituted for more toxic or environmentally damaging chemicals.

Under the authority of the Clean Air Act, EPA has delisted or exempted six chemicals: the solvent ethylene glycol mono-butyl ether (EGBE) has been removed from the list of air toxics (also known as hazardous air pollutants) and the chemical t-butyl acetate (TBAC) and four others exempted from control as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Delisting an air toxic is a rigorous process, involving independent scientific peer review, to demonstrate there are adequate data to determine that emissions may not reasonably be anticipated to cause adverse effects. Public comment was received and considered in making this determination. EPA last delisted an air toxic (caprolactam) in 1996. [Note: The air toxic EGBE being delisted today remains regulated as a VOC and therefore will continue to be reported in the Toxics Release Inventory.]

Exempting a VOC requires a demonstration that the compound is negligibly reactive, meaning the compound forms less ground-level ozone than ethane. EPA has exempted 48 VOCs since 1977.

EGBE Delisting: EGBE is used in hydraulic fluids and in water-based coatings for various industries including metal can manufacturers. It is also used in varnishes, vinyl and acrylic paints, and as a solvent for varnishes, enamels, spray lacquers, dry cleaning compounds, textiles and cosmetics. EPA received a petition in 1997 from the American Chemistry Council to delist EGBE. After extensively reviewing the levels of EGBE in the air and the health and environmental impacts associated with those levels, EPA has concluded that potential outdoor exposures to EGBE may not reasonably be anticipated to cause human health or environmental problems. This action follows two detailed reviews on the sufficiency and technical merit of a 1997 petition to remove EGBE from the list. Although EGBE use (and, therefore, emissions) may increase as a result of this action, this action creates incentives for industry to use EGBE instead of other more toxic solvents. Firms must still report EGBE under the Toxics Release Inventory and EPA will continue to regulate it as a VOC.

TBAC Exemption: TBAC is a chemical that is currently used to make pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and other products and that also can be used as a solvent in a variety of applications. EPA received a petition from Lyondell Chemical (formerly ARCO Chemical) in 1997 asking EPA to consider excluding TBAC from the VOC definition. After extensive review, EPA has determined that TBAC meets the criteria used to define a compound as “negligibly reactive.” Exclusion of this compound as a VOC will help states focus on controlling emissions of those pollutants that are demonstrated to be ozone precursors. In addition, a number of manufacturers of paints, inks, and adhesives have indicated that if TBAC were excluded from regulation as a VOC, they would use it in their products in place of other compounds that are as much as 20 to 30 times more likely to form ground-level ozone, or smog. Such substitutions will help decrease ground-level ozone formation, generating public health benefits.

Additional Compounds: EPA is excluding HFE-7000, HFE-7500, HFC 227ea and methyl formate from control as VOCs. These compounds, which are used as refrigerants, fire suppressants, and propellants, contribute little or nothing to ground-level ozone formation. All four of these compounds are environmentally preferable substitutes for CFCs and HCFCs, which contribute to the destruction of Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer.

In a separate action, EPA is taking phosmet off the “Extremely Hazardous Substance” (EHS) list under section 302 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) and will no longer be subject to reporting requirements under that section (e.g. notifying their State Emergency Response Commission and Local Emergency Planning Committee that they are subject to the emergency planning provisions of EPCRA section 302 for the chemical phosmet). Phosmet is a non-systemic organophosphate insecticide used for agricultural crop protection of fruit, nut and certain field crops. Phosmet is still a “hazardous chemical” under section 311 and 312 requirements, except when it is used in routine agricultural operations, such as a pesticide applied on crops. Therefore, facilities that process or distribute phosmet would still be subject to EPCRA section 311 and 312 reporting requirements (inventory and material safety data sheets) if they have phosmet present in amounts equal to or greater than 10,000 pounds. This action does not alter EPA’s ongoing regulation of phosmet under the Agency’s existing pesticide regulatory program. Forty-six chemicals have been deleted from the list since its inception because they did not meet the toxicity criteria.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

EBGE: Copies of the original petition and its supporting information are available for public inspection and copying at the following address: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Air and Radiation Docket and Information Center (6102), 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460. For further information including the final rule and the Federal Register notice once published, go to EPA’s web site at: http://www.epa.gov/airlinks/airlinks1.html .

TBAC: Interested parties can download the rule from the EPA’s web site on the Internet under “recent actions” at the following address: http://www.epa.gov/airlinks/airlinks1.html .

Additional Compounds: Interested parties can download the final rule from EPA’s web site on the Internet under “recent actions” at the following address: http://www.epa.gov/airlinks/airlinks1.html .

Phosmet: For more information on phosmet, go to: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/op/phosmet.htm . For information on the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, go to: http://yosemite.epa.gov/oswer/ceppoweb.nsf/content/epcraOverview.htm .