The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is exercising their new authority under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the outdated (and ineffective) Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). EPA named the first ten priority chemicals for assessment and is tasked with evaluating these chemicals to ensure there is not an unreasonable risk of injury to health.  In determining risk, EPA is required to consider vulnerable populations including: workers, infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly.

WEC is highlighting the chemicals in a series of blog posts with information on how to make your voice heard and tell your story about chemical exposure.

Chemical Two of Ten:  1-Bromopropane (a.k.a. n-Propyl Bromide, 1-BP)

One of the most common uses of this chemical is a spray adhesive. It is used in workplaces that make foam cushions, fiber products, seat cushions, laminated products, and furniture.  Workers who are exposed to it may feel drunk, get a headache, or feel unusually nervous. Workers can also develop numbing in their hands and feet, tremors, and walking with a limp. Besides these neurological problems, this chemical is suspected to be a carcinogen and may cause reproductive disorders.

1-BP is also used as a degreaser for cleaning metals and plastics. Workers who make and repair electronics and computers, for example, may be exposed to it when they clean circuit boards. Workers employed in automotive and aerospace manufacturing may be exposed to 1-BP if it is used in their workplace as a degreaser.  Some dry cleaners, both industrial and neighborhood, may have switched from using TCE or PERC and now use 1-BP instead for spot cleaning.

In 2015, EPA published a final rule that added 1-Bromopropane to the Toxic Release Inventory list of reportable chemicals. It has been classified as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program.

1-BP also may be referred to as n-propyl bromide, and is identified by its Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 106-94-5.

Chemical Three of Ten: 1,4-Dioxane

1,4-Dioxane is used as a solvent for paint, varnishes, waxes. polishes and other finishes. It is also used to make inks, adhesives and coatings and in the production of animal and vegetable oils. 1,4-Dioxane also shows up as a contaminant in the manufacture of personal care products and cosmetics.

1,4-Dioxane harms the liver, kidneys, nose, brain and nervous system. Headaches, increases in blood pressure, agitation, coma, tumors and other forms of cancer, damage to the tissue inside the nose, and damage to the liver and kidney can be caused by 1,4-Dioxane.

According to Environmental Working Group, the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane contaminates up to 46% of personal care products tested (OCA 2008, EWG 2008). 1,4-Dioxane may be a contaminant in certain ingredients used in cosmetics, detergents, shampoos, and some pharmaceuticals. 1,4-Dioxane is not intentionally added, but may occur as an unintentional byproduct in some ingredients that may be listed on the product label, including:
• PEG
• polyethylene
• polyethylene glycol
• polyoxyethylene
• -eth
• -oxynol

Chemical Four of Ten: Carbon Tetrachloride

In the past, carbon tetrachloride was widely used as a spot removing, degreasing cleaning fluid in industry, dry cleaners and homes. Carbon tetrachloride was also used in fire extinguishers and as a fumigant to kill insects in grain. Most of these uses were discontinued in the mid-1960s. Carbon tetrachloride was also used as a pesticide until 1986. The chemical is still used in the manufacturing of chemicals and rubber.

Carbon tetrachloride is a poison. It also causes skin irritation and may cause drowsiness or dizziness, serious eye irritation and an allergic skin reaction.  This chemical probably causes cancer, and is suspected of damaging fertility, or impeding the ability to have a healthy child.

Make Your Voice Heard

EPA is soliciting public comments on the hazards of 1-Bromopropane, 1,4 Dioxane and carbon tetrachloride. Maybe now more than ever, with the impending appointment of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, it’s important that we submit our stories to make known the harmful effects of these chemicals on public health.

Do you have a story about exposure to these chemicals you want to share with the EPA? There are two ways to do it:

For Worker Exposure Stories:

WEC is working with national partners, including the United Steelworkers, BlueGreen Alliance, and National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, to solicit in an effort to collect first-hand accounts from worker​s or unions representing workers either producing or using these chemicals.

Examples of useful data include: worker and union direct testimony, published studies, government data, medical and workers’ compensation records, and any other documentation that illustrates the occupational uses, exposures, and health impacts of these chemicals.

Our partners have developed an online questionnaire to collect this data. Participation in the questionnaire can be anonymous and the deadline to participate is Friday, February 24, 2017.

All Other Stories:

You can submit comments directly at regulations.gov. The deadline to submit comments directly to EPA is March 15, 2017.

Read Part One