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their new authority under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the outdated (and ineffective) Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA).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 Five of Ten: Hexabromocyclododecane (a.k.a. HBCD or HBCDD)
Hexabromocyclododecane, or HBCD, is used as a flame retardant in expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) and extruded polystyrene foam (XPS) used in the building and construction industry, mainly in the form of insulation boards. HBCD is also added to plastics used for electronics and appliances to make them more fire resistant and mixed into the back coating of textiles. While it is no longer widely used in the coatings of new home furnishings like upholstery, window blinds, draperies and wall coverings, HBCD is still added to textiles used in aviation, hospitals, prisons and automobiles and in the special clothing used in the military and firefighting.
Dust is the major source of exposure to HBCD impacting human health and the environment. This includes dust generated during the manufacture and processing of HBCD and the processing and use of products containing HBCD. Exposure to HBCD may harm the liver and impact the ability to have a healthy child.
Chemical Six of Ten: Methylene chloride (a.k.a. dichloromethane, MC)
This chemical is a widely used solvent and an ingredient in paint strippers, adhesives, and metal cleaning products. It may also be found in some aerosol and pesticide products and is used in the manufacture of photographic film.
In the U.S., more than 260 million pounds of MC is used annually, much of which is used in products to strip paint from wood, metal, automobiles, and other hard surfaces. The main way that workers are exposed to MC is by breathing it in, but it can also be absorbed through the skin. MC will cause dizziness, headache, and nausea, but exposure to it can also be fatal.
Over the last few years, more than a dozen workers who were refinishing bath tubs were overcome by MC fumes and died. The paint remover they used contained MC and is sold at many hardware stores. Workers may lose consciousness before they realize the severity of the situation. Workers who have heart disease (which many may not even know) may have a heart attack when they are exposed to MC. The chemical also causes cancer and birth defects.
Chemical Seven of Ten: N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP)
N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) is a solvent used in the petrochemical and electronics industries and in making plastics, coatings, paints, inks, pesticides, paint strippers and metal cleaners.
NMP can cause skin and eye irritation. It can also damage fertility or harm the ability to bear a healthy child.
Make Your Voice Heard
EPA is soliciting public comments on the hazards of hexabromocyclododecane, methylene chloride, and N-Methylpyrrolidone. Maybe now more than ever, with the 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, in an effort to collect first-hand accounts from workers or unions representing workers either producing or using these chemicals.
Examples of useful submissions 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.