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EPA’s Proposed Fenceline Screening Level Approach Needs Major Revisions if it is to Meet TSCA’s Scientific Standards

Recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled out a proposed screening level methodology to evaluate chemical exposures and risks to fenceline communities. There are serious flaws in the Agency’s proposed approach and significant changes must be made to the proposal if EPA is to meet the scientific requirements mandated by TSCA.

In formal comments we recently submitted to EPA we have outlined several problems with its proposed fenceline screening level approach. In addition, this week we’re providing oral comments to the Agency’s TSCA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals, which has importantly been asked conduct peer-review of the proposal.

A few highlights of ACC’s concerns and our suggested remedies include:

  • Just as EPA’s Exposure Assessment Guidelines recommend completing exposure assessments iteratively using a tiered approach, so should its proposed screening level approach. An explicit tiered approach would provide much-needed efficiencies to the process and transparency to stakeholders regarding EPA’s decision-making process.
  • The approach as proposed fails to consider significant fenceline exposure assessment activity and expertise already existing in other EPA offices and state regulatory agencies. The Agency must look to, and where appropriate, should rely on these as opposed to duplicating efforts and potentially wasting time and resources.
  • The proposed approach’s reliance on Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data is concerning. If EPA insists on incorporating TRI data into its fenceline screening level approach, those data need to be subject to a data quality assessment so that the variability and uncertainties associated with them are well understood, documented, and accounted for. TRI data in particular, while valuable for some purposes, are not sufficiently reliable to serve as the basis for a determination of unreasonable risk under TSCA.
  • It’s essential that the EPA consider public perception or unnecessary alarm that could be raised when the Agency communicates the screening approach. The agency needs to consider how it will approach the related risk communications necessary and transparently communicate the strengths and limitations of the analyses.

In our full support of TSCA implementation of the 2016 bipartisan amendments, ACC and our members certainly agree that evaluating general population exposures to high priority chemicals being evaluated by EPA is vital. And we’d welcome a scientifically sound, successful approach to including exposures to fenceline communities adjacent to facilities that manufacture and use those chemicals. But the current proposal needs significant refinement if it is to be scientifically credible, effective and meet TSCA’s science standards.

For a deeper dive into ACC’s comments to EPA go here and here.

About the Author
American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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