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October 24, 2013

EPA takes steps to allow restriction of imports of harmful category of chemicals used in carpets

Posted by Gerald Ondrey

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; Washington, D.C.; www.epa.gov) is finalizing a rule that will allow the agency to restrict imports of potentially harmful perfluorinated chemicals that could be used in carpets. The regulation will require companies to report to EPA all new uses, including in domestic and imported products, of these chemicals once used for soil and stain resistance in carpets. These chemicals have been shown to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in humans and animals — they represent a potential threat to American’s health. This action follows the U.S. chemical industry’s voluntary phase out of these chemicals and a range of actions by EPA to address concerns with these chemicals.

“While this category of chemicals has largely been voluntarily phased out by the U.S. chemical industry and not in use in this country, they could still be imported in carpets. Today’s action will ensure that EPA has the opportunity to take action to restrict or limit the intended use, if warranted, for any new domestic uses or imports,” says Jim Jones, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “This action will also provide a level playing field for those companies who stepped up to cease the use of these chemicals in this country, while at the same time protecting the American public from exposure to these chemicals in imported carpet products.”

The final rule issued today, known as a Significant New Use Rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act, requires that anyone who intends to manufacture (including import) or process any long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylic (LCPFAC) chemicals for use in carpets or carpet products submit a notification to EPA at least 90 days before beginning the activity, providing the agency with an opportunity to review and, if necessary, place limits on manufacturers or processors who intend to reintroduce or import products with these chemicals.

Today’s action is one of several EPA has taken to protect the public from perfluorinated chemicals. In 2006, the eight major U.S. companies producing LCPFAC chemicals committed to the EPA’s voluntary PFOA Stewardship Program, pledging to reduce global emissions and product content of LCPFAC chemicals by the end of 2015. As part of this phaseout program, the industry stopped using LCPFAC chemicals on carpets and aftercare treatment products. EPA has also issued other Significant New Use Rules to require EPA review and prior to the reintroduction of other perfluorinated chemicals included in the voluntary industry phaseout. EPA anticipates another Significant New Rule on additional perfluorinated chemicals in early 2014 as well as Significant New Use Rules on other chemicals that will include imported products.

Source: U.S. EPA, www.epa.gov

 

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