EPA has initiated rulemaking to restrict the use of nonylphenol (NP) and its ethoxylates (NPEs) under a proposed significant new use rule (SNUR) using existing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) authority. EPA plans to issue the proposal in the next year. NP and NPEs are used in industrial laundry detergents, oil spill dispersants, personal care products, industrial soaps, and other products, but the agency has raised concerns that the chemicals are highly toxic to aquatic life, environmentally persistent, moderately bioaccumulative and potential endocrine disruptors.
As part of the action plan, EPA is working with the industrial laundry industry to phase out that use of the chemicals by the end of 2014. The action plan also says the agency intends to encourage manufacturers of all NPE-containing direct-release products, such as firefighting gels and foams, dust-control agents and de-icers, to move to NPE-free formulations. Earlier this year the agency released an alternatives assessment for NP and NPEs through its Design for the Environment program that identified eight safer alternatives. The TSCA section 5 SNUR would serve as the next step under EPA’s action plan, complementing the phaseout by restricting industry from reintroducing the chemical in new applications.
The SNUR would require persons who intend to manufacture, import, or process certain NP and NPE chemicals for an activity that is designated as a significant new use by the proposed rule to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing that activity. The notification would provide EPA with the opportunity to evaluate the intended use and, if necessary, to prohibit or limit that activity before it occurs to prevent unreasonable risk to human health or the environment.
The action plan also indicates EPA may add the chemicals to its EPCRA Section 313 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) list, and has proposed under TSCA section 5(b)(4) to put NPs and NPEs on a list of chemicals that present or may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. The chemicals-of-concern list alone would have no regulatory consequences or trigger a rule.