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EPA Issues New Controls for Mercury Articles

Posted on 6/12/2012 by James Griffin

On May 30th, 2012, EPA published a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for elemental mercury used in barometers, manometers, hygrometers, and pyrometers. Under the terms of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), this means that beginning June 29, 2012, any “new use” of elemental mercury in certain articles must be reported to the EPA before production begins.
Any person who intends to manufacture, import, or process elemental mercury for use in certain items must submit a Significant New Use Notification (SNUN) to the EPA at least 90 days before commencing production. The EPA will then evaluate the process and may decide to prohibit or limit the production in some way.
SNUR Exempt Uses
There are several notable exceptions and ongoing or exempt processes that will NOT be subject to this SNUR. These include:
  • Barometers, manometers, hygrometers, and psychrometers that were in service prior to May 6, 2011 (the date this rule was proposed);
  • Elemental mercury in portable battery-powered motor-aspirated psychrometers that contain fewer than 7 grams of elemental mercury (an ongoing continuous use);
  • Sphygmomanometers (a type of manometer) when manufactured, imported, or processed for use as a medical device;
  • Manometers used in the natural gas industry (covered by a previous SNUR); and
  • Elemental mercury manufactured or processed solely for export (provided it is marked in accordance with applicable sections of TSCA).
TSCA Exempt Articles
In general, “articles” are exempt from TSCA, and only the chemical substances within the article are regulated. [40 CFR 721.45(f)] However, as the focus of this SNUR is specifically the lifetime potential exposure to elemental mercury connected to certain articles (barometers, manometers, hygrometers, and psychrometers), the article exemption cannot apply.
The EPA considers the use of a chemical a “significant new use” based on:
  • The projected volume of manufacturing and processing of the chemical substance;
  • The extent to which a use changes the type, form, magnitude, or duration of exposure humans or the environment will be subjected to;
  • The possible manner and methods of manufacturing, processing, distribution, and disposal of said chemical substance; and
  • Any other “relevant factors.”
Using Mercury Going Forward
Because the use of mercury in barometers, manometers, hygrometers, and psychrometers is already being phased out, the Agency’s designation of these articles as “significant new uses” gives the Agency leeway to restrict the future use of mercury in these articles. The EPA’s strategy here is to prevent backsliding.
Manufacturers and processors selling or distributing chemicals must notify their customers when a SNUR applies to the substance, even when the substance identity is confidential.
The final rule, as published in the Federal Register on May 30, 2012, can be found here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-05-30/html/2012-13071.htm
More information about SNURs can be found here:
Meet Reporting Mandates
Learn more about the Significant New Use Rule, chemical reporting, and TSCA with Lion’s TSCA: Chemical Reporting & Recordkeeping Webinar. This webinar explains collecting, reporting, and remaining in compliance with TSCA’s regulations. Also look out for our TSCA Regulations Online Course, coming soon!

Tags: EPA, reporting and recordkeeping, TSCA

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