Updated: New TSCA Sec. 6 Chemical Management Rules
This month, the US EPA proposed a prohibition or "ban" on manufacturing (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of trichloroethylene (TCE) for any use. Details.
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended in 2016, directs US EPA to impose prohibitions and/or restrictions on persons who manufacture, process, distribute, or use chemicals that the agency determines pose an "unreasonable risk" to health or the environment.
To determine which chemicals pose unreasonable risk, EPA follows a detailed process to prioritize and evaluate the hazards of more than 40,000 "active" substances listed on the TSCA Inventory.Once EPA determines that a chemical poses an "unreasonable risk" to health or the environment, the agency may use its authority under Section 6 of TSCA to address those risks by restricting activities involving that chemical. EPA's options under Section 6 range from minor tweaks to total prohibition on manufacturing, processing, distribution, and/or use of the chemical.
Latest TSCA Section 6 Rule Activity
For updates about EPA's progress to prioritize and evaluate the risks of chemicals on the TSCA Inventory list, see our other TSCA updates page.
Section 6 restrictions proposed: October 31, 2023.
A proposed rule to totally prohibit manufacturing (including import), processing, and/or distribution in commerce of trichloroethylene (TCE) was published in the October 31 Federal Register.
The rule would not immediately outlaw all activity involving TCE; certain uses are granted longer compliance timelines, phase-out periods, or limited time exemptions. The rule includes workplace controls for those uses being phased-out or exempted.
On top of an overall ban on manufacturing, processing, and distribution of TCE, the proposed rule would:
- Prohibit disposal of TCE to industrial pre-treatment, industrial treatment, or publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), and
- Establish recordkeeping and downstream notifications requirements.
A 60-day public comment period begins immediately and ends on December 15, 2023. The new restrictions on TCE follow EPA’s finding in early 2023 that the chemical poses an “unreasonable risk” to human health.
What is TCE?
Trichloroethylene is a volatile organic compound (VOC). In the text of the proposed rule signed on October 12, EPA notes that an estimated 84% of annual production is for intermediate use in the production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as refrigerants—another type of substance for which EPA recently proposed new requirements.
About 15% of annual TCE production goes toward use as a cleaning or degreasing solvent (in spot cleaning, vapor degreasing, cold cleaning, and aerosol degreasing). The remaining 1 to 2% of TCE produced is used in commercial and consumer lubricants, adhesives, paints, coatings, and other products.
Carbon Tetrachloride (CTC; "Carbon Tet")
Section 6 restrictions proposed: July 28, 2023
EPA will accept public comment until August 28 on a proposed rule to address health risks to workers posed by the chemical carbon tetrachloride. Proposed requirements under TSCA Section 6 include:
- Enacting new workplace safety requirements,
- Prohibiting activity related to already-phased-out uses of CTC, and
- Establish recordkeeping and downstream notification requirements.
In the proposed rule posted on July 28, EPA notes that carbon tetrachloride is primarily used as a feedstock to make refrigerants, aerosol propellants, and foam-blowing agents. The chemical presents risk to human health via inhalation and dermal exposure, which can lead to liver toxicity.
Section 6 restrictions proposed: June 16, 2023
Update 06/16/23: The proposed TSCA Section 6 restrictions for PCE appeared in the Federal Register on June 16, 2023. EPA will accept public comments for 60 days, until August 15.
On June 7, 2023, EPA released a pre-publication version of its proposed Section 6 regulations for perchloroethylene (PCE).
According to the proposed rule text and EPA's press release, the proposed rule would:
- Prohibit most industrial and commercial uses of PCE
- Prohibit manufacturing, processing, and distribution for banned uses
- Prohibit manufacture, processing, and distribution for all consumer use
- Introduce a 10-year phase-out for PCE use in dry cleaning,
- Require workplace chemical protections for inhalation and dermal contact, and
- Require that end users to whom PCE is shipped are notified about prohibitions.
A 60-day comment period will follow publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register.
The rule does not prohibit every activity involving PCE: It allows for continued processing of the substance to manufacture certain hydrofluorocarbons used in "more climate-friendly refrigerants." The rule also allows continued industrial and commercial use of PCE to, for example, manufacture petrochemicals or coatings for aircraft skins, and for vapor degreasing to make aerospace parts and engines.
PCE is a colorless liquid used mostly to produce fluorinated compounds for industrial gas manufacturing (e.g., HFCs and HCFCs). It’s also found in adhesives, brake cleaners, aerosol lubricants, sealants, and polishes.
Methylene Chloride (MCL)
Section 6 restrictions proposed: May 3, 2023
EPA proposed Section 6 restrictions for methylene chloride on May 3.
The proposed rule would:
- Prohibit all manufacture, processing, and distribution for consumer use,
- Prohibit most industrial and commercial uses,
- Require new worker protections and exposure monitoring, and
- Add recordkeeping and notification requirements for several conditions of use.
Comments from industry stakeholders and the public will be accepted until July 3, 2023.
TSCA Section 6 History
Until now, it has been very rare for EPA to exercise its authority under TSCA Section 6. A Final Rule to ban manufacture, import, and processing of most asbestos-containing products took effect in 1989 (and was partly overturned shortly thereafter).
Besides the restrictions on asbestos, EPA used Section 6 just four other times before TSCA was reformed by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (LCSA) in 2016, for rules concerning:
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
- "Chrome 6" (Hexavalent chromium)
More recently, EPA finalized Section 6 standards for five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) substances in January 2021; and a rule to address the risks of methylene chloride in paint and coating removal for consumer use in 2019.
The number of chemicals subject to Section 6 actions is going to grow significantly in the years to come. Methylene chloride and PCE are two of ten chemicals for which EPA has already made an unreasonable risk determination—and that's just the start.
The law requires EPA to evaluate the risks of all chemicals on the TSCA inventory. Each one of those risk evaluations will follow the same multi-step process, and each one could result in new management standards for the chemical.
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