Outdated list includes over 70,000 chemicals that are no longer in use

A plan by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to overhaul its inventory of industrial chemicals could lead to a lot more paperwork for chemical firms, industry officials have warned.

The Chemical Substances Inventory, established under the 1976 American Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), lists all chemicals manufactured in the US or imported into the country, along with safety data. But only around 7,000 of the 83,000 chemicals currently listed are actually still in use, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a trade group representing North American chemical companies.

EPA says the ’resetting’ the list will enable it to more efficiently screen chemicals and determine which ones require closer review. 

But industry officials say that, under the current proposals, firms that have stopped manufacturing a chemical temporarily could have to notify the EPA each time they re-start production - a process that takes at least 90 days.

’Under a worst case scenario, everything would drop off the inventory and you’d have to renotify everything,’ says Mike Walls, ACC’s director of regulatory and technical affairs.

"Under a worst case scenario, everything would drop off the inventory and you’d have to renotify everything" - Mike Walls

The inventory reset initiative is under the auspices of EPA’s Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP). Through the programme, the chemical industry will also be expected to provide health and safety information on inorganic high-production volume (HPV) chemicals - defined as substances with annual production or import volumes above 1 million pounds (454 metric tonnes).  The initiative will likely be voluntary, but the agency has warned that testing could be compulsory in the absence of ’timely and responsible action’ by industry.

The EU already regulates chemicals through Reach, which requires all substances produced in quantities of greater than a tonne to be registered and compels manufacturers to provide the government with a full dossier of risk data. The US law has no such requirement.

However, EPA’s efforts do go further in some respects. Under ChAMP, the agency will routinely review the safety of all chemicals on the inventory and determine whether any need further regulation. Under Reach, only a few of the most hazardous chemicals will be reviewed by a government agency.

Rebecca Trager, US correspondent for Research Day USA