Exclusive: EPA delays major report on safety of phthalates

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is putting on hold a major review of phthalates typically used as flexibilizers in polyvinyl chloride and in other applications until a separate review on phthalates is completed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In 2011, the EPA began an alternates assessment program for phthalates and said that it intended to conduct a Design for the Environment and Green Chemistry alternatives assessment by 2012.

The EPA said in a statement: "The information developed could be used to encourage industry to move away


from phthalates in a non-regulatory setting to expand risk management efforts beyond whatever regulatory action might be taken under TSCA, or it could be used as input to a regulatory action." TSCA is an acronym for the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

The EPA Web site states that a draft report would be available for review and content in summer 2013.

When Plastics Today asked to review a copy of the report, a public relations staff member sent this comment:

"There are a number of efforts currently underway to understand toxicity and related issues for phthalates, including the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) on Phthalates, convened by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"The DfE partnership on Alternatives to Certain Phthalates, which includes over 300 stakeholders, representing industry, manufacturing, environmental and public health advocates, other government agencies and academic researchers, recognized that expert panel determinations, such as the CHAP report, will help inform our work on the alternatives assessment.  Once this work has been completed, EPA will revisit the schedule for conducting the alternatives assessment."

One of the stakeholders is the Society of the Plastics Industry, which late last year issued a white paper on "Marketing Claims Related to Phthalates in Medical Devices".

At the time, the SPI's Patty Long said:"As competition in this market grows, medical device manufacturers and their suppliers are being challenged to make product assurances that are impossible to substantiate. This document provides useful background for companies trying to make sense of the maze of legislative, regulatory and international guidance on this issue. "

One of the SPI's concerns is that pressure is placed on users to avoid certain phthalates, "even when these materials are deemed safe by regulatory authorities for their intended use".

Meanwhile, major companies are already taking action on use of phthalates in personal care products. On a Web site for corporate counsel, one attorney said: "Recent actions taken by retailer Walmart may have sounded the death knell for phthalates, especially with respect to personal care products."

Kaiser-Permanente is leading a drive to remove PVC from hospitals, with a particular emphasis on flexible blood bags.


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