EPA: Tighter Chemical Restrictions Underway

Caution Chemical Storage Safety Sign

When we hear the term “chemicals,” many people think of dangerous substances such as sulfur, nitrogen, or ammonia. While it is true that these chemicals are dangerous and may cause serious physical injuries when used inappropriately or incorrectly, they may still be contained in the products we currently use. Yes, it is true. For instance, your household cleaner may just contain ammonia, and your pet shampoo may harbor the chemical formaldehyde. It’s pretty scary to consider the possibility that harmful and potentially untested chemicals may be lingering within everyday household products. Why is this happening? The simple truth is that the EPA does not have the power to enforce specific safety regulations on particular chemical usage. However, the recently proposed update known as the “Chemical Safety Improvement Act” has the ability to require tighter restrictions on the manufacture and use of chemicals, and the EPA will be the chief and sheriff enforcing them.

According to a Chicago Tribune article by Michael Hawthorne, the update would give the EPA:

“More authority to order health and safety tests for new chemicals, eliminating a system that has allowed companies to put scores of compounds on the market with little or no study about potential hazards to people and wildlife. The EPA would also get more authority to ban or restrict the use of chemicals if the agency finds that they pose unacceptable risks, a process that is now all but impossible.”

Even though this update seems a bit overdue, like the saying goes “better late than never.” Anyhow, along with the new proposed update comes a multitude of new regulations. Some of the regulations include: safety evaluations for all existing chemicals, screening of new chemicals for safety, the promotion of innovation for safer chemistry practices, and protection for the public against unsafe chemicals. As a society, is important to strive for protection against hazardous chemicals and substances to maintain a good quality of life as well as to preserve the environment. This update will also make chemical manufacturers and distributors more accountable for safety. This is a good thing as it will create a greater awareness for public health and the dangers associated with specific chemicals or chemical combinations. According to MSDS Online:

“Chemical manufacturers, distributors, employers — and everyone involved in lifecycle of hazardous chemicals — should be on alert that greater accountability, transparency and sustainability is expected by citizens and regulators when it comes to the use of chemicals in the workplace and in consumer products.”

This new update is also helpful for employees who work with chemicals. When employees do come into contact with chemicals, the general practice is to use specific pieces of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to create a safe barrier between the body and the chemical. The new update would reevaluate the need for specific chemicals as well as the need for appropriate PPE during hazardous chemical interactions and encounters, thus creating a safer work environment for all employees.

It is never a good idea to take chemical usage lightly. Many chemicals pose real risks for injury or disease. This is an exciting time for the EPA in the quest for safer chemical practices.

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