After 28 years with a flawed toxics law, finally a result

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Some dry cleaners use trichloroethylene, a chemical the EPA has identified as harmful, to remove stains from clothes.

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If you thought trichloroethylene is bad, you’re right – and the federal government agrees.

Here’s what’s new: For the first time in nearly three decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified the chemical as harmful under the all-but-dormant Toxic Substances Control Act.

EPA said using the solvent trichloroethylene in some sprays, degreasers and stain removers poses a serious threat to workers and consumers as it significantly increases the risk of cancer and other serious health problems.

It’s the first such action under the act EPA has been able to finalize since 1986 under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The agency also took the opportunity this week to call on Congress to reform the law – a key priority for Environmental Defense Fund’s Health Program.

EPA's action has been a long time coming, and the agency still has a ways to go.

There are 85,000 chemicals in the act's inventory, tens of thousands of which are in commerce with little or no oversight by regulators.

 A year ago, senators introduced the first bipartisan legislation to fix the flawed Toxic Substances Control Act and to direct EPA to review the safety of all chemicals on the market today. EDF is working with members of Congress to make critical improvements to the bill and pass it into law.

EPA’s assessment found elevated health risks that occur when consumers use spray aerosol degreasers and fixatives, and when workers in small commercial and dry-cleaning shops use degreasers and stain removers, that contain trichloroethylene.

Read EDF Lead Senior Scientist Richard Denison's full blog post about the EPA assessment here.

Karin Rives

Karin Rives

Karin Rives is EDF's editorial manager and editor of the Voices blog.
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