• Cutting the Red Tape: EPA Moves to Shorten Approval Process for New Products
  • March 1, 2018
  • The Environmental Protection Agency has altered its approach to assessing new chemicals for health and environmental hazards, resulting in streamlining the safety review process that had been criticized as too slow and cumbersome. Under the new approach, the EPA will no longer require that manufacturers offering new chemicals sign legal agreements that restrict the chemicals use under certain conditions.

    Those agreements, known as consent orders, will still be required if the EPA believes that the manufacturer’s intended use for a new chemical poses a risk to the public health and the environment. However, the EPA won’t require consent orders when it believes there are risks associated with “reasonably foreseen” uses of the new chemical, ones that go beyond what a manufacturer says it’s intending to do, but which the agency believes are reasonable to anticipate in the future.

    Instead the EPA will rely on a broader measure, known as significant new-use rules, to regulate chemicals that are likely to pose a risk if they’re used for a different purpose. The EPA typically issues significant new-use rules to restrict the broad use of potentially hazardous chemicals, because consent orders apply only to a single manufacturer.

    Eliminating consent orders in these cases would be “more efficient,” said Jeff Morris, director of the EPA’s toxics program. Morris laid out the EPA’s shift to significant new use rules at a public meeting in early December. “It’s our belief that they could be equally protective but eliminate this one step.”

    The EPA is also overhauling its process of reviewing new, unproven chemicals that have yet to enter the marketplace. When the Trump administration took office, the EPA was facing a backlog of approximately 600 new chemicals awaiting safety reviews. Under Director Scott Pruitt, the EPA has cleared the backlog and is using its reforms to the safety review process to stay current with new applications.

    The EPA says that it’s still deliberating how long manufacturers will have to wait to bring their new chemicals to market. “This is an area that we are discussing,” Morris said. In recent months, the EPA has worked closely with the American Chemistry Council to revamp the paperwork that manufacturers must submit to get new chemicals approved. With the group’s help, the EPA consulted with Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, and the BASF Corporation to revise its chemical application process.

    Given the direction and trend the EPA is headed, it appears that companies can expect a further easing of restrictions when bringing new products to the market.