ACMA supports legislation increasing the likelihood that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will conduct a risk assessment for styrene and possibly require controls for composites industry workplace exposures and plant emissions. The legislation would also allow the EPA to order the industry to conduct exposure studies and provide data to the EPA. And the EPA could collect “user fees” from the industry to pay for this regulatory program.

Why in the world would ACMA support such legislation? There’s good reason, but first some background.

The legislation, introduced March 9 in the Senate with nine Republican and seven Democratic co-sponsors, is called the Frank L. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, or CS-21. The bill aims to reform the EPA’s program under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which since 1976 has functioned adequately to regulate new chemicals, but has largely failed to fulfill its mandate to issue safety standards for styrene and the thousands of other existing chemicals to which Americans are potentially exposed at work or in their homes.

CS-21 would require the EPA to consider styrene to be a high priority chemical. Soon after the Act is enacted, the EPA would conduct a safety assessment and require any risk management measures needed to ensure uses of styrene meet a safety standard of “no unreasonable risk of harm to health or the environment under conditions of use.” Composites industry workplaces and plant emissions are very likely to be conditions of use evaluated as part of a TSCA styrene review, and so in a few years, the composites industry could be faced with additional limits on styrene exposures and emissions.

So back to the original question: Why would ACMA support the legislation? Consider this:

  • Styrene is already on the priority list for a TSCA assessment, and the EPA has promised to issue a styrene safety standard under its current program by 2018.
  • Styrene will also be subject to a risk assessment and issuance of a safety standard under the EPA Office of Air’s MACT Risk and Technology Review program.
  • Styrene is on the priority list for issuance of updated workplace exposure limits by both Federal and California OSHA.
  • The first of these programs to get to styrene will likely have a very significant influence on subsequent risk assessments.
  • CS-21 would, for the first time, legislatively mandate science quality measures, and a reformed TSCA would be under close scrutiny by stakeholders and Congress.

Under a reformed TSCA, the EPA would have to conduct a very transparent assessment using published guidelines and employ a weight-of-evidence approach to hazard assessment.  By no means do these legislative requirements guarantee a valid styrene assessment, but they make it much more likely styrene will receive a scientifically valid toxicity review under a reformed TSCA than under any of the other regulatory programs interested in this substance.