Stratospheric Ozone:

EPA's Safety Assessment of Substitutes for Ozone-Depleting Chemicals

RCED-89-49: Published: Feb 13, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 8, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to: (1) assess the safety of chemical substitutes for ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and halons; and (2) investigate other measures designed to reduce dependence on ozone-depleting chemicals.

GAO found that: (1) impending CFC and halon regulations prompted chemical producers to accelerate testing and development of safe chemical substitutes; (2) although chemical producers tested potential substitutes, EPA had statutory responsibilities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ensure that CFC and halon substitutes did not present unreasonable risks to human health and the environment; (3) EPA developed an approach for assessing substitutes and urged producers to voluntarily provide information on their ongoing testing and test rationale; (4) EPA attempts to obtain testing data on potential substitutes resulted in incomplete data, since EPA did not require producers to submit their studies; (5) most of the potential substitutes identified could be produced by anyone, in any amount, and for any use without prior authority, since EPA did not require that producers report significant new uses of existing chemicals intended as substitutes for CFC and halon; (6) EPA intended to deal with integrating ozone-depletion concerns and traditional toxicity concerns on a case-by-case basis; and (7) EPA sponsored nine projects under its Clean Air Act mandate relating to CFC and halon conservation and recycling and non-CFC manufacturing processes, but the extent of its success in reducing use of the chemicals was uncertain because the projects were in the initial steps in the conservation project.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 require the Administrator to require that producers of substitutes submit unpublished health and safety studies, and that they notify EPA not less than 90 days before introducing new or existing chemicals into commerce as substitutes. EPA plans to propose regulations in the winter of 1991-1992.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that EPA has access to unpublished health and safety studies on potential substitutes and is informed about intended new uses of existing chemicals as CFC and halon substitutes, the Administrator, EPA, should use his authority under TSCA section 8(d) to require chemical producers to submit for EPA review their unpublished health and safety studies on chemicals identified by EPA and industry as actual or likely potential substitutes for CFC and halons. EPA should review this data as part of its assessment for the safety of these chemical substitutes to form a basis for requiring additional testing or controls, if needed.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Clean Air Act now requires that EPA receive early notification about the use of existing chemicals in significant new ways as substitutes for ozone-depleting chemicals. EPA regulations are scheduled to be proposed in the winter of 1991-1992.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that EPA has access to unpublished health and safety studies on potential substitutes and is informed about intended new uses of existing chemicals as CFC and halon substitutes, the Administrator, EPA, should use his authority under TSCA section 5(a)(2) to promulgate significant-new-use rules on alternative flourocarbons and other chemicals listed in the TSCA inventory of existing chemicals (or subsequently added to it) that are substitutes, or likely potential substitutes, for CFC and halons. This authority would require chemical producers to notify EPA before these chemicals are produced for significant new uses as CFC and halon substitutes and would enable EPA to review the safety of such uses and quickly control those that pose an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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