CHEMICALS:

White House budget office still weighing EPA 'concern' list

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has extended its review of a U.S. EPA plan to add the controversial plastics additives bisphenol A (BPA) and pthalates, both frequent targets of environmental groups, to a "chemicals of concern" list that could subject the substances to new regulation.

A part of the White House Office of Management and Budget, OIRA reviews proposed agency regulations by using tools such as cost-benefit analysis to evaluate their expected economic value, retaining the ability to seek changes to the draft rules. The EPA plan to add BPA, pthalates and a type of flame retardant to the list of chemicals that could pose an "unreasonable risk to human health and the environment" was first sent to OIRA in May, with final publication in the Federal Register expected this month.

In recent weeks, EPA's bid to list the new chemicals using its authority under the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act had prompted several meetings between Obama administration aides and chemical manufacturers, according to meeting records kept by the budget office.

An Aug. 9 meeting included representatives from the flexible vinyl industry, which uses pthalates, while the American Chemistry Council, Dow Chemical Co., and SABIC Innovative Plastics were present at a July 1 meeting on the issue. Another meeting with industry representatives took place on June 16, according to budget office records.

Green advocates have long clamored for limits on BPA and pthalate use, citing studies that have identified both chemicals as disruptive to the endocrine system. Chemical companies, by contrast, caution that such research has yet to pinpoint any adverse effect on humans from exposure to the substances and warn that reining in their use could put jobs and economic benefits at risk.