WASHINGTON — Several key building blocks of plastics have been dropped, at least temporarily, from an Environmental Protection Agency list of chemicals the government would like tested for health risks for children.
Styrene and several phthalates are no longer targets for testing, under a Dec. 26 EPA proposal that spells out a voluntary testing program that the government would like chemical manufacturers to undertake.
EPA cited extensive ongoing reviews that other agencies are conducting. The agency did not rule out including those chemicals later. The agency put 23 chemicals on its list.
Generally, industry reaction was positive.
The American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va., was happy that EPA's proposal allows for tiered testing and makes an existing testing program for high-production-volume chemicals the basis for the first tier.
"This seems generally consistent with what we anticipated, but I must add we are still evaluating it," said spokesman Frank Rathbun. "There are important elements that need to be clarified with EPA."
During public meetings that EPA held to discuss its plan, environmentalists had urged the agency to minimize tiered testing while industry officials pushed for strict tiers that would limit future tests based on the results of earlier tests.
EPA hopes for broad participation in the program because it is voluntary, as the chemical industry requested, said Mary Ellen Weber, acting deputy director of the EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. She was interviewed Dec. 28, and holds that position until Dec. 31.
EPA eventually will expand the program to more chemicals but is starting with a small pilot to gain experience, she said.
Companies will make decisions on what tests to conduct, but all the opinions from companies, the EPA and advisers on whether additional testing is needed will be made public, she said.
Some other building blocks for plastics, like vinylidene chloride, which is used to make polyvinylidene chloride, and ethylene dichloride, are on the list.
The children's health testing program was launched after Vice President Al Gore called for it in a 1998 speech.