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NSSGA Warns EPA on Risk Assessment Process

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) submitted preliminary comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning a forthcoming process that the agency will use to conduct chemical risk assessments. This process will determine if and how EPA will attempt to further regulate common rock dust.

EPA is required to revise its current process by June 2017 in accordance with the recently amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). NSSGA’s written comments, filed Aug. 24, reflect a broad consensus that the agency must approach its chemical risk assessments fairly.

NSSGA emphasized that EPA should clearly define the chemical substance being assessed in a risk evaluation early in the process, while providing opportunities for public input on that definition. The agency should also define substances based on their physical properties, such as the crystal habits of various minerals, which can be relevant to whether the substance presents an unreasonable risk.

The rule should allow EPA to exclude de minimis exposures from risk evaluations and to find that a substance presents an unreasonable risk at certain exposures or concentrations but not others.

EPA should be allowed to find that the unintentional inclusion of a naturally occurring chemical substance in a product does not require EPA to conduct a risk assessment or to promulgate regulatory requirements regarding any such risk.

"NSSGA believes that EPA must conduct risk evaluations using a 'weight of the scientific evidence' approach that does not give preference to studies finding positive evidence of health or environmental risks over studies finding no such evidence," said Michael Johnson, NSSGA president and CEO. "This approach should include formal causal statistical analyses of the exposure response data and not simply an examination of associations."

The agency is expected to publish its proposed rule mid-December 2016, and NSSGA will thoroughly examine the agency’s proposal at that time and determine if additional comments are warranted.