EPA released this past Friday the agency’s draft strategy for examining health and environmental risks in communities that reside near facilities that emit chemicals undergoing TSCA review.  The “fenceline communities screening strategy” is an initial and explicit injection of “environmental justice” principles into the realm of chemical risk evaluation and management.  The Biden Administration has identified and regularly invokes EJ as a core focus and priority of EPA.

“ To protect human health and the environment, we must  evaluate and understand all chemical exposures to communities, particularly historically underserved communities who have been disproportionately exposed to pollution for generations,”

-Michal Freedhoff, assistant EPA administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention

Specifically, the draft “TSCA Screening Level Approach for Assessing Ambient Air and Water Exposures to Fenceline Communities” is a screening level methodology to evaluate potential exposures and risks to human health in proximity to (1) facilities with air emissions of chemicals undergoing risk evaluation under TSCA section 6, and (2) waterbodies receiving direct or indirect releases of chemicals undergoing risk evaluation under TSCA section 6.  EPA defines “fenceline communities” as:

Members of the general population that are in proximity to air emitting facilities or a receiving waterbody, and who therefore may be disproportionately exposed to a chemical undergoing risk evaluation under TSCA section 6. For the air pathway, proximity goes out to 10,000 meters from an air emitting source. For the water pathway, proximity does not refer to a specific distance measured form a receiving waterbody, but rather to those members of the general population that may interact with the receiving waterbody and thus may be exposed.

Notably, EPA intends to apply the methodology to reassess risks from seven of the ten chemicals for which the agency relatively recently published risk evaluations under TSCA:  1-bromopropane (1-BP), methylene chloride (MC), n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), carbon tetrachloride, trichloroethylene, and perchloroethylene, and 1,4-dioxane.  The draft strategy includes initial “case studies” applying the strategy to 1-BP, MC and NMP as examples of how the strategy is intended to work.

For future TSCA risk evaluations, including the 20 chemicals currently undergoing risk evaluation, EPA plans to “expand this first version of the framework to include a method to address broader potential environmental justice concerns and cumulative or aggregate exposures to chemicals.”

Comments on the draft strategy are due February 22nd and the agency’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) will hold a public meeting, virtually March 15-17, to peer review the methodology.  A copy of the strategy and further information is available at EPA’s website.