Advocates Point to Data Suggesting Seven Chemical Firms Failed to Report Import of Carcinogenic and Neurotoxic n-Propyl Bromide as Required by Law

Washington, DC—Public health advocates began the process to sue seven companies, including a unit of Dow, for their apparent failure to report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) their importation of n-Propyl Bromide (“nPB,” also known as 1-bromopropane), as required by EPA regulations.

Collectively, the seven companies imported at least 1.6 million pounds of nPB. Originally marketed as a “safer” alternative for use in everything from dry cleaning to industrial degreasing, nPB is now recognized as a carcinogen, a cause of neurological problems, and an ozone depleting substance. While health impacts have been observed in industrial and commercial workers, nPB’s presence in consumer products used for cleaning and degreasing as well as its use in some dry-cleaning processes raises wider health concerns.

Nearly all of the unreported nPB was sourced from China, which is the origin of most of the nPB imported into the US. While nPB continues to be produced domestically, the domestic manufacturers have publicly promised to limit their sales to prevent certain high exposure uses. These voluntary controls do not go far enough to protect American workers from exposure to nPB, but even such limited restrictions on use are largely lacking for imported nPB.

“The fact that imported nPB can end up in direct to consumer products with virtually no restrictions speaks to the need for EPA to regulate nPB and other toxic solvents,” noted Patrick MacRoy, Deputy Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “The U.S. chemical industry may undertake ‘stewardship’ and voluntary efforts to help prevent their products from being used in the least safe applications, but the reality is foreign suppliers are not bound by these restraints and may supply imported chemicals for unsafe domestic uses that US producers no longer support.”

In December 2016, EPA named nPB as one of the first ten chemicals to be assessed for safety under the recently strengthened Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The companies’ apparent reporting violations deprive EPA of crucial information needed to conduct risk evaluations that could lead to significant restrictions on the use of nPB.

“EPA relies on companies to accurately report manufacturing and especially import of toxic chemicals in order to evaluate their potential risk,” said Andy Igrejas, national campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “By failing to report, companies effectively limit the scope of both the public’s and EPA’s understanding of the uses of these chemicals and the risks they present.”

Under EPA’s TSCA Chemical Data Reporting regulations, chemical companies were required to notify EPA by October 31, 2016 if they imported 25,000 pounds or more of nPB in any of the prior four years. According to a commercial database sourced from U.S. Customs and Border Protection importation records, these companies exceeded this legal threshold at least once during those years. EPA records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show no reports of nPB imports from these companies.

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and the Environmental Health Strategy Center sent a formal 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue to the companies, the first step in a citizen enforcement action under TSCA. The seven companies receiving notifications are:

Company NameCompany HQPounds of nPB Imported
(March 2014 – December 2015)
Chemical SolventsCleveland, OH477,521
Unistar ChemicalRolling Meadows, IL401,461
First Continental InternationalGlen Rock, NJ225,312
Storchem (USA)Wilmington, DE222,887
Solvents CompanyKingston, NY129,191
Dow Agrosciences LLCIndianapolis, IN85,980
Murashu USAArlington Heights, IL73,855

If the case proceeds to court, the advocates will seek a judicial order for the companies to comply with the reporting requirements. There is no provision in the law for recovery of damages, although the EPA has the ability to impose fines, which the groups urge it to do.

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a national coalition of 450 organizations, works to ensure the safety of chemicals used in our homes, workplaces, and in the many products to which our families and children are exposed to each day.

Environmental Health Strategy Center works to ensure that all people are healthy and thriving in a healthy economy, through affordable access to safer food, water, and products; and investments that create and retain good, green jobs.

For copies of the letters to the EPA and the companies, please contact CJ Frogozo at cj@drakecomms.us.

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