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Federal Government Halts Regulation of Toxic Chemicals

In 2016, Congress authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to aggressively pursue toxic chemical regulation through the amendments of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This was the first time in many years that the EPA’s authority to evaluate and regulate chemicals of concern was expanded. Since that time, significant action on several prominent agenda items – namely restricting the use of certain chemicals in consumer products – has been tabled or abandoned.

The significant shift in the regulatory authority and philosophy of the EPA has been a prominent development of the Trump Administration. The EPA, under Trump, has either postponed or halted major regulatory proposals in the chemicals’ arena. Significantly, the EPA announced its intention to postpone bans on three chemicals of concern in consumer products. The plan to ban commercial use of methylene chloride (as an ingredient in paint strippers) is still under review, but the final draft rule being considered by the White House is significantly less restrictive than the original proposal. In its suggested form, the ban on methylene chloride would affect sales to consumers only rather than commercial product applications. The proposal also sought to ban N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) and trichloroethylene (TCE).  Now the use of TCE and NMP is simply being reconsidered to assess safety concerns while products containing these chemicals continue to be sold to consumers.

Another change ushered in by the Trump EPA concerns the use of chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that is widely spread on crops including almonds, alfalfa, and citrus. In late 2016, the EPA initiated a ban on chlorpyrifos but Scott Pruitt, Trump’s first EPA administrator, abandoned the proposal in March, 2017.

The EPA is now considering a new proposal that could benefit the chemicals industry.  The Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science would limit EPA’s use of non-public information to promulgate regulations on chemicals. While critics argue that this proposal would limit EPA’s ability to regulate chemicals of concern, proponents point out that it would allow independent validation of EPA’s actions by requiring the use of peer-reviewed and reproducible data as the basis for chemical restrictions.

Grimaldi Law Offices has been advising clients for over 20 years on chemical and product law. For knowledgeable advice and in-depth analysis on your chemical regulatory compliance obligations, contact Grimaldi Law Offices at (415) 463-5186 or email us at [email protected].


Ms. Grimaldi maintains a diverse environmental law practice focusing on chemical and product regulation and litigation defense. Her practice areas include Proposition 65, California's Safer Consumer Products Regulations, California's Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act and the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Ms. Grimaldi graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law magna cum laude and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Bacteriology from University of California, Davis. Prior to attending law school, she worked as a research assistant in laboratories at the University of California, San Francisco Cancer Research Institute and at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.