WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified three types of chemicals found in dyes, flame retardants and industrial detergents that it plans to take action on, which could range from labeling them chemicals of concern to banning them.
The chemicals include benzidine dyes, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD, a category of flame retardants) and nonylphenol/nonylphenol ethoxylates (NP/NPEs).
Benzidine is a known carcinogen, and dyes derived from it are used in textiles, paints, pharmaceuticals, printing inks and paper. The dyes can leach from products like shirts and other clothing into human skin after prolonged contact and can metabolize into carcinogenic compounds..
HBCD is used as a flame retardant in expanded polystyrene foam (commonly called Styrofoam) used in construction, buildings and some consumer products. The chemical is persistent and bioaccumulative in living organisms and the environment. It has been found in the environment worldwide and in human breast milk, tissue and blood. HBCD is highly toxic to aquatic organisms and poses potential reproductive, developmental and neurological dangers to humans.
NP/NPEs are also toxic to aquatic organisms, persist in the environment and have been detected in various environments and humans. NP is used to produce NPEs, which are found in detergents, cleaners, pesticides and food packaging. NPEs have also been found to affect the gender of fish by causing male fish to produce female egg proteins.
The U.S. EPA is considering a range of actions on the chemicals, including adding HBCD and NP/NPEs to its Chemicals of Concern list, issuing new rules for the use of the chemicals, and banning or limiting the manufacturing of HBCD and benzidine dyes.
Ahead of any possible EPA regulation, the Textile Rental Services Association has committed to phasing out the use of NPEs in industrial liquid detergents by the end of 2013 and industrial powder detergents by the end of 2014.
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