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EPA Response to Protecting Children's Health

[Federal Register: February 3, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 22)]
[Page 5277-5284]
>From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []




Response to Recommendations from the Children's Health Protection
Advisory Committee Regarding Evaluation of Existing Environmental

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: EPA asked the federal Children's Health Protection Advisory
Committee (CHPAC) to recommend five existing standards that may merit
reevaluation in order to further protect children's environmental health.
This document includes EPA's response to the CHPAC recommendations. EPA
will reevaluate the chloralkali National Emission Standard for Hazardous
Air Pollutants (mercury); the implementation and enforcement of the (Farm)
Worker Protection Standards; pesticide tolerances for organophosphates
(chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, methyl parathion); atrazine pesticide
tolerances and Maximum Contaminant Level in drinking water; and will
review indoor and ambient air quality as they relate to asthma. EPA's
decision to reevaluate is based in large part on recommendations from the
Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee and public comments in
response to a Federal Register document of October 3, 1997.
    In September 1996, EPA issued a report on Environmental Health
Threats to Children (EPA 175-F-96-001) that described how and why
children are affected by an array of complex environmental threats to
their health. The report included a National Agenda to Protect Children's
Health from Environmental Threats in which EPA called for a national
commitment to ensure a healthy future for our children. We called on
national, state and local policy makers--as well as each community and
family--to learn about the environmental threats our children face; to
participate in an informed national policy debate on how together we can
best reduce health risks for children; and to take action to protect our
Nations's future by protecting our children.
    The first element of the National Agenda committed the
Administration to ``. . . ensure, as a matter of national policy, that all
standards EPA sets are protective enough to address the potentially
heightened risks faced by children--so as to prevent environmental health
threats wherever possible--and that the most significant current standards
be reevaluated as we learn more.'' We further state that `` . . . EPA will
select--with public input and scientific peer review--five of its most
significant public health and environmental standards to reissue on an
expedited basis under this new policy.''


    In order to meet our commitment to public input, EPA sought advice
through two channels: formal notice and comment, and the formation of a
Federal Advisory Committee composed of individuals representing diverse
viewpoints. On October 3, 1997, EPA issued a document and request for
comments from the public as to existing EPA standards that, if revised as
a result of review and evaluation, would strengthen and increase
children's environmental health protection. EPA received comments from 18
individuals and organizations. (Attachment A to this document includes the
list of submitters, a summary of the comments, and EPA's response to the
public comments.) Further, on September 9, 1997, EPA issued a document in
the Federal Register that it had established a Children's Health
Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) under the Federal Advisory Committee
Act, Public Law 92-463, to advise the Administrator on various issues of
children's environmental health protection.
    One of the first actions undertaken by the CHPAC, at the request of
EPA, was to develop a set of recommendations to the Administrator
concerning which existing rules EPA should reevaluate. They started by
reviewing the public comments that were submitted in response to the
October 3, 1997, Federal Register document. Based on extensive
deliberations the CHPAC submitted their recommendations in a consensus
report dated May 28, 1998. (See Attachment B for the selection criteria
used by the CHPAC in their deliberations.) The following section lists the
CHPAC recommendations, excerpts the discussion that accompanied the
recommendations in the report (in italics), and outlines EPA's response.
    We congratulate the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee
for their success in deliberating and recommending actions to improve
EPA's regulations. We believe that EPA's response to these recommendations
advances our goal to better protect our Nation's children.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: If you have a need for further
information you may write to Meg Kelly, Office of Children's Health
Protection, USEPA (MS1107), 401 M Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20460;


CHPAC Recommendation: Reevaluate the National Emission Standard for
Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Chloralkali Plants

    CHPAC Report Discussion: ``The CHPAC recommends that EPA take a
holistic approach to evaluate all sources of mercury emissions. Mercury is
a relevant issue to more than one media (air, water), which contributes to
its entry into the environment, for example, by electricity (coal-burning)
generation, incineration and discharge into water sources. Human exposure
occurs primarily through fish consumption. Mercury exposure is associated
with adverse health effects in humans. Depending on dose, the effects can
range from severe to less severe, most notably, neurological,
developmental, and reproductive effects.
    By the end of 1998, EPA is scheduled to complete a multimedia
strategy addressing mercury. We support EPA's multimedia approach and
schedule for the issuance of this strategy.
    We encourage EPA to proceed diligently with implementation to
protect children from mercury emissions, including those from
municipal, medical, and hazardous waste combustion.
    Although the CHPAC selected the National Emission Standard for
Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for chloralkali plants for
reevaluation, EPA resources should not be diverted from the evaluation of
other larger sources of mercury emission. Important criteria for its
selection are that the standard has not been re-evaluated or revised since
its promulgation in 1973, children's health was not considered in the
original development of the standard, and new information and data based
on peer reviewed science suggest that risks to children and the persistent
and bioaccumulative nature of mercury were not considered during the
setting of the standard.
    The CHPAC recognizes the Water Quality Criteria Standard as one
means by which the EPA can regulate the prevention of contaminated fish by
mercury and ensure children's protection from hazardous levels of mercury.
The CHPAC recommends that EPA address the largest sources of mercury
emissions expeditiously and prevent further contamination of fish by
revising the Water Quality Criteria Standard. Studies have shown that once
mercury enters water, either directly or through air deposition, it can
bioaccumulate in fish and animal tissue at the top of the food chain in
concentrations much greater than those found in water.
    Another specific concern is the emission of mercury from electric
(coal-burning) utility boilers (regulatory determination by the EPA is due
in November 1998). Important criteria for its selection are that there is
currently no regulation of hazardous air pollutant emissions, such as
mercury, from electric utility boilers, and electric utility boilers are
the largest contributor of overall anthropogenic sources of mercury
emissions in the United States (EPA Mercury Report to Congress 1997).''
    EPA's Response: EPA agrees with the CHPAC recommendation that the
NESHAP for chloralkali plants be revisited and has begun a process to
revise this standard. A proposed rule will include emissions limits based
on control technology and on management practices. EPA projects a proposal
date of November 1999, and expects to issue a final standard in November
2000. In order to ensure protection of children, the Office of Air and
Radiation (OAR) will analyze the risk from chloralkali plants to support
the rule making--an unusual step for a technology- based standard.
However, OAR believes the risk assessment will provide us with information
on potential children's risks that is important to determining the
appropriate level of the standard. Results of the risk analysis may be
used to justify setting a standard more stringent than the maximum
achievable control technology (MACT) floor, but any standard set will be
no less stringent than the floor.
    Discussion: On November 16, 1998, EPA issued a draft Multimedia
Strategy for Priority Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic Pollutants
( This strategy includes a
multifaceted draft Action Plan for Mercury. EPA believes that this action
plan addresses the concerns expressed by the CHPAC in their report. It
recognizes the multimedia threat posed by methyl mercury-- the compound to
which mercury is transformed through natural environmental processes--and
the need to control human exposure to methyl mercury, through multiple
concerted approaches targeted at air, water, sediment and land. Further,
EPA is proposing additional reporting of mercury releases under the Toxic
Release Inventory to improve citizens' right to know about releases in
their environment.
    EPA has taken several important steps to reduce the levels of
mercury, including reducing emissions from municipal waste combustors and
medical waste incinerators. These combined actions, once fully implemented
(December 2000 for municipal waste combustors; September 2002 for medical
waste incinerators) will reduce mercury emissions caused by human
activities by 50% from 1990 levels. EPA also entered into a partnership
with the American Hospital Association whose goal is to virtually
eliminate hospital mercury waste by the year 2005.
    Further, final regulations for hazardous waste combustion
facilities (incinerators, cement kilns, lightweight aggregate kilns)
are expected to be promulgated in February 1999. The EPA is responding to
extensive public comment including new emissions data and comments on the
methodology used to estimate mercury emissions from these facilities. The
final rule is expected to achieve a substantial overall reduction in
mercury emissions from these hazardous waste combustion facilities.
    The CHPAC highlighted their concern that EPA resources not be
diverted from the evaluation of other larger sources of mercury
emission. EPA assures the CHPAC that the Mercury Action Plan addresses all
known important sources of mercury. For example, EPA is also developing
regulations to limit emissions of hazardous air pollutants, including
mercury, from five additional source categories--industrial, commercial,
other nonhazardous solid waste combustors, gas turbines, and stationary
internal combustion engines. Proposed regulations are due by the end of
the year 2000. In addition, EPA will consider the impacts to children's
health along with many other factors (e.g., controllability and costs) as
part of the regulatory determination for coal-fired electric utility power
    EPA agrees with the CHPAC that we should revise water quality
criteria that are used by states and tribes to establish enforceable
water quality standards. EPA's Office of Water (OW) is accelerating
development of a revised water quality human health criterion for
mercury which will reflect two major departures from past approaches:
    A revised human health methodology will provide for use of
bioaccumulation factors to estimate the build up of mercury in fish-
tissue rather than using bioconcentration factors. This means that
water quality criteria will now be based on biomagnification in the
food chain. An improved means to estimate fish consumption is also
included. A draft revised Water Quality Criteria Methodology for Human
Health was published in August 1998. Although not regulations, these
criteria do propose fish intake and body weights that more accurately
reflect actual characteristics of women of childbearing age and children.
OW is taking public comment on the proposal. A final human health criteria
methodology is projected to be available by the end of 1999.
    An updated human health risk assessment will result from
an interagency review of recent human data on methyl mercury. This
review will concentrate on levels of exposure to mercury associated
with subtle neurological endpoints and is aimed at achieving consensus
among Federal agencies on estimates of human risk. A workshop was
conducted in November 1998. In addition, Congress required, in the report
that accompanied EPA's 1999 appropriation, a 18-month National Academy of
Sciences study and recommendation on the reference dose for methyl
mercury. This study will begin in January 1999. A peer review of
application of the new methodology to methyl mercury is projected for
completion by mid 2000.
    Finally, the CHPAC report indicated concerns about emissions of
mercury from electric (coal-burning) utility boilers. In order to
support a regulatory determination (now required by December 15, 2000) and
potential future regulatory action, EPA will gather high quality emissions
data about coal-fired electric generating plants to address

[[Page 5279]]

current uncertainties about mercury emissions. To accomplish this, we are
requiring all coal-fired power plants above 25 megawatts (MW) to provide
the results of analysis to determine the mercury content of the coal they
are burning. In addition, a sample of plants will be required to perform
stack testing for quantity and species of mercury emissions. The
information obtained from this effort will allow EPA to calculate the
amount and species of mercury emitted by each coal-fired plant above 25
MW. This information will be available to the public.

CHPAC Recommendation: Reevaluate the (Farm) Worker Protection

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