On March 5, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that “in support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to making evidence-based decisions to protect human health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking an important step by proposing the cancellation of the registration of pentachlorophenol.” Pentachlorophenol, a well-recognized wood preservative in use for decades, is registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). According to EPA, it is used primarily on utility poles.
EPA states that after completing a risk assessment, it determined that pentachlorophenol poses significant human health risks to workers. To address this issue, EPA proposes to cancel all uses of pentachlorophenol through the FIFRA registration review process. EPA will accept public comments on the proposed interim decision (PID) for 60 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0653. Comments are due May 4, 2021. 86 Fed. Reg. 12940. At this time, the PID has not yet been posted in the docket. After considering any comments concerning the PID, EPA will issue an interim decision, which would make final the cancellation of pentachlorophenol.
EPA notes that this proposed action would align the United States with the United Nation’s (UN) Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which has banned the use of pentachlorophenol. According to EPA, it worked with industry stakeholders “to identify a number of viable, safer alternatives such as copper naphthenate and DCOIT, along with well-established wood preservatives such as chromated arsenicals and creosote.” EPA’s March 5, 2021, Federal Register notice also announces the availability of PIDs for creosote and chromated arsenicals and dichromic acid, disodium salt, dehydrate.
That EPA is seeking to eliminate pentachlorophenol is by no means surprising and its demise has been in the works for a while. Its commercial use is already banned in many countries. The Biden Administration was expected to propose cancellation, and wasted little time in doing so. The real debate will be in the terms that EPA eventually settles upon with regard to phase-out and continued use of stockpiled material. The elimination of this product paves the way for a more robust commercial future for the existing pentachlorophenol replacements, and likely soon to be emerging replacements that are efficacious and more sustainable.