Have You Completed Your NPE Phaseout?

Posted January 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

Now that the second and final deadline (Dec. 31, 2014) has passed, TRSA’s phaseout of NPE detergents in commercial laundries should be complete as agreed to by TRSA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a refresher to the issue, please refer to the article on pg. 16 of the March 2014 edition of Textile Services magazine. Please contact TRSA Vice President of Government Relations Kevin Schwalb if you have any questions.

With TRSA’s phaseout for nonylphenol ethoxolates (NPEs) at the end of last year, the EPA recently announced a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for the uses of NPEs. The SNUR took effect on Jan. 1, in conjunction with TRSA’s actions.

This process began in 2008 and wrapped up on Jan. 1 with commercial laundries completing a phaseout of NPEs from both liquid and powder laundry detergents in the laundering process. 

During the announcement of the SNUR, the EPA recognized TRSA as a leader in the business community when it comes to environmental issues and an example of how business and government can work together to achieve a goal.

In 2008, the EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding products containing NPEs. The ANPRM could have required every commercial laundry facility to install air-monitoring equipment. The associated compliance requirements would have resulted in tremendous administrative burdens for launderers.

As a result of a Settlement Agreement with the Sierra Club and UNITE HERE over their lawsuit with the EPA, part of the ANPRM included gathering data to facilitate an evaluation of industrial laundry worker exposure to NPEs. These groups didn’t believe the EPA was doing enough to address potential harm caused by NPEs to aquatic life and industrial laundry workers.

To alleviate these burdensome requirements, TRSA worked with the EPA, and in 2010 agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to phase out NPEs in all detergents by the end of 2014. The effort occurred in two phases: the use of NPEs in liquid detergents was eliminated by Dec. 31, 2013, and then in all detergents by Dec. 31, 2014.

Failure to meet the phase-out can trigger a couple of responses. Under EPA’s NPE Action Plan, the agency could buttress the phaseout with a couple of approaches under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.  In particular, the EPA stated that it would pursue a test rule, which would go into effect after the phaseout date and require companies that continue to use NPE to conduct extensive toxicity testing on the substance. These efforts could include worker monitoring at laundry facilities. This, in turn, would open plants to various other inspections by the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The EPA also can move forward with its original plan to require textile service operators to install air-monitoring equipment in plants. You can avoid these costly consequences by showing positive results. Make sure that NPEs have been phased out at your plant, and contact Schwalb if you have any questions.