[Federal Register Volume 68, Number 250 (Wednesday, December 31, 2003)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 75475-75476]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 03-32018]

[[Page 75475]]



Occupational Safety and Health Administration

29 CFR Part 1910

[Docket No. H-044]
RIN 1218-AA84

Occupational Exposure to 2-Methoxyethanol, 2-Ethoxyethanol and 
Their Acetates (Glycol Ethers)

AGENCY: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Labor.

ACTION: Withdrawal of proposed rule; termination of rulemaking.


SUMMARY: OSHA is withdrawing its proposed standard on Occupational 
Exposure to 2-Methoxyethanol (2-ME), 2-Ethoxyethanol (2-EE), and their 
Acetates (2-MEA, 2-EEA) (four glycol ethers). Production and use of the 
four glycol ethers either have ceased or are virtually limited to 
``closed systems'' where exposure levels more than 10 years ago already 
were at or below the proposed permissible exposure limits (PELs). 
Because there are few, if any, remaining opportunities for workplace 
exposure to these glycol ethers and little or no potential for exposure 
in the future because of the availability of less-toxic substitutes, 
OSHA has concluded that the proposed rule is no longer necessary.

DATES: This withdrawal is effective December 31, 2003.

Communications, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-3647, 200 Constitution 
Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210; telephone: (202) 693-1890 (OSHA's 
TTY number is (877) 889-5627).
    For additional copies of this Federal Register notice, contact 
OSHA, Office of Communications, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-3101, 
200 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20210; telephone (202) 693-
1888. Electronic copies of this Federal Register notice, as well as 
news releases and other relevant documents, are available at OSHA's 
Webpage on the Internet at http://www.OSHA.gov.


I. Background

    On March 23, 1993, OSHA proposed to reduce the existing PELs for 
four glycol ethers (2-ME, 2-EE, 2-MEA, 2-EEA) (58 FR 15526). Based on a 
review of scientific studies and other available evidence, OSHA 
preliminarily determined that the existing PELs were not adequate to 
protect an approximately 46,000 exposed workers from significant risks 
of adverse reproductive and developmental health effects. The Agency 
held informal public hearings on the proposal, and the record closed in 
March 1994.
    On August 8, 2002, OSHA reopened the rulemaking record to solicit 
information on the extent to which these glycol ethers are still 
produced and used in the workplace (67 FR 51524). The Agency also 
requested information on substitutes for the four glycol ethers that 
employers may be using, including information on patterns of use, 
degree of toxicity, and levels of employee exposure to the substitutes. 
The comment period closed on November 6, 2002. OSHA received only six 
comments. While this action does not meet any of the criteria for an 
economically significant or major rule as specified by Executive Order 
or relevant statutes, it was reviewed by OMB pursuant to Executive 
Order 12866.

II. Reasons for Withdrawal of the Proposed Standard

    Based on evidence of adverse reproductive and developmental health 
effects associated with exposure to the four glycol ethers (e.g., Exs. 
19, 19A, 19B, 24 A-C), some commenters urged OSHA to issue a final 
standard on glycol ethers (e.g., Exs. 64-2; 64-4; 64-5). However, OSHA 
has decided to terminate the rulemaking because production, use and 
exposure to these glycol ethers has ceased or is virtually limited to 
closed system production where there is little opportunity for employee 
exposure. Exposure levels in those operations already are at or below 
the proposed PELs. In addition, use of these glycol ethers has largely 
been replaced by less-toxic substitutes.
    Production and use of the four glycol ethers have declined 
substantially or ceased completely since the proposed rule was 
published. Starting in the 1990s employers began moving away from using 
these glycol ethers due to increasing awareness of their adverse health 
effects. As early as the mid-1990s, production and use of these glycol 
ethers had dropped from peak production levels in the late 1980s (Ex. 
302-X, pp. 597; 67 FR 51524). The four glycol ethers had been or were 
being eliminated from critical use areas (e.g., construction paints and 
coatings, printing inks, military jet fuel) and key industry sectors 
(e.g., automotive, electronics, semiconductor) (Exs. 11-18; 19B; 28; 
29A; 48; 53; 58; 302-X, pp. 596-600). For example, these glycol ethers 
were no longer used in automotive refinishing, which had accounted for 
about 86 percent of the affected establishments and 57 percent of all 
exposed workers. Production of 2-MEA had been phased out completely and 
the use of 2-ME as a military jet fuel additive, its primary use, was 
to be phased out before 2000 (Ex. 302-X, pp. 597-98). Thus, by the 
close of the rulemaking record in 1994, most downstream use had been 
eliminated (Ex. 58; 302-X, pp. 596-600). Where 2-ME, 2-EE and 2-EEA 
were still manufactured, their production was virtually limited to 
``closed systems'' where, even more than 10 years ago, average 
exposures (both arithmetic and geometric averages) already were at or 
below the proposed PELs (Ex. 302-X, pp. 597-98; 58 FR 15582).
    More recent data confirm that use of and exposure to these glycol 
ethers have declined further and are now very limited (Ex. 64-1; 64-1-
1. See also, SRI, Chemical Economics Handbook (CEH) 663.5000 et seq. 
(September 2000)). By 1999, use of 2-EE had fallen 70 percent, from a 
peak of 175 million pounds in 1980, and 2-ME use had dropped 96 
percent, to just 3 million pounds, according to the Ethylene Glycol 
Ethers Panel of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), formerly Chemical 
Manufacturers Association (Ex. 64-1-1; CEH 663.5001A-H). Of the glycol 
ethers still produced, more than 55 percent was exported and more than 
40 percent was used to produce 2-EEA in closed systems, where average 
exposure levels are at or below the proposed PELs and in most cases 
less than one-half the proposed PELs (Ex. 64-1-1; 58 FR 15582, Table 
VIII-2). All other domestic consumption totaled less than 4 percent (5 
million pounds). (See Table 1.) Finally, OSHA also notes that the very 
few comments submitted in response to the record reopening may be 
further indication of the decline in use and exposure to the four 
glycol ethers:

[[Page 75476]]

                   Table 1.--Consumption of Ethylene Glycol Ethers, 1999 (Millions of pounds)
                                                                Acetate     Other U.S.
                                                               production  consumption    Exports       Total
2-EE........................................................           52            1            0           53
2-EEA.......................................................            0            1           71           72
2-ME........................................................            0            3            0            3
2-MEA.......................................................            0            0            0            0
    Total for all glycol ethers.............................           52            5           71          128
                                                                  (40.6%)       (3.9%)      (55.5%)      (100%)
Source: Ex. 64-1-1 (citing SRI, Chemical Economics Handbook (September 2000)).

    There is now effectively only one producer of these glycol ethers 
remaining in the United States, Equistar Chemicals (Exs. 64-1; 64-1-1), 
whose production is virtually limited to closed systems so employees 
have little opportunity for exposure. According to ACC, Equistar 
exports the bulk of the glycol ethers it produces (Ex. 64-1). The
Chemical Economics Handbook confirms this, reporting that the four 
glycol ethers are no longer sold in the United States (CEH 663.5000R-
S). (OSHA notes that Eastman Chemical Company also produces a small 
amount of 2-EE in a closed system, but only for in-house use as a site-
limited intermediate in the production of another product (Ex. 64-1).
    Prior to 2001, Dow Chemical Company and Union Carbide, the largest 
producer of these glycol ethers, produced almost 60 percent of these 
glycol ethers (CEH 663.5000Q). In 2001, Dow acquired Union Carbide 
(Exs. 64-1; 64-1-1). Last year, Dow stopped manufacturing these glycol 
ethers, moving instead to producing less-toxic E-series butyl glycol 
ethers (e.g., EB) (Exs. 64-1; 64-1-1. CEH 663.5000Q).

III. Substitutes

    There is little or no future potential exposure to the four glycol 
ethers because their use has largely been replaced by less-toxic 
substitutes. According to ACC, a number of substitutes are available, 
including other ethylene glycol ethers, propylene glycol ethers and 
other types of solvents (Ex. 64-1). The Chemical Economics Handbook 
reports that use of the four glycol ethers has been replaced primarily 
by E-series butyl glycol ethers (EB), P-series glycol ethers, and 
ethyl-3-ethoxypropionate (EEP). For example, ethylene glycol monobutyl 
ether acetate, diethylene glycol monobutyl ether acetate, and propylene 
glycol monomethyl acetate have replaced the use of 2-EEA (CEH 
663.5000O). By 1999, the various substitutes accounted for about 80 
percent of all glycol ethers consumed domestically (CEH 663.5000E-F). 
Of these substitutes, EB is now the largest volume glycol ether (64 FR 
42127, August 3, 1999), accounting for 44 percent of all glycol ethers 
consumed domestically (CEH 663.5000E).
    Some commenters raised concerns about the potential toxicity of 
some substitutes, particularly longer chain ethylene glycol ethers, and 
urged OSHA to promulgate standards addressing these substances (Exs. 
64-2, 64-4, 64-5). For example, the California Department of Health 
Services said the following glycol ethers have been shown to produce 
adverse reproductive and developmental health effects: ethylene glycol 
dimethyl ether, ethylene glycol diethyl ether, diethylene glycol 
dimethyl ether, diethylene glycol diethyl ether, triethylene glycol 
dimethyl ether, propylene glycol methyl ether-beta, and propylene 
glycol methyl ether acetate-beta (Ex. 64-5). However, OSHA received 
little information on the degree to which these substances are used in 
workplaces and the extent to which employees are currently exposed to 
them. Therefore, OSHA is not able to determine, based on this 
rulemaking record, whether those substitutes need to be addressed.
    OSHA notes that information submitted to the Environmental 
Protection Agency indicates that some substitutes do not appear to have 
the level of toxicity of the four glycol ethers (65 FR 47342, August 2, 
2000; 64 FR 42125, August 3, 1999. See also EPA Docket No. A-99-24). 
Based on such information, EPA is currently considering whether the 
delist EB from the hazardous air pollutants list established by the 
Clean Air Act. EB is the most prevalent of the substitutes, accounting 
for 44 percent of all glycol ether consumed domestically.
    In conclusion, given the very limited production, use and exposure 
to these glycol ethers and the lack of potential future workplace 
exposure due to the availability and increasing use of less-toxic 
substitutes, OSHA is withdrawing the proposed standard. Accordingly, 
OSHA is devoting its resources to rulemaking projects where there is 
greater potential for employee exposure.

Authority and Signature

    This document was prepared under the direction of John L. Henshaw, 
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. 
Department of Labor. It is issued pursuant to section 6 of the 
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (84 Stat. 1594, 29 U.S.C. 
655), 29 CFR 1911, and Secretary's Order 5-2002 (67 FR 65008).

    Signed at Washington, DC, this 23rd day of December, 2003.
John L. Henshaw,
Assistant Secretary of Labor.
[FR Doc. 03-32018 Filed 12-30-03; 8:45 am]