EPA Launches Investigation Of Chemicals In River

In response to a complaint from three Native American tribes, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will investigate whether or not a chemical used in tire manufacture poses a risk to aquatic life.

Regarding food and rituals, many indigenous communities depend significantly on fish and other aquatic resources. The well-being of Tribes, especially the exercise and preservation of Tribal Treaty Rights, depends on a salmon population that is both robust and easily accessible.

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Puyallup Tribe of Washington State, and The Yurok Tribe of California petitioned the EPA this summer to explore banning the application of 6PPD, a kind of rubber stabilizer used in most tire manufacture, because of the harm it causes to local salmon populations on their way to breeding grounds.

N-(1,3-dimethylbutyl)-N’-phenyl-p-phenylenediamine, or 6PPD, is a chemical compound that stops tires from breaking down and extends their useful life in automobiles.

According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, driving causes tires to emit dust and tiny particles due to friction on the road.

The 6PPD-q on these particles is washed away into the stormwater and eventually makes its way to the rivers and streams. The effects of 6PPD-q on animals are currently being studied, given it was just recently found.

The tribes filed a petition in August pointing out that the by-product of the chemical, 6PPD-quinone (6PPD-q), is the EPA’s second most dangerous toxin to aquatic wildlife. It has been shown that coho salmon die within hours of exposure to 6PPD-q.

The EPA said that there is evidence suggesting the chemical is dangerous to fish, but there is less certainty about the impact it has on human health.

Emissions, transport, and health consequences of 6PPD-quinone on humans are poorly understood. Engineered environmentally friendly systems, an effective stormwater treatment solution, are now the subject of intensive study.

Researchers from the EPA and its national network of partners are working to fill in the blanks on 6PPD-quinone. This information will enable informed choices on safeguarding human health and the environment.

The agency anticipates having a final regulation in 2024.