Inside EPA’s Roadmap on Regulating PFAS Chemicals

PFAS are a class of thousands of manufactured chemical compounds that are dangerous even at minimum exposure.

PFAS are found in air, water, and soil and can persist in humans and in the environment for decades. PFAS are present in many everyday products like waterproof jackets, food packaging, nonstick pans, and personal care products.

Mounting research links PFAS to a wide range of health problems including cancers, harms to child development, and reduced fertility.

In 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a roadmap listing how it would curtail PFAS contamination in the United States. Earthjustice is tracking EPA’s promised actions as it pushes the agency to strongly regulate these dangerous chemicals.

The EPA must move faster and expand regulations to stop the approval of new PFAS chemicals, prevent pollution at the source, keep PFAS out of all environmental media, and ensure polluters pay for cleanup. This requires expeditious rulemakings and implementing the strongest possible protections.

Key commitments missing from EPA’s PFAS roadmap, include:

  1. Ending approval of new PFAS chemicals through the pre-manufacture notice (PMN) process and the full set of regulatory exemptions.
  2. Adopting a moratorium on incineration, at least until EPA has determined if there are safe protocols for incineration and if so, until EPA has codified those protocols into binding regulations.
  3. Regulating emissions of PFAS into air.
  4. Regulating discharges of PFAS into water from all industrial sources.
  5. Regulating PFAS as a class in all of EPA’s work.

Earthjustice is working to end PFAS pollution and remove toxic chemicals from our daily lives by fighting in court, working with Congress, and working with communities across the country.

See a summary and current status of EPA’s PFAS roadmap:

Action Identified in PFAS Roadmap Action Details Proposed Roadmap Timeline Status Update EPA Office
Publish national PFAS testing strategy
  • Prioritize PFAS for testing potential human health and ecological effects.
  • Use Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) section 4 authority to require PFAS manufacturers to conduct and fund tests.
Fall 2021
(Publish)

End of 2021
(Issue first round test orders)
EPA published a testing strategy, though its approach to prioritizing PFAS for testing has been controversial.

The first round of test orders was issued in Jun. 2022, ~6 months later than proposed.
OCSPP
Ensure a robust review process for new PFAS
  • Generally, deny pending and future so-called “low volume exemption” (“LVE”) submissions to get new PFAS in the market.
  • Moving forward, apply a rigorous pre-manufacturing notice (“PMN”) review.
Ongoing (since Apr. 2021) In Process.

EPA has proposed a rule that would make PFAS categorically ineligible for approval through “low volume” or “low release and exposure” exemptions, requiring any new PFAS to go through full PMN review before it can be approved. However, EPA’s proposed rule narrowly defines PFAS, so some PFAS that do not meet EPA’s definition could still be approved through these loopholes.
OCSPP
Review previous approval decisions on PFAS
  • Re-examine PFAS reviewed and approved through EPA’s New Chemicals program, which evaluates chemicals before they enter commerce.
  • Revisit past regulatory decisions and address those that are insufficiently protective.
  • Issue TSCA section 5(e) orders, which imposes more rigorous safety requirements, for existing PFAS with recently filed significant new use notices.
  • Improve tracking and enforcement for new chemical consent orders and significant new use rules (“SNURs”).
Efforts ongoing Status Unknown OCSPP
Close the door on abandoned PFAS and uses
  • Use “significant new use” authority on inactive PFAS so industry must submit notice of its intent to use the chemical to EPA, and obtain approval, before it can resume use of that chemical.
Summer 2022 Immediate Action Needed

In Jan. 2023, EPA proposed a significant new use rule that will close the door on abandoned uses of PFAS.
OCSPP
Enhance PFAS reporting under Toxics Release Inventory (“TRI”)
  • Propose a rulemaking to categorize PFAS on TRI as “Chemicals of Special Concern” and remove small concentrations, or de minimis, loopholes for all “Chemicals of Special Concern.”
  • Announce additional rulemaking in 2022 to add more PFAS to TRI.
Spring 2022
(Proposed rule)
In Oct. 2023, EPA finalized a rule to eliminate the de minimis concentration exemption to TRI reporting for all PFAS currently on the TRI. OCSPP
Finalize new PFAS reporting under TSCA section 8
  • Consider public comments on and finalize proposed rule to gather data, such as information on uses, production volumes, disposal, exposures, and hazards, on any PFAS manufactured since 2011.
Jan. 1, 2023
(Publish final rule)
In Oct. 2023, EPA finalized a broad PFAS reporting rule under TSCA section 8. OCSPP
Undertake nationwide monitoring for PFAS in drinking water
  • Finalize the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which requires large water systems to test drinking water for 29 PFAS from Jan. 2023 to Dec. 2025.
Fall 2021
(Publish final rule)
EPA finalized the rule in Dec. 2021.

Monitoring began in Jan. 2023.
OW
Establish a national primary drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFOS
  • Develop proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for PFOS and PFOA.
  • Evaluate additional PFAS.
Fall 2022
(Propose rule)

Fall 2023
(Publish final rule)
Immediate Action Needed

EPA proposed the rule in Mar. 2023. It is currently out for pubic comment.
OW
Publish the final toxicity assessment for GenX and five additional PFAS
  • Complete toxicity assessments, which help EPA to better understand human health and environmental harms, for GenX and additional PFAS.
Ongoing
(since 2021)
EPA finalized the toxicity assessment for PFBS in Apr. 2021 and GenX in Oct. 2021, detailing potential adverse health effects and establishing toxicity values.

Incomplete None of the other five toxicity assessments have been finalized.
OW
Publish health advisories for GenX and PFBS
  • Establish drinking water health advisories, based on final toxicity assessments.
Spring 2022 On Jun. 15, 2022, EPA issued final health advisories for GenX chemicals and PFBS. OW
Restrict PFAS discharges from industrial sources through a multi-faceted Effluent Limitations Guidelines (“ELG”) program
  • Includes specific actions / rulemakings for nine industrial categories in proposed PFAS Action Act of 2021 (and other industrial categories, such as landfills).
End of 2024 Status Unknown OW
Restrict PFAS discharges from industrial sources through a multi-faceted Effluent Limitations Guidelines (“ELG”) program Includes specific actions / rulemakings for nine industrial categories in proposed PFAS Action Act of 2021 (and other industrial categories, such as landfills).

  • Enact rulemaking to restrict PFAS discharges from categories where EPA has data (e.g., organic chemicals, plastics, and synthetic fibers, metal finishing, electroplating).
Summer 2023
(Propose rule for organic chemicals, plastics, and synthetic fibers)

Summer 2024
(Propose rule for metal finishing and electroplating)
Status Unknown OW
Restrict PFAS discharges from industrial sources through a multi-faceted Effluent Limitations Guidelines (“ELG”) program Includes specific actions / rulemakings for nine industrial categories in proposed PFAS Action Act of 2021 (and other industrial categories, such as landfills).

  • Monitor industrial categories where phaseout of PFAS is projected by 2024 (e.g., pulp, paper, paperboard, airports).
Fall 2022
(Finalize ELG Plan 15 to address results of monitoring and future regulatory action)
Immediate Action Needed

Released Jan. 2023. Under the plan, EPA will propose to regulate PFAS discharges from landfills but will delay regulating other industrial categories by focusing on studies and monitoring.
OW
Leverage National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting to reduce PFAS discharges to waterways Leverage federally issued NPDES permits to reduce PFAS discharges:

  • Propose monitoring requirements for facilities where PFAS are expected to be present in wastewater and stormwater.
  • Propose that NPDES permits contain conditions based on product elimination and substitution, require best management practices to address PFAS-containing foams for stormwater permits, require enhanced public notification and engagement, and strengthen pretreatment programs.
Winter 2022 EPA released a memo in Apr. 2022 detailing how it will require monitoring for PFAS in federally-issued permits. OW
Leverage National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting to reduce PFAS discharges to waterways Issue new guidance to state permitting authorities to address PFAS in NPDES permits:

  • Recommend that state-issued permits not requiring monitoring for PFAS use EPA’s recently published robust analytical method.
- EPA issued guidance in Dec. 2022 to help states address PFAS discharges for NPDES permitting programs and/or pretreatment programs. OW
Publish multi-lab validated analytical method for 40 PFAS
  • Publish method online and start proposed rulemaking to promulgate method under Clean Water Act.
Fall 2022
(Publish method online)
In Sept. 2021, EPA proposed Draft Method 1633, which is a validated analytical method to test for 40 PFAS.

It has not finalized the method.
OW
Publish final recommended ambient water quality criteria for PFAS
  • Publish recommended aquatic life criteria for PFOA and PFOS, and develop benchmarks for other PFAS that don’t have sufficient data to define a recommended aquatic life criteria value.
  • Develop human health criteria for PFOA and PFOS, taking drinking water and fish consumption into account
  • Support Tribes in developing water quality standards.
Winter 2022
(Publish for aquatic life)

Fall 2024
(Publish for human health)
In May 2022, EPA published draft recommended aquatic life criteria for PFOA and PFOS. OW
Finalize risk assessment for PFOA and PFOS in biosolids (sewage sludge)
  • Finalize a risk assessment to determine the potential harm associated with human exposure to PFOA and PFOS in biosolids.
  • Based on the risk assessment, decide whether to regulate PFOA and PFOS in biosolids.
Winter 2024 Status Unknown OW
Propose to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances under CERCLA
  • Develop rule to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA, which would require facilities to report on releases above an assigned threshold.
Spring 2022
(Propose rule)

Summer 2023
(Publish final rule)
Immediate Action Needed

EPA proposed a rule in Aug. 2022.
OLEM
Issue advance notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPRM”) to seek public input on various PFAS under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”)
  • Develop ANPRM on whether to designate other PFAS — in addition to PFOA and PFOS — as hazardous substances under CERCLA.
Spring 2022 ANPRM published in Apr. 2023. Public comments on the proposal are accepted through Jun. 12, 2023. OLEM
Issue updated guidance on destroying and disposing of certain PFAS and PFAS-containing materials
  • Update guidelines, which will address public comments and newly published research.
  • Provide additional research data that will become available starting 2022.
Fall 2023 (Update guidance)

Dec. 2023 (Statutory deadline for update)
Status Unknown OLEM
Develop and validate methods to detect and measure PFAS in the environment
  • Draft total adsorbable fluorine method for wastewater for potential lab validation.
Fall 2021 Status Unknown

Draft method was published in Aug. 2021.

The status of the final method is unknown.
ORD
Advance science to assess human health and environmental risks from PFAS
  • Complete draft Integrated Risk Information System (“IRIS”) assessments for PFHxS, PFHxA, PFNA, and PFDA for public comments and peer review.
Spring – Fall 2022 A draft IRIS assessment for PFHxA was released for public comment in Feb. 2022.

None of the other draft assessments have been published for public comment.
ORD
Advance science to assess human health and environmental risks from PFAS
  • Complete and publish final IRIS assessment for PFBA.
Fall 2022 A peer review meeting for this assessment was held in late Feb. 2022. ORD
Evaluate and develop technologies for reducing PFAS in the environment
  • Identify initial PFAS categories for removal tech.
Summer 2022 Status Unknown ORD
Issue annual public report on progress towards PFAS commitments Beginning Winter 2022
Status Unknown Cross-Program

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Media Inquiries

Alejandro Dávila Fragoso, National Communications Strategist, Earthjustice
adavila@earthjustice.org, (760) 595-3518

About the EPA Offices

  • OAR = Office of Air and Radiation is charged with developing national programs, policies, and regulations for controlling air pollution and radiation exposure.
  • OCSPP = Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention is responsible for protecting people and the environment from potential risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals.
  • OLEM = Office of Land and Emergency Management is responsible for providing policy, guidance, and direction for the EPA's emergency response and waste programs.
  • ORD = Office of Research and Development is the scientific research arm of the EPA.
  • OW = Office of Water is charged with ensuring drinking water is safe, and restoring and maintaining oceans, watersheds, and their aquatic ecosystems to protect human health, supporting economic and recreational activities, and providing healthy habitat for fish, plants, and wildlife.

Definitions

  • CERCLA = The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund, imposes financial liability on parties responsible, including partially responsible, for the presence of hazardous substances at a site.
  • CWA = The Clean Water Act establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.
  • ELG = Effluent limitation guidelines are national wastewater discharge standards that are developed by the EPA.
  • HAPs = Hazardous air pollutants are those known to cause cancer and other serious health impacts.
  • IRIS = The Integrated Risk Information System identifies and characterizes the health hazards of chemicals found in the environment.
  • NEJAC = The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council is a federal advisory committee to EPA, providing advice and recommendations about broad, cross-cutting issues related to environmental justice.
  • NPDES = The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program addresses water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants to waters of the United States.
  • PFAS = Shorthand for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Chemicals in this class of more than 5,000 substances are found in products such as nonstick pans (e.g. “Teflon”), firefighting foam, make-up and other personal care products, food packaging, waterproof jackets, and more.
  • PFOA = Perfluorooctanoic acid. Part of the larger group of chemicals referred to as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance). See CDC factsheet.
  • PFOS = Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. Part of the larger group of chemicals referred to as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance).
  • RCRA = The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act creates the framework for the management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste.
  • SDWA = The Safe Drinking Water Act was established to protect the quality of drinking water in the United States. This law focuses on all waters actually or potentially designed for drinking use, whether from above ground or underground sources.
  • SNUR = TSCA Section 5(a) Significant New Use Rules can be used to require notice to EPA before chemical substances and mixtures are used in new ways that might create concerns.
  • TRI = The Toxics Release Inventory is a publicly available database developed under EPA’s authority that contains information about the manufacture, use, disposal, and release of listed chemicals, based on reports filed by industrial and federal facilities.
  • TSCA = The Toxic Substances Control Act requires EPA to assess the safety of new chemicals before they can enter commerce, and to ensure that chemicals already in commerce do not present unreasonable risk to humans or the environment, with a particular focus on highly exposed and susceptible populations, as a result of their manufacture, processing, distribution, use or disposal, or any combination of those activities.
  • UCMR = The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule is issued by EPA every five years and requires large public water systems to monitor drinking water for no more than 30 named substances that are suspected to be present and not regulated under the SDWA.