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July 19, 2022

PFAS Added to Toxics Release Inventory Only Account for a Fraction in Use

EPA is adding four new PFAS to the public database, bringing the total to 180

Contacts

Erin Fitzgerald, Earthjustice, efitzgerald@earthjustice.org

Washington, D.C.

On July 19, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a flawed final rule that updated the Toxics Release Inventory, otherwise known as the TRI, while adding four additional PFAS to the list. When EPA added these PFAS to the TRI, they did so in a manner that allows polluters to exploit regulatory exemptions to the TRI’s reporting requirement — the de minimis concentration and alternate threshold exemptions — so polluters may not have to report their PFAS. The final rule published today marks the third time that EPA has added PFAS to the TRI in an illegal manner that fails to give communities the full disclosure that they deserve and are entitled to by law.

The TRI is a publicly available database that contains information about the manufacture, use, disposal, and release of listed chemicals and is based on reports filed by industrial and federal facilities. With this addition, there are now 180 PFAS listed on the TRI, a fraction of the nearly one thousand PFAS approved for manufacture and use in the United States. “PFAS,” which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of dangerous chemicals that can persist in human bodies and in the environment for decades. Studies show PFAS are linked to cancer, immune system dysfunction, liver and kidney damage. More than 95% of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One of the newly-listed substances is PFBS, a very commonly-used PFAS that has been identified in the environment and consumer products, including surface water, wastewater, drinking water, dust, floor wax, carpeting, and carpet cleaners.

On behalf of the National PFAS Contamination Coalition, Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, Earthjustice sued EPA in January 2022 over the first two rules. EPA themselves admitted that these exemptions “significantly limited the amount of data that EPA received for [TRI-listed PFAS] in the first year of reporting” in their PFAS Road Map published last fall .The agency also claimed that they would be developing a rule to eliminate the exemptions. However, the PFAS Roadmap indicated that the proposed rule would be published in Spring 2022, and this has not yet happened.

Eve Gartner, Earthjustice managing attorney for Toxic Exposure and Health, and lead counsel for the groups suing EPA over the first two flawed TRI rules, issued the following statement:

“Families across the country have a right to know if a nearby chemical plant or a military base is dumping PFAS in the air or water. PFAS are extremely toxic and are linked to cancer, reduced immune effects, and a host of other serious health problems. Yet EPA continues to allow secrecy loopholes to protect polluters. Frankly, I am shocked that the EPA is once again adopting a rule with the same polluter-friendly provisions we first saw in the Trump administration and despite admitting that the loopholes are significantly reducing the information that communities are getting about their exposure to this class of extremely toxic and persistent chemicals.”

Read more about EPA's lack of progress on their roadmap for curtailing PFAS.

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