Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced steps to study and, to some extent, regulate PFAS, persistent chemicals that can be extremely toxic to public health. In its roadmap, EPA said it plans to set drinking water limits on some of these toxic chemicals, require manufacturers to provide detailed reporting and designate two of the most well-known PFAS as hazardous under Superfund law.
More specifically, EPA said it will propose a rule next year to remove an exemption from PFAS listed on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which would ensure manufacturers will fully report its releases of 175 listed PFAS (a subset of the PFAS that are in commerce), giving communities the information they need to know about where this pollution is happening.
“PFAS,” which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of thousands of chemicals that don’t easily break down, and that can persist in human bodies and in the environment for decades. Studies show PFAS are linked to serious health effects, such as cancer, immune system dysfunction, and liver and kidney damage. As a result of their pervasiveness, more than 95% of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Chemicals in this class of more than 5,000 substances are found in products like nonstick pans, food packaging, waterproof jackets, and carpets to repel water, grease, and stains. They’re also used in firefighting foam often used on military bases and at commercial airports. Even personal care products like waterproof makeup, dental floss, sunscreen, shampoo, and shaving cream contain PFAS.
The following statement is from Christine Santillana, Earthjustice legislative counsel:
“We thank Administrator Regan for taking good steps forward in curtailing PFAS contamination, as millions of Americans are drinking and breathing PFAS every day while the chemical industry pollutes air, land, and water with impunity. We are pleased to see that EPA plans to remove an exemption that allows manufacturers from fully reporting their PFAS releases to the agency and the public. Communities need accurate reporting of pollution. It is encouraging that EPA will finally designate the two most notorious PFAS — PFOA and PFOS — as hazardous substances under Superfund law to jumpstart cleanup of the most contaminated sites. This is long overdue. But EPA must move faster to set deadlines and expand regulations to stop the approval of new PFAS. It must also address incineration and stop industrial discharges. No one should be facing cancer because of the water they drink, the air they breathe, or the products they buy.”