Half of “Forever Chemicals” in Commerce Approved through EPA Loopholes

Community and advocacy groups petition agency to take 600 PFAS off the market immediately


Erin Fitzgerald, (215) 671-6529, efitzgerald@earthjustice.org

Today, Earthjustice, on behalf of a coalition of environmental organizations and community advocates, filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging the agency to revoke the approval and order manufacturers to take off the market 600 PFAS — about half of the PFAS in commerce. EPA approved these toxic “forever chemicals” and allowed them to be sold through illegal use of exemptions in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Two exemptions in TSCA — known as the low-volume exemption and the low release and exposure exemption — allow EPA to approve chemicals through lax safety reviews only if it “will not present an unreasonable risk” to humans or the environment. PFAS do not meet that standard, and advocates are pushing to end loopholes. It is well-established that even in very small quantities, PFAS are linked to cancers, damage to the immune system, cardiovascular diseases, as well as developmental harms and liver disease in children.

“PFAS cause cancers and birth defects, yet EPA approved hundreds of them through loopholes,” said Eve Gartner, Earthjustice managing attorney. “If EPA is serious about addressing the PFAS crisis, it must immediately take off the market all PFAS that were approved through misused exemptions. PFAS manufacturers must follow the most stringent approval process. In fact, we believe no PFAS would be approved if full safety reviews were conducted.”

Dubbed as forever chemicals, PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and are a class of thousands of chemicals that persist in humans and in the environment for decades. More than 95% of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Used to repel water, grease, and stains, PFAS are found in nonstick pans, food packaging, jackets, and carpets. 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 may contain PFAS. PFAS are in water, air, fish, and soil across the nation, according to EPA.

Earthjustice is filing this petition on behalf of Advance Carolina, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, BlueGreen Alliance, Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water, Clean Cape Fear, Defend Our Health, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Democracy Green, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water, Natural Resources Defense Council, PFOAProject NY, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families/Toxic-Free Future, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists.

Learn more about EPA’s lack of progress on their roadmap for curtailing and regulating PFAS.

Read the 2019 Earthjustice and Environmental Defense Fund report on EPA’s concealment of PFAS health information.

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