EPA to designate ‘forever chemicals’ as hazardous substances

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday moved to designate two “forever chemicals” used in cookware, carpets and firefighting foam as hazardous substances, a move that would clear the way for a quick cleanup of toxic compounds. , which have been linked to cancer and other Health Problem.

Designation as a hazardous substance under the so-called Superfund law does not ban the chemicals. But it does require that the release of PFOA and PFOS into soil or water is reported to federal, state, or tribal officials if they meet or exceed certain levels. The EPA can then require cleanup to protect public health and recover cleanup costs.

PFOA and PFOS have been voluntarily phased out by US manufacturers but are still in limited use and atmosphere Because they don’t get worse over time. The compounds are part of a larger group of “forever chemicals” known as PFAS that have been used in consumer products and industry since the 1940s. The term is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which have been used in nonstick frying pans, water-repellent sports gear, stain-resistant rugs, cosmetics, and countless other consumer products.

The chemicals can accumulate and persist in the human body for long periods of time, and evidence from animal and human studies indicates that exposure to PFOA or PFOS can cause cancer or other health problems.

“Communities have long suffered from exposure to these forever chemicals,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement Friday. “The action announced today will improve transparency and advance the EPA’s aggressive efforts to combat this pollution.”

Under the proposed rule, “the EPA will help protect communities from PFAS pollution and hold polluters accountable for their actions,” Regan said. The rules are expected to be final next year.

The Superfund law allows the EPA to clean up contaminated sites and forces the parties responsible for the pollution to either clean up or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work. When a responsible party cannot be identified, Superfund gives EPA money and authority to clean up contaminated sites.

The EPA’s action follows a recent report from the National Academies of Science calling PFAS a serious public health threat in the US and around the world. This comes after an EPA announcement in June that PFOA and PFOS are more dangerous than previously thought and also present health risks at such low levels that they are currently undetectable.

The agency issued a non-binding health advisory that sets the health exposure limits for PFOA and PFOS to near zero, replacing the 2016 guidelines, which had set them at 70 parts per trillion. The chemicals are found in products including cardboard packaging, carpets and fire extinguisher foam and are increasingly found in drinking water.

The EPA said in a statement that it is focused on holding responsible companies that manufacture and release significant amounts of PFOA and PFOS into the environment and will not target individual landowners or farmers “who may be unintentionally affected by pollution.” ” The agency also said it is committed to further outreach and engagement to hear from communities affected by PFAS pollution.

Eric Olsson, a health and Meal The Natural Resources Defense Council expert called the announcement an important step across the country to clean up hundreds of contaminated sites and protect the millions of families exposed to toxic chemicals.

“Listing PFOA and PFOS as hazardous under the Superfund law should allow the EPA to capture the pollutants responsible for that pollution,” he said. “Crackers and public utilities should not pay the bill for the industry’s decades of wonton use of these hazardous chemicals.”

Attorney Rob Billott, the anti-PFAS advocate, said that the EPA’s proposal “sends a loud and clear message to the entire world that the United States is finally acknowledging and is now accepting overwhelming evidence that these man-made poisons are sufficient for the public.” present a threat to health and the environment.”

Billott, whose work uncovering the widespread presence of PFAS chemicals in the environment and human blood was highlighted in the 2019 film “Dark Waters,” said the EPA should work to ensure that the toxins are cleaned up. The cost of PFAS shall be borne by the manufacturers. The one that caused the pollution – “Not the innocent victims of this pollution who didn’t create toxins and were never warned that this was ever happening.”

Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va, said she supports strong action to address PFAS contamination in West Virginia and across the country, but was “concerned about the unintended consequences of today’s proposal.”

If finalized, “property owners, farmers, employers, essential utilities and individuals may be liable to inadvertently hold PFAS on their land, even if it was for years or even generations prior to ownership.” before and may have come from an unknown source,” Capito said.

He urged the EPA to develop an enforceable drinking water standard to promote the health and safety of all Americans.

The American Chemicals Council, which represents major chemical companies, called the EPA’s proposal “an expensive, ineffective, and impractical means of obtaining treatments for these chemicals.”

The group said listing the chemicals under Superfund could harm local fire departments, water utilities, small businesses, airports and farmers. “The proposed (Superfund) designation would impose a tremendous cost on these parties without defined cleanliness standards,” the council said in a statement.

The EPA said it expects to propose national drinking water regulations for PFOA and PFOS later this year, with a final rule expected in 2023.


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