The U.S. Proposes New Actions to Address PFAS
Are you prepared?
07 December 2021
The current U.S. Administration launched a multi-agency plan to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in air, water, and food. To protect human health and the environment, the plan will help prevent PFAS from being released into drinking systems, the air, and the food supply, and there are proposed actions to scale up PFAS cleanup efforts.
Chemical manufacturers, importers, and processors of PFAS need to take additional actions to keep pace with the many rules being proposed at the federal and state level.
PFAS are a group of thousands of chemicals including hundreds actively used in commerce, some of which are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic substances (PBTs). They provide heat-, oil-, water-, and corrosion-resistant properties, as well as other specialized properties for industrial equipment and consumer products.
On 18 October 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the PFAS Roadmap1, a three-year strategy that sets timelines by which EPA plans to take actions, continue research to understand where additional controls may be needed, and commit to new policies to safeguard public health and protect the environment against potential PFAS-related risks. The Roadmap includes regulatory and administrative actions and enforcement approaches that the EPA intends to take to comprehensively address PFAS throughout the environment. Actions include a new national testing strategy to accelerate research and regulatory development, and a proposal to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances under various regulations, including the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
This comprehensive strategy not only includes efforts from the EPA, but also seven other federal agencies such as the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the departments of Defense, Agriculture, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The EPA's Rules
The EPA's planned rules include releasing final drinking water limits for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) by Fall 2023 and designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) by Spring 2022.
These rules add on to the proposed rule announced in June of this year, to require reporting on PFAS manufactured in the United States. This rule, as currently written, will require all manufacturers (including importers) of PFAS in any year since 2011 to report information related to chemical identity, categories of use, volumes manufactured and processed, byproducts, environmental and health effects, worker exposure, and disposal. The EPA stated that collecting data from manufacturers of PFAS is an important first step to better understand and ultimately reduce potential risks caused by these chemicals. Due to the vast number of chemical substances that may be considered PFAS (more than 1000), the EPA is providing examples of PFAS from the TSCA Inventory and new chemical low-volume exemption (LVE) notices, and structural diagram examples of additional PFAS that cannot be identified on the previously mentioned lists due to confidentiality claims. The deadline for reporting is one year following the effective date of the final rule.
The agency's June TSCA section 8(a)-proposed rule prompted an array of industry groups to call on the agency to include more exemptions, consider a tiered reporting approach, narrow the list of reportable chemicals, and provide additional time for responding. The proposed PFAS rule will exclude from reporting PFAS produced solely for use as a pesticide or use in food, food additives, drugs, cosmetics, or medical devices. However, the scope of the proposed rule will require reporting on PFAS when manufactured for virtually any other use, including when present as an unintentional impurity or byproduct of manufacturing or disposal, and when imported as a component in manufactured products (referred to as "articles"). Alternatively, several environmental advocacy groups have asked the EPA to expand this proposed TSCA reporting rule to include submission requirements for processors, annual data collection, and more. The EPA has until 01 January 2023 to finalize the rule proposed in June.
The EPA is also exploring its TSCA authority to decide what regulations or other actions may be warranted to restrict or reduce PFAS being used in commerce. By Summer 2023, the EPA may include limits to the amount of PFAS that chemical, plastic, and synthetic fiber manufacturers can release into water. By Summer 2024, the agency also expects to propose limits for the electroplating and metal finishing industries. The agency is also considering discharge limits on airports, electrical equipment manufacturers, pulp and paper mills, landfills, and textile and carpet manufacturers.
Further complicating the PFAS compliance area is the fact that these federal actions are being implemented while many States are enacting their own PFAS phase-out regulations. Regulations for PFAS are also increasing in the global arena.
What Can You Do?
Manufacturers and importers should carefully evaluate the PFAS Roadmap and the proposed rule to learn the impact that PFAS compliance will have on their business.
We're Here to Help:
Intertek is closely monitoring developments in this area and will communicate important information as we move through this new implementation. Intertek offers a range of services to help you navigate the compliance steps and can provide strategic guidance and practical help with data reporting. If you have questions about PFAS or any area of the TSCA, please contact us.
To learn more about how we can support your business, visit: https://www.intertek.com/green/chemicals/.