EPA Framework Prevents Unsafe ‘Forever Chemicals’ From Entering Market

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(Credit: FDA)

by | Jun 30, 2023

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The EPA has released its planned approach for reviewing new poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and new uses of these “forever chemicals.” The new guidance includes extensive review of PFAS before they enter the market, ensuring that they do not pose a threat to human or environmental health.

The framework includes differing levels of PFAS classification based on the potential for exposure and environmental release. Some PFAS, used in a closed system with occupational protections for workers, are not considered a risk for general population exposure or release into the environment. Initial data will still be assessed in such situations in case additional testing and risk mitigation are necessary.

In other cases, PFAS are expected to lead to exposure and environmental releases, and the EPA would not allow for the substance to enter the market until extensive testing is conducted. In such cases, the EPA will then take action to mitigate potential risks before the chemical may enter commerce.

“For decades, PFAS have been released into the environment without the necessary measures in place to protect people’s health – but with this framework, EPA is working to reduce the risk posed by these persistent contaminants,” said Michal Freedhoff, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “EPA’s new framework will ensure that before any new PFAS enter the market, these chemicals are extensively evaluated and pose no risk to people’s health or the environment.”

PFAS Health Risks, Recent Efforts to Ban Distribution

These man-made chemicals have been classified as a potential human carcinogen. At that, studies show that more than 200 million Americans are exposed to PFAS, mostly due to over 30,000 companies releasing the chemicals into the air and water.

Recently, states have been working to ban cosmetics and toiletries containing PFAS. Several companies, including 3M, Chemours, DuPont, and Corteva, have agreed to multi-billion dollar PFAS contamination settlements. PFAS exist in over half of cosmetics sold, and they are also found in items such as nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, and pizza boxes.

The EPA is especially concerned with PFAS’ presence in drinking water and wastewater streams, aiming to limit these chemicals to their lowest detectable levels, 4 parts per trillion, in drinking water. A study out of Minnesota found that removing PFAS from wastewater streams in Minnesota would cost between $14 billion and $28 billion over the span of 20 years, further suggesting a need to end, or at least regulate, their use.

The new EPA framework works towards addressing the impacts of PFAS in support of the Biden-Harris Administration‘s commitment to creating national standards for PFAS in drinking water for the first time in U.S. history. The framework also marks progress for the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, which addresses the human health and environmental risks of PFAS pollution.


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