The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a rule that eliminates a previous exemption allowing companies to avoid reporting on small concentrations of PFAS, commonly known as “forever chemicals.”
Now, any facility that makes or uses any of the 189 PFAS listed in the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) will have to fully disclose quantities of PFAS they manage or release to the environment.
New Rule Considers PFAS ‘Chemical of Special Concern’
With the new rule, industries that make use of PFAS, such as manufacturing, metal mining, and chemical manufacturing, will be required to report their PFAS use to the TRI at the same level as other chemicals of special concern, such as mercury and lead. The ruling should result in a more complete picture of the releases and waste management quantities for PFAS.
“People deserve to know if they’re being exposed to PFAS through the air they breathe, the water they drink, or while they’re on the job,” said Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Under this new rule, EPA will receive more comprehensive data on PFAS and looks forward to sharing that data with our partners and the public.”
PFAS are man-made chemicals found in a wide variety of products that are heat, oil, and water resistant, and they do not break down easily in the environment. They are found in drinking water, soil, food, and much more, and the chemicals are linked to potential health concerns, some studies even suggesting PFAS could have carcinogenic properties. As more products containing the chemicals are made, the more PFAS build up in the environment, so concerns surrounding the chemicals have therefore increased in recent years.
Progress on PFAS Strategic Roadmap
The recent ruling reflects the EPA’s commitments to its PFAS Strategic Roadmap, which includes a timeline between 2021 and 2024 for safeguarding communities from PFAS contamination. The Biden administration has committed to creating national standards for PFAS, which have been produced in the U.S. since the 1940s, for the first time in the country’s history.
By enhancing PFAS reporting under the TRI, the EPA may receive more comprehensive data to understand the full scope of PFAS presence in the environment. Further, purchasers of mixtures and trade name products containing PFAS will know of their presence in potential purchases.
The wider public will also be better informed–communities may use the EPA’s TRI Toxics Tracker to find out chemical releases in TRI-reporting facilities near them. Now, this tool will soon include additional information addressing PFAS.