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Recent Initiatives

In February 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its PFAS Action Plan: Program Update. In the year following the publication of the EPA PFAS Action Plan, the agency has made significant progress to help states and local communities address PFAS and protect public health and the agency’s Program Update highlights these efforts.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses a combination of regulatory and voluntary approaches, including Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) and the voluntary 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program, to address PFAS in the environment.

In 2019, EPA published its PFAS Action Plan to provide both short-term solutions and long-term strategies to address this important issue. The EPA PFAS Action Plan is the agency’s first multi-media, multi-program, national research, management, and risk communication plan to address a challenge like PFAS. The plan responds to the extensive public input the agency received during the PFAS National Leadership Summit, multiple community engagements, and through the public docket. The PFAS Action Plan outlines the tools EPA is developing to assist states, tribes and communities in addressing PFAS.

Since issuing the PFAS Action Plan, EPA has, among other activities: 

  • Released for public comment new interim guidance that outlines the current state of the science on techniques and treatments that may be used to destroy or dispose of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials from non-consumer products, including aqueous film-forming foam (for firefighting)
  • Issued a memorandum detailing an interim National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting strategy for addressing PFAS in EPA-issued wastewater permits
  • Released information on progress in developing new analytical methods to test for PFAS compounds in wastewater and other environmental media
  • Issued a final rule strengthening the regulation of PFAS by requiring notice and EPA review before the use of long-chain PFAS that have been phased out in the United States could begin again. Additionally, products containing certain long-chain PFAS as a surface coating and carpet containing perfluoroalkyl sulfonate chemical substances can no longer be imported into the United States without EPA review
  • Issued preliminary determinations to regulate PFOA and PFOS under the Safe Drinking Water Act, a critical step as the EPA continues its efforts to protect drinking water and public health in the United States
  • Developed new validated methods to accurately test for 11 additional PFAS in drinking water
  • Issued Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with PFOA and PFOS 
  • Announced availability of $4.8 million in funding for new research on managing PFAS in agriculture
  • Issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory toxic chemical list Issued a directive to prioritise federal research on impacts to agriculture and rural economies in the United States
  • Issued a directive to prioritise federal research on impacts to agriculture and rural economies in the United States

EPA has been working to manage PFAS chemicals in the environment for two decades. Since 2000, EPA has reviewed hundreds of substitutes for PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS under EPA's New Chemicals Program. EPA reviews the new substances to identify whether the range of toxicity, fate and bioaccumulation issues that have caused past concerns with perfluorinated substances may be present, as well as any issues that may be raised by new chemistries, in order to ensure that the new chemicals may not present an unreasonable risk to health or the environment. For many PFAS chemicals, EPA's regulatory approach involves the use of TSCA §5(e) Consent Orders to require testing while allowing production and use with control measures, where appropriate.

As part of EPA’s 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program, eight major manufacturers and processors of PFASs worked toward a phase-out of PFOA and related substances by the end of 2015. The program stretched from 2006 through 2015 to provide an opportunity for development of alternatives which did not exist at the time of the program’s launch. Progress toward the 2015 deadline was measured through annual reports. The eight companies participating in the PFOA Stewardship Program met its goals. All public documents from the PFOA Stewardship Program are available in EPA Docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2006-0621.

In May 2016, EPA established health advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) which provide a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water, including for susceptible subpopulations. When both PFOA and PFOS are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS should be compared with the 70 parts per trillion health advisory level. This lifetime health advisory is based on the latest health effects information for noncancer and cancer effects. The health advisory is not a legally enforceable federal standard and is subject to change as new information becomes available.

 

Overview of Risk Reduction Approaches

Action Path taken BEPs Implemented Category of PFASss addressed Articles covered? Life cycle stage(s) addressed Method of approach Public- private partnership encouraged? Level of constraint

2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program; work toward elimination of long-chain PFCAs and related substances from emissions and products by end of 2015

 Encourage industry phaseout Emission controls and product content  Long-chain perfluorocarboxylic acids  and related substances  Yes All  Regulatory  No  Fewer exemptions
Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) designates manufacture (including import) or processing of long-chain perfluoroalkyl sulfonates for any use as a significant new use, except for few ongoing use (40 CFR §721.9582) Manage, manufacture, import, and processing  Minimisation of perfluoroalkyl sulfonates used Perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFSAs)  No  Chemical manufacture and import; processing of chemicals  Regulatory No Notification requirements prior to manufacturing, importing, or processing 

Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) designates manufacture (including import) or processing of perfluoroalkyl carboxylate chemical for use as part of carpets or to treat carpets (e.g., for use in the carpet aftercare market) as a significant new use, except for few ongoing uses (40 CFR §721.10536)

Manage manufacture, import, and processing   Minimisation of perfluoroalkyl carboxylate chemicals used Perfluoroalkyl carboxylate chemicals   Yes Chemical manufacture and import; processing of chemicals, articles  Regulatory  No  Notification requirements prior to manufacturing, importing, or processing 

Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) requires notification to EPA at least 90 days before commencement of: manufacturing (including importing) or processing of a subset of long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) chemical substances for any use that was not ongoing after December 31, 2015; manufacturing (including importing) or processing of all other LCPFAC chemicals substances for which there were no ongoing uses as of January 21, 2015 (the date of the original 2015 proposal); import of a subset of LCPFAC chemicals as part of a surface coating on articles; and import of perfluoroalkyl sulfonate chemical substances as part of carpets. (CFR § 721.10536 and CFR § 721.9582)

 

 Manage manufacture, import, and processing   Minimisation of perfluoroalkyl carboxylate chemicals used Perfluoroalkyl carboxylate chemicals   Yes Chemical manufacture and import; processing of chemicals, articles  Regulatory  No  Notification requirements prior to manufacturing, importing, or processing 

 

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