The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in March of 2022 that it will be undertaking two actions to safeguard communities from PFAS, or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The agency hopes that these efforts will keep these contaminants out of consumer products to prevent exposure from occurring.
What exactly are PFAS, and what is the EPA doing to combat them?
What Are PFAS?
PFAS are chemical substances widely used in various consumer, commercial, and industrial products. The components of PFAS break down very slowly over time, and because they’ve been used so persistently for so long, PFAS are commonly found in the blood of people and animals all over the world, as well as in food products, water, air, and soil. But because scientific studies have shown that exposure to certain PFAS can be linked to adverse health effects, the EPA wants to do all it can to reduce the exposure and resulting health risks.
Action #1: TSCA Compliance Notification Letter
In March, the EPA released an open letter notifying manufacturers, importers, processors, distributors, and users that disposal of fluorinated High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) containers that contain PFAS as a byproduct can constitute a violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This will help to ensure that responsible parties are held accountable for any future PFAS contamination that affects communities. Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Michal Freedhoff, also says that “keeping PFAS out of consumer products certified under the [EPA]’s Safer Choice program will help prevent potential exposures to PFAS from occurring in the first place.
Action #2: Removal of Two PFAS from the Safer Chemical Ingredients List
The second action the EPA is taking is to remove two PFAS from the Safer Choice program that were first placed there back in 2012. The agency has since learned of the potential harmful effects of these two PFAS, and under the new ruling the two contaminants will not be allowed for use in new products applying for Safer Choice status. This will better protect consumers and ensure that products certified under the program are PFAS-free. (The Safer Choice program is a voluntary program that helps consumers, businesses, and purchasers find products containing ingredients that are safer for humans and the environment at large.)
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