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EPA Convenes Summit on PFAS

Thursday, March 22, 2018

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The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday (March 19) that it will convene a national leadership summit to address the topic of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, used in products including paints.

PFAS in many cases provide nonstick and chemical-resistant properties to the materials they coat. The most notable PFA substance in production in the U.S. today is GenX, which has raised controversy after last year’s releases at a Chemours plant in North Carolina.

PFA structure
RicHard-59, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The EPA will convene a summit on dealing with PFAS, a contaminant of emerging concern used in some paints and coatings.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfuric acid (PFOS) are also PFAS; while no longer manufactured in the U.S., according to the EPA, they are present in some imported products.

Emerging Concern

The EPA considers PFAS to be “contaminants of emerging concern.” The substances, which have been manufactured in the U.S. since the 1940s, remain and accumulate in the body and in the environment without breaking down, and the EPA says there is evidence that exposure to them “can lead to adverse human health effects.”

Studies have correlated elevated cholesterol rates with exposure to PFAS, and limited research has shown possible relationships between the substances and low infant birth weights, immune-system effects, cancer (related to PFOA) and thyroid hormone disruption (related to PFOS), the agency says.

PFOA and PFOS were developed in the mid-20th century and have been studied somewhat extensively; replacement PFAS like GenX, on the other hand, have been developed more recently and are less understood.

The EPA PFAS summit will take place May 22-23 and, according to the EPA, will aim to identify how the agency can help efforts at the state, local and tribal level. The goal is to develop a PFAS Management Plan by year’s end.

North Carolina GenX Concerns

Late last year, North Carolina state Rep. Holly Grange, R-New Hanover, introduced legislation to help regulators in that state study GenX and other emerging contaminants. That bill, which does not provide funding for the matter, is currently in committee.

That law picked up steam in the wake of a number of GenX spills at Chemours’ Fayetteville plant, which have led to contamination in the groundwater in the area surrounding the facility. Some fear the nearby Cape Fear River could have been affected by the spills.


Tagged categories: Environmental Protection; EPA; Raw materials

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