EPA Admin Proposes PFAS Special Council
Earlier this week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan issued a memorandum to senior leadership calling for the creation of a new EPA Council on PFAS. The council’s mission is to build the agency’s work to better understand and reduce the risks caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Regan has asked Radhika Fox, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Water, and Deb Szaro, Acting Regional Administrator in Region 1, to convene and lead the EPA Council on PFAS, which will be comprised of senior EPA career officials from across the agency.
"Coming from North Carolina, I've seen first-hand how devastating these chemicals can be for communities and the need for strong EPA leadership," said Regan. "That's why today, I am calling on our senior leadership to form a new Council that will identify pragmatic approaches that deliver critical protections to the American public. As one of my top priorities as Administrator, EPA will prioritize partnerships and collaboration with our federal, state, tribal and local partners, and engage the public about the risk associated with these chemicals.”
The goals of the council date back to a 2019 action plan that was never realized. Directives include:
Previous PFAS Work
Citing that same action plan, the EPA proposed regulations this time last year on important products that contain PFAS, such as coatings. At the time, the EPA said that, while it believes the use of these chemicals as surface coatings in imported goods has been phased out, this proposal would ensure that any new uses are reviewed by EPA before any products containing these chemicals could be imported into the United States again.
As part of the agency’s review, EPA has the authority to place restrictions on the import of products containing these chemicals as part of a surface coating.
The proposal clarifies the categories of products that would be covered under the significant new use rule. This clarification aligns the regulation with the Toxic Substances Control Act, according to the agency.
Prior to the 2019 action plan, the EPA held a summit in 2018 following the multiple spills of GenX at a Chemours plant in North Carolina. At that time in 2018, the EPA said that it 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 has said that 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 and thyroid hormone disruption, the agency said.
PFOA and PFOS (types of PFAS) 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.