EPA takes a step to exempt ‘forever chemical’ release

Article by Amanda Jasi

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THE US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which aims to protect human health and the environment, has taken a step in implementing a national Act that would exempt up to 100 lb (45.4 kg) of release of persistent, potentially harmful per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS are a large, complex, and expanding group of widely-used, manufactured chemicals. Applications include everyday uses, such as for non-stick cookware, as well as in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and construction. Evidence has linked them to impacts, including on development, reproduction, the immune system, and the liver. Additionally, public concern has risen due to their widespread occurrence (and the opportunity for numerous exposures), as well as their persistence, bioaccumulation, and growing number. However, exposure and health impacts are not yet fully understood.

On 22 June, EPA published a final rule – effective immediately – which adds 172 PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemical list, a list of chemicals that may pose a threat to human health and the environment and need to be reported. The inventory is available to companies, government agencies, NGOs, and the public. Chemical polluters are required to report annually on environmental release and management details.

The move represents a step in implementing the National Defense Authorization Act – signed into law in December 2019 – which was intended to add the 172 PFAS to the TRI chemical list and establish a 100 lb-reporting threshold.

In January, the lower house of US Congress passed a bill requiring EPA to designate PFAS as hazardous substances under an Act that authorises EPA to identify polluters and make them responsible for cleanup. The US administration responded with a letter stating its opposition, adding that presidential advisors would recommend a veto if it is presented to the President.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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