WASHINGTON – The Environmental Working Group today recognized EPA Administrator Michael Regan for making the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS a priority and urged the Defense Department, Food and Drug Administration and Federal Aviation Administration to also take action to address PFAS.
EWG recognized Regan for releasing a PFAS "Strategic Roadmap" that includes accelerating efforts to set a national drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS, for accelerating and expanding efforts to restrict industrial releases of PFAS into the air and water, and for proposing to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law.
EWG also recognized Regan for closing PFAS reporting loopholes, restricting uses of PFAS in commerce, prohibiting uses of abandoned PFAS, developing a national testing strategy for PFAS chemicals, quickly developing toxicity values and test methods for additional PFAS, and for committing to center and engage with environmental justice communities most affected by PFAS pollution.
EWG urged EPA to move swiftly to address other PFAS and urged EPA to do more to address the disposal of PFAS wastes, including a ban on the incineration of PFAS wastes and mandatory testing for PFAS in sludge applied to farm fields.
EWG also criticized the Defense Department as well as FDA and FAA leaders for failing to take meaningful action to address PFAS.
Thousands of communities have already detected these toxic forever chemicals in their water and PFAS has been confirmed at nearly 400 military installations. EWG estimates that more than 200 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with PFAS.
“No one should have to worry about toxic forever chemicals in their tap water,” said EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “We’re grateful that Administrator Regan will fulfill President Biden’s pledge to address PFOA and PFOS in our tap water and will begin to turn off the tap of industrial PFAS pollution.”
Biden pledged to finally tackle PFAS in the Biden Plan to Secure Environmental Justice and Equitable Opportunity. Biden pledged to designate the chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, set enforceable limits for PFAS in water and prioritize PFAS substitutes during government procurement.
For decades, communities plagued with PFAS waited for the EPA to turn off the tap of PFAS pollution. The EPA has known of the risks posed by PFAS since at least 1998 but failed to act.
The roadmap released today will set a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS by 2023 and take steps to restrict industrial releases of PFAS into the air and water.
“After more than two decades of delay, it’s good news that EPA is finally starting to act. But we must move even faster to turn off the tap of PFAS pollution by industry,” Faber said. “Communities living downwind and downstream of these polluters have waited decades for action.”
EPA also pledged to close loopholes that allow companies to hide these releases from the public. EWG estimates that 30,000 facilities could be discharging PFAS into the air and water.
EPA will also propose to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, which will kick-start the cleanup process at DOD installations and other contaminated sites and help hold polluters accountable. The EPA is also considering designating additional PFAS as hazardous substances in a separate rulemaking.
“When will DOD officials make PFAS cleanup a priority?” Faber asked. “Will designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances finally make hundreds of toxic plumes flowing into our defense communities a priority for DOD? Or will DOD continue to ignore its own policies when it comes to these toxic forever chemicals, as DOD’s own inspector general recently concluded?”
EWG also urged officials at the FAA to allow commercial airports to use PFAS-free firefighting foams.
“FAA is ignoring the clear intent of Congress,” said EWG Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh. “Airports across the globe are using PFAS-free alternatives, and the FAA should allow American airports to immediately use these safer foams as well.”
“The contrast between EPA’s plan to address PFAS and FDA’s failure to act could not be starker,” Benesh said.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.