WASHINGTON – Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan announced the creation of a new council to accelerate and coordinate efforts to reduce and remediate the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.
“We’re glad to see the administrator continues to make PFAS a priority, and we ultimately need a whole of government approach to PFAS that includes the Department of Defense, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration, not just the EPA,” said Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group’s senior vice president for government affairs.
“We’re also glad to see the administrator say that this new council is no substitute for quick action, such as a hazardous substance designation, a drinking water standard, restrictions on industrial releases, a moratorium on new PFAS and a moratorium on the disposal of PFAS wastes,” he said.
The EPA separately announced a decision to close a loophole, called the low-volume exemption, that allowed some new PFAS to enter the marketplace while avoiding EPA scrutiny for health impacts.
For chemicals like PFAS that are toxic at incredibly low concentrations, the use of exemptions is a significant concern. Contamination from low-volume-exempt PFAS has been detected across the state of New Jersey and in ski waxes, which have also led to contamination.
More than 600 PFAS are identified as commercially active in the EPA’s PFAS Action Plan. This list includes only those chemicals on the Toxic Substances Control Act inventory, not chemicals with exemptions.
In correspondence with EWG, the EPA indicated that in addition to the approximately 80 exemptions for long-chain PFAS “that were mostly granted prior to 2000,” 490 PFAS compounds have received TSCA exemptions since 2000.
“It’s good news that the EPA has closed this loophole, which has allowed too many new PFAS into commerce without adequate safety reviews,” said EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, Ph.D. “PFAS have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer and harm to the immune system. We should be phasing out non-essential uses of PFAS, like PFAS in food packaging and cosmetics, not allowing more PFAS into the marketplace through loopholes. EWG applauds the EPA for taking this action to protect our health.”
A peer-reviewed study by EWG scientists showed that PFAS contamination is likely in the drinking water supplying over 200 million Americans. As of January, 2,337 locations in 49 states are known to have PFAS contamination.
PFAS are a large group of chemicals that cause increased risk of cancer, harm to fetal development and reduced vaccine effectiveness. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment and they build up in our blood and organs.
“The EPA has failed to address PFAS for more than two decades under four different administrations, so it’s good to see the administrator agrees that is time for action,” said Faber.
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.