PFAS news roundup

July 16: EWG’s Inaugural PFAS Conference, new map shows almost 30,000 suspected industrial dischargers and more

On Wednesday, the Environmental Working Group hosted its Inaugural PFAS Conference, featuring EPA Administrator Michael Regan, notable federal policymakers, several members of Congress and state legislators, actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, scientists, community advocates and business leaders. More than 4,400 people registered for the event. All of the sessions will be available for streaming next week.

The same day, EWG released a new analysis and interactive map that showed almost 30,000 manufacturing sites suspected of discharging toxic “forever chemicals” into the air and water. That’s a twelvefold increase from the 2,501 industrial dischargers previously reported in 2020.

And Hiroko Tabuchi of The New York Times broke the alarming news that the Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of PFAS in fluids used during drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, despite its concerns about their toxicity. Her reporting was based on records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Physicians for Social Responsibility.

New legislation and regulation

The state of Maine is the first to ban all PFAS compounds in products, unless the state  Department of Environmental Protection deems the use “unavoidable.” This exemption allows for uses that are critical for health, safety or the “functioning of society,” such as with medical devices or advanced electronics like batteries or solar panels.

Beginning in 2023, all manufacturers must report all uses of PFAS to the DEP. The ban on products manufactured with nonessential uses of PFAS will go into effect in 2030 to allow time for companies to reformulate products.

The EPA launched a stewardship program to remove from the marketplace forever chemicals that were approved through a loophole known as the low volume exemption. About 600 PFAS compounds were granted exemptions that allowed market access with minimal safety review.

This week the agency also announced it would make it a priority to consider PFAS for potential regulation in drinking water. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, inclusion on the Contaminant Candidate List is the first stage in the potential regulation of drinking water contaminants.

More PFAS news

  • DuPont, Chemours and Corteva have agreed to pay the state of Delaware $50 million as part of a first-of-its-kind environmental justice settlement to clean up PFAS contamination.
  • A new analysis of soil in southwest Germany finds that PFAS-coated paper is a major source of contamination in compost and sludge.
  • Prolonged exposure to PFAS lowered thyroid hormone levels and decreased white blood cell counts in wild perch, according to another study.
  • And more new research found higher levels of PFAS in leachate than fly ash or bottom ash from the incineration of municipal waste from three plants in China.

David Andrews, Ph.D., EWG senior scientist, provides details in this video, directed and produced by Emily Wathen.

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