PFAS news roundup

June 25: Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ widespread across many cosmetics categories, Maine passes strict PFAS limits in water and more

Millions of Americans could be unknowingly exposed to the toxic “forever chemicals” called PFAS from the cosmetics and other personal care products they apply to their bodies every day, according to a study published on June 15.

More than half of 231 cosmetics products tested contained PFAS, and most did not list any PFAS compounds on their ingredient labels, according to peer-reviewed research by a team of 16 researchers with lead author Heather Whitehead, from the University of Notre Dame. In fact, only 8 percent listed them as an ingredient.

In reaction to the alarming study, lawmakers introduced the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) authored the bill, which would direct the Food and Drug Administration to issue a proposed rule within 270 days of enactment to ban the intentional use of PFAS as an ingredient in cosmetics, with a final rule due 90 days later.

“Until we ban all PFAS from cosmetics, consumers cannot be confident that their personal care products are free from toxic ‘forever chemicals,’” said Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group senior vice president for government affairs.

A separate study in Environmental Science & Technology showed that high levels of unidentified PFAS compounds are widespread in maternal blood samples, placental tissue and cord blood.

New legislation and regulation

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) on June 21 signed into law a new limit of 20 parts per trillion, or ppt, for six types of PFAS in drinking water. Public water utilities as well as schools and daycare facilities using private wells also are now required to test for PFAS by the end of next year and to take steps to remediate any elevated levels.

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced the PFAS Action Act of 2021, which would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to quickly reduce and remediate PFAS. Introduced by Dingell and Republican Rep. Fred Upton, also from Michigan, the bill would create a national drinking water standard for select PFAS chemicals, designate PFAS as hazardous substances, limit industrial discharges and provide $200 million annually to assist water utilities and wastewater treatment facilities.

The EPA is also looking into expanding a proposal to designate PFOA and PFOS, two of the most notorious forms of PFAS, as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law, to include more PFAS compounds.

More PFAS news

  • A new study from Norway shows researchers could not identify 84 to 99 percent of organofluorine compounds in surface water samples, sediment and fish.
  • A follow-up paper on essential uses of PFAS provides a useful tool for eliminating these compounds from consumer products and phasing out their use.

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

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