Scientists Say New EPA Guidance Would Perpetuate PFAS Contamination

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For Immediate Release: 
Friday, December 18, 2020

WASHINGTON – An eleventh-hour proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency would approve incineration and other disposal methods for some of the fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS that would neither destroy nor contain the toxic “forever chemicals.”

Current methods of managing PFAS waste don’t work – and in fact, perpetuate the cycle of contamination.

Here is a statement from Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., the Environmental Working Group’s vice president for science investigations:

The current practices of disposal are cycling PFAS pollution in the environment, leading to long-term contamination and exposure.

Solving the PFAS disposal problem must include ending non-essential uses and PFAS discharges into the environment outright.

The EPA recognizes that many large data gaps exist regarding the full suite of disposal and destruction methods it outlines, including thermal destruction. Many of these same scientific uncertainties and concerns have been raised by communities on the frontlines of PFAS pollution for years.

The EPA needs to demonstrate that its recommended disposal methods for PFAS can be done safely and effectively, and stop the environmental injustice of PFAS contamination in communities near the disposal sites. Today’s guidance falls well short of that mark. 

In July, the peer-reviewed journal Chemosphere published a study by EWG scientists that concludes that burning, discarding and flushing waste containing the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS all contribute to environmental contamination. The three standard practices for waste management outlined in the review – landfilling, wastewater treatment and incineration – do not effectively contain or destroy PFAS.

The paper concludes with six measures for addressing the PFAS problem:

  • Limiting the use of PFAS to essential applications in order to reduce industrial discharges.
  • Protecting the health of fence-line communities through strong public health policies.
  • Capturing all liquid wastes from landfills and keeping them on site.
  • Monitoring PFAS contamination at and near disposal sites.
  • Researching PFAS incineration to address current data gaps.
  • Researching advanced remediation technologies to generate new waste management solutions.

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