Report: Despite Growing Contamination Crisis, PFAS Chemical Use in U.S. Swells

EWG: ‘EPA, chemical industry adding more fuel to the PFAS fire’
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For Immediate Release: 
Monday, April 1, 2019

WASHINGTON – Between 2012 and 2016, at least 30 new fluorinated chemicals, commonly called PFAS, were produced in significant volumes, according to Environmental Protection Agency data analyzed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER.

PEER reviewed records from EPA’s Chemical Data Reporting Database and found that there are now 118 PFAS chemicals produced in volumes in excess of 25,000 pounds per year. That’s an increase of more than 55 percent since 2002, a year after the agency was alerted to severe PFAS contamination of drinking water in West Virginia and Ohio. In all, the EPA says that 602 different PFAS chemicals were in active commercial use between 2006 and 2016.

“PEER’s analysis shows that despite the growing PFAS crisis, the EPA’s unchecked regulatory process is enabling a new set of fluorinated chemicals to be produced in significant quantity before they are proven to be safe,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., senior scientist with EWG. “The first step in fighting any contamination crisis is to turn off the tap: Stop allowing the chemical industry to substitute versions of chemicals known to be hazardous with new formulations that haven’t been adequately tested for safety and may be just as hazardous.”

“By permitting more PFAS chemicals onto the market, the EPA and the chemical industry are just adding fuel to a fire that is burning out of control,” Andrews added.

PFAS chemicals are a family of thousands of chemicals used to make water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings for a vast array of consumer goods and industrial applications. PFAS chemicals are among the most persistent toxic compounds in existence, contaminating everything from drinking water, food, food packaging and personal care products, and it is found in the blood of virtually everyone on Earth, including newborn babies. Some have been linked to serious health hazards, including liver and kidney damage and cancer, harm to the immune system and developmental harm to fetuses, infants and children.

Researchers from EWG and Northeastern University have published a map of this expanding crisis and estimate that PFAS chemicals likely contaminate the drinking water serving roughly 110 million Americans.

Recently, PFAS contamination has raised alarms among a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress. EWG is pushing policymakers in Washington to make PFAS cleanup a top public health priority and has put forth a multi-point plan to help, which includes calling on EPA to use its authority and stop approving any new PFAS chemicals.

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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.