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In the area of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and fluorine technology, there was considerable activity in the first half of this year.
PFAS are critical to making our lives possible in the 21st century.
PFAS are a large and diverse universe of chemicals that make the products that power our lives – the cell phones, tablets, and telecommunications we use every day to connect with our friends and family; the aircraft that powers the US military; Alternative energy sources; and medical devices that help us stay healthy.
We wanted to provide a snapshot of the key events and activities in 2021.
Vermont DEC concludes that it is not possible to regulate PFAS as a class
In April 2021, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, specifically mandated by law to develop a class rule or explain why such a rule was not possible, determined that it was “not feasible” at that time to establish PFAS as a class . We agree that attempts to regulate PFAS as a class are neither scientifically defensible nor appropriate, although it may be possible to group some substances within the class based on similar physical, chemical, and biological properties. Read more here.
New paper provides context and details about the number of compounds that exist in the current commercial market
In May 2021, three member companies of the Performance Fluoropolymer Partnership (PFP) of the American Chemistry Council published a new paper that provides important context and clarity about the number of commercially relevant PFAS compounds that exist today. This paper is important because some authorities claim that trying to regulate many thousands of different substances would be unmanageable and could only be accomplished through an unscientific, unified regulatory approach. However, this research shows that the number of commercially relevant PFAS on the market today is likely to be in the hundreds, which would not be a confusing situation for regulators. This study further suggests that grouping and categorizing PFAS based on basic classification criteria based on composition and structure can be used to identify appropriate groups of PFAS substances for risk assessment, which also refutes claims that there are too many PFAS- There are chemistries to conduct adequate regulatory risk assessments.
Click here for the full paper. Click here for a data sheet of the results.
Fluoropolymers are vital in the 21st century
In January, Jay West, executive director of PFP, published a statement in Bloomberg arguing that fluoropolymers, a type of chemistry in the broad PFAS family, have a well-established safety profile and are not a major concern for human health or the environment and should be distinguished from other PFAS for regulatory reasons. Click here to read the full piece.
EPA and New York research shows that incineration can be a safe and effective way to dispose of PFAS
In late 2020, the EPA published preliminary guidance on the incineration of PFAS chemistry, suggesting that properly designed and operated incinerators, landfills and underground injection wells can be safe and effective means of disposing of PFAS-containing waste. And in March, the New York Department of the Environment released a solid analysis surrounding the Norlite facility, backing the case that these chemicals can be safely managed when they are no longer in use. After analyzing soil and water samples around a cement kiln in which fire-fighting foam containing PFAS was treated from 2018-2019, DEC found no clear updraft / downdraft gradient that would be expected if the PFAS were not completely destroyed.
EPA is making progress with MCLs for PFOA and PFOS
In March, the EPA announced that it was promoting the establishment of standards for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). We support this work and believe that developing national drinking water standards for the two most common PFAS should give Americans more confidence in the safety of the water they drink and help remove some of the confusion created by the patchwork of recent government action was caused. The manufacture of PFOA and PFOS was voluntarily discontinued in the USA a few years ago. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results of human biomonitoring studies showing that exposure levels have decreased significantly. In addition, a national drinking water survey carried out by the USEPA from 2013 to 2015 found that less than 2 percent of the public drinking water supply in the USA had detectable PFOA and PFOS levels. Click here for more information and read an opinion piece on Bloomberg here.
The House’s Energy and Trade Committee is leading the way with flawed legislation
The PFAS Action Act uses a unified approach to regulate the wide variety of PFAS chemistry. Such an approach is neither scientifically correct nor adequate and would restrict consumers’ access to important products on which they rely. In addition, this legislation takes the decision of the labeling of hazardous substances out of the hands of EPA’s professional scientists. The public should also know that much work has already been done and is underway in regulators and Congress to address potential concerns about PFAS chemistry. Find out more here. We hope this information will be useful and will help provide a fuller picture of the important discussion surrounding PFAS chemistry.