The EPA has released a list of 160 “forever chemicals” that companies and federal facilities must for the first time report to the agency’s Toxics Release Inventory.
The per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, met specific criteria included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which became law on Dec. 20, according to an EPA notice from late Thursday. No PFAS were included on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) prior to the defense authorization act.
Companies or federal facilities that release 100 or more pounds of the PFAS must collect information this year detailing the amount getting into the air, water, or land, and the quantities managed through disposal, energy recovery, recycling, or treatment. Reports are due by July 1, 2021.
The law specifically named more than a dozen PFAS, which are among the 160 on the list, including well-known ones that states are increasingly finding in drinking water and on land, such as:
- perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts (PFOA),
- perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and its salts (PFOS),
- hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (GenX),
- perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and
- perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS).
In addition to naming some “forever chemicals” that the agency had to add to the list of reportable substances, the law provided criteria for the EPA to use as it adds additional PFAS. The EPA can add more of these chemicals to the TRI list over time based on the defense bill’s criteria.
The EPA’s initial list of 160 includes chemicals that are both already regulated under what are called “significant new use rules,” and listed in the Toxic Substances Control Act inventory as being active in commerce.
Some additional PFAS may meet that criteria, but their identities have been claimed confidential business information and therefore can’t be added to the Toxics Release Inventory list until the agency evaluates the confidentiality claims using a process also included in the National Defense Authorization Act.
More to Come From Defense Law
“We are currently reviewing the list and are ready to help our members understand the TRI reporting requirements,” said Tom Flanagin, a spokesman for the industry group American Chemistry Council.
Requiring companies and federal facilities to report these PFAS was a “very important victory in the NDAA,” said Liz Hitchcock, director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, an activist group.
The reports the EPA will receive, which will be public, will begin to give communities some welcome information to better understand where initial groups of PFAS are getting into the environment, she said.
The law’s criteria for expanding the number of PFAS that must be reported could also give the public and scientists a richer picture of these chemicals, Hitchcock said.
The NDAA included a number of other information-forcing and cleanup provisions that will continue to help the public, she said, but more needs to be done to address the thousands of PFAS in the environment. The estimated number of PFAS varies depending on how the chemicals are defined, with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development saying a broad definition could include 4,730.
3M and DuPont were the original companies developing and producing PFAS, dating to the 1940s.
Chemicals made with the particular PFAS 3M, DuPont, and Chemours, a Dupont spinoff, have produced have been used by hundreds of companies such as Wolverine World Wide, Inc. and W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. to make thousands of products including semiconductors, sticky notes, and shoes. The original PFAS manufacturers, Chemours, and some companies using the chemicals are the subject of several major PFAS-related lawsuits.
Public concern about PFAS has grown in recent years as lawsuits and scientific research reveal more information about the ability of some of these chemicals to cause problems such as increasing cholesterol and reducing a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Some PFAS also persist for decades in the environment, remain for years in people and other animals, and increase up the food chain as larger animals eat smaller ones.