Waste managers dealing with PFAS should consider incineration, landfills, and underground injection as disposal methods for “forever chemicals,” the EPA said in guidance announced Friday.
The Environmental Protection Agency chose these methods because they’re commercially available and could destroy the class of compounds, or manage their spread, according to the interim guidance document.
However, the agency acknowledged it’s still unclear whether the three disposal methods would enable per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, to spread further in the environment. Emerging data shows that incineration, for example, may not completely destroy the chemicals and instead expose the public to potential health risks.
The materials for disposal may include consumer products—particularly textiles—that become waste, as well as waste from water treatment, contaminated soil, landfill leachate, and air emissions.
The document is an answer to a mandate under the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020 that the EPA publish guidance on destroying and disposing of materials containing PFAS.
PFAS have been used to manufacture nonstick and stain-resistant coatings in clothing, fast-food wrappers, carpets, and other consumer and industrial products.
The chemicals may cause adverse health effects, including developmental harm to fetuses, testicular and kidney cancer, liver tissue damage, immune system or thyroid effects, and changes in cholesterol, according to the EPA.
The interim guidance will be open to public comment after it is published in the Federal Register.