Read the full article by Emily DiFrisco (Center for Environmental Health)
“Today, Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan (VA-04) led eleven of her House colleagues in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, urging the EPA to comprehensively address the formation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) created by the fluorination of plastics. The bipartisan group of lawmakers also called for increased transparency regarding how the EPA plans to consider PFAS Significant New Use Notices under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Fluorination is a process that involves treating plastic containers with fluorine gas in order to make them impermeable. Hundreds of millions of fluorinated plastic containers are manufactured and used across the country, increasing the risk of PFAS exposure to factory workers and communities in proximity to landfills and plastic recycling facilities. Recent studies have also shown that PFAS formed as a result of fluorination can migrate to the container contents, increasing the risk of direct human consumption.
‘The presence of PFAS in products used by workers and consumers is an important source of exposure that needs further attention at the federal level,’ wrote the lawmakers. ‘EPA is mandated by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to address the risks of new PFAS and significant new uses of existing PFAS. The TSCA program is now facing a major test of this authority from the submission of nine Significant New Use Notices (SNUNs) by Inhance Technologies, a Texas company that fluorinates plastic containers.’
Exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to reproductive issues such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women, developmental effects in children, increased risk of cancers, autoimmune disorders, hormone imbalances, high cholesterol, and obesity. This environmental justice issue disproportionately impacts low-income communities, communities of color, and other vulnerable populations.
‘The far-reaching public health implications of the Inhance SNUNs require EPA to conduct a rigorous, comprehensive, and transparent assessment of the risks of PFAS in fluorinated containers,’ continued the lawmakers. ‘It would be a serious setback for public health if an EPA risk assessment were to be conducted with limited public engagement and incomplete evidence, resulting in continued PFAS formation during fluorination and lack of protection of the exposed population.’
The letter was cosigned by Reps. Sean Casten (IL-06), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Robert García (CA-42), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07-), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Nancy Mace (SC-01) Kevin Mullin (CA-15) Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Deborah Ross (NC-02), and Melanie Stansbury (NM-01).
‘The locations of Inhance’s own factories and the disproportionate numbers of landfills and recycling facilities cited near Black and Brown communities mean the toxic plastics circulated by Inhance are a significant environmental justice issue,’ said Dr. Jamala Djinn, Policy Director, Center for Environmental Health.
‘According to EPA, there is no safe level of PFOA in our drinking water, yet Inhance’s fluorination of these containers is exposing all Americans to high levels of PFOA and a dozen other harmful PFAS. It is illogical and dangerous to allow this fluorination to continue,’ stated Dr. Kyla Bennett, Policy Director, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
Bob Sussman, Counsel, Center for Environmental Health, said that ‘the widespread presence and release to the environment of PFAS in millions of fluorinated containers used in every sector of the economy is a test of EPA’s commitment to protect public health from this harmful class of chemicals.’
Read the full letter here.”