Read the full article by Sharon Udasin (The Hill)
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule that will tighten the reporting requirements for facilities that use or release certain types of toxic ‘forever chemicals.’
With the rule’s implementation, the EPA is now designating 189 compounds from a group of chemicals known as PFAS — of which there are thousands — as ‘chemicals of special concern.’
Doing so, the agency explained, will eliminate an existing loophole that enabled facilities to avoid reporting data about PFAS — an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) when using these compounds in low concentrations.
‘People deserve to know if they’re being exposed to PFAS through the air they breathe, the water they drink, or while they’re on the job,’ said Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), in a statement.
‘Under this new rule, EPA will receive more comprehensive data on PFAS and looks forward to sharing that data with our partners and the public,’ Freedhoff added.
PFAS are notorious for their ability to persist in the human body and the environment, and they are linked to many cancers and illnesses.
These substances are present in a variety of household items, including nonstick pans, cosmetics and waterproof apparel, as well as industrial discharge and certain types of firefighting foam.
Under the authority of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the EPA’s OCSPP branch decided that year to identify 172 types of PFAS as standard chemicals, as opposed to chemicals of special concern, on the list of substances covered by the TRI for 2021.
But this standard chemical designation left a gaping loophole — a way out of reporting for corporations, manufacturers and federal entities across the country.
An exemption stipulated by the NDAA enabled facilities that report to TRI to disregard what is known as ‘de minimis’ concentrations of standard chemicals in mixes or trade products when filing reports.
Specifically, if the concentrations of a particularly notorious type of PFAS, called PFOA, were below 0.1 percent, or if the levels of all the other kinds of PFAS were below 1 percent, facilities would not need to disclose their use.
‘The previous Administration codified the NDAA provisions in a manner that did not address the availability of the de minimis exemption,’ a statement from the EPA said.
Because so many manufacturers use PFAS in tiny quantities, the agency understood that it did not have a clear picture of where these toxic compounds were being used and released.
Facilities reported managing 800,000 pounds of PFAS in 2020, but they only reported 9,000 pounds as releases, according to the EPA.
Meanwhile, the agency’s 2021 Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis showed that just 44 facilities nationwide submitted TRI forms for PFAS that year.
Of these, 22 were chemical manufacturers, 11 were hazardous waste managers, three were petroleum product producers, two were nonmetallic mineral producers and six were unspecified.
Intending to close this gap, the EPA in December proposed the now finalized rule — which now scraps the de minimis exemption and reclassifies 189 PFAS as chemicals of special concern.
TRI data must be reported to the EPA annually by facilities in industrial sectors, such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric power generation, chemical production and hazardous waste treatment, the agency noted.
Also included in this mandate are federal sites that produce, process or use significant quantities of TRI-listed chemicals, per the EPA.
Tightening the reporting requirements and removing previous exemptions ‘will result in a more complete picture of the releases and waste management quantities for these PFAS,’ according to the rule.
‘This will help ensure that purchasers of mixtures and trade name products containing such chemicals are informed of their presence in mixtures and products they purchase,’ the rule adds.”