In an October 26th ruling, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated four PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, as hazardous. This new ruling will lead the EPA to invoke higher standards toward contamination from PFAS and take steps to regulate the use and future of “forever chemicals”.
The EPA put out two rulings under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which came just a day after the Agency released its Human Health Toxicity Assessment on GenX Chemicals.
The first of these rulemakings designate four of the “forever chemicals” as hazardous wastes:
perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), and the GenX chemical hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt.
The second rulemaking spells out the EPA’s authority in requiring investigation and cleanup of contaminants that meet RCRA’s definition of hazardous waste.
PFAS have been known to cause adverse health effects and environmental damage, remaining in the body, air, surface water, and groundwater for years. GenX chemicals were created to replace PFAS, but turned out to be more harmful than their predecessors.
PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s because of their useful properties. There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), affected by these rulemakings, are two of the most widely used and studied PFAS.
“EPA Council on PFAS.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, Oct. 2021, https://www.epa.gov/pfas/pfas-strategic-roadmap-epas-commitments-action-2021-2024#council.
Hogue, Cheryl. “US EPA Deems Two GenX PFAS Chemicals More Toxic than PFOA.” Cen.acs.org, C&EN, 25 Oct. 2021, https://cen.acs.org/environment/persistent-pollutants/US-EPA-deems-two-GenX-PFAS-chemicals-more-toxic-than-PFOA/99/web/2021/10.
“Human Health Toxicity Assessments: GenX Chemicals.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 21 Oct. 2021, https://www.epa.gov/chemical-research/human-health-toxicity-assessments-genx-chemicals.
“Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/pfas/our-current-understanding-human-health-and-environmental-risks-pfas.
“Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/pfas.
“PFAS Strategic Roadmap.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, Oct. 2021, https://www.epa.gov/pfas/pfas-strategic-roadmap-epas-commitments-action-2021-2024#council.
Schaefer, Jonathon H. “Four Pfas May Be Designated RCRA Hazardous Wastes.” The National Law Review, 28 Oct. 2021, https://www.natlawreview.com/article/four-pfas-may-be-designated-rcra-hazardous-wastes
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