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EPA announces final rule to designate two PFAS as “hazardous substances”

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Safer States and Toxic-Free Future applaud this important step while urging EPA to take the next step and list all PFAS as hazardous under Superfund

WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES, April 19, 2024 / -- Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final rule to designate two PFAS compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), as “hazardous substances” under the federal program, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), known as “Superfund.” According to the EPA, this action “would increase transparency around releases of these harmful chemicals and help to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up their contamination.” This rule follows the EPA’s finalized drinking water standards for six individual PFAS “forever chemicals” and its announcement of a requirement to use PFAS-free cleaning products in federal buildings.

EPA’s commitment comes after years of action on PFAS by states and leading retailers nationwide. As part of efforts to hold PFAS polluters accountable, more than half of US State Attorneys General have initiated legal action against the chemical manufacturers and key users to secure resources for cleanup.

Currently, at least eight state governments have added PFAS to their state’s hazardous substances regulations, including AK, DE, MA, NJ, NY, RI, WA, VT. Actions taken by these states vary from guidance to cleanup standards. Washington State added the entire class of PFAS to its hazardous substance policy while other states have targeted specific PFAS compounds including PFOA and PFOS. Maine has determined that PFAS substances will be listed as Hazardous Substances under state law when PFAS substances are designated as Hazardous Substances pursuant to CERCLA.

Safer States and Toxic-Free Future applaud the CERCLA liability rule for these PFAS chemicals and state that PFAS are too harmful to be put into commerce. The following statements were released in response to this news.

“For years, communities that have been exposed to these chemicals have been demanding that polluters be held accountable for the harm they have created and to pay for cleanup,” explained Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “States will continue to act to reduce use of PFAS and cleanup contamination. This new EPA action will complement state actions and make it easier to hold them accountable and clean up contaminated sites. We applaud EPA for taking this step and encourage them to take the next step and list all PFAS under the Superfund law.”

“EPA’s action is an important step forward that will go a long way toward holding PFAS polluters accountable and beginning to clean up contaminated sites across the country,” said Liz Hitchcock, director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, the federal policy program of Toxic-Free Future. “Until we declare the full class of PFAS hazardous and prevent further pollution by ending the use of all PFAS chemicals in common products like food packaging and firefighting gear, communities will continue to pay the price with our health and tax dollars.”

Chemical companies sell PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) for application to products such as paper and textiles as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments. These toxic compounds are also widely used in industrial processes and then discharged into waterways. PFAS have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, immune system suppression, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. PFAS has been found in breast milk and in most products labeled stain- and water-resistant. PFAS are known as “forever” chemicals because they persist and don’t break down in the environment. Research has found that 3M knew in the 1970s that PFOA and PFOS are dangerous.

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Stephanie Stohler
Toxic-Free Future
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