EPA grants petition to order testing on human health hazards of PFAS

Jan. 3, 2022
EPA plans to require PFAS manufacturers to provide the agency with toxicity data and information on categories of PFAS.

As a part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s efforts to address the human health and ecological risks of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the Agency announced it was granting a petition from six North Carolina public health and environmental justice organizations to compel companies to conduct testing of certain PFAS.

Today’s action advances the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to improve understanding of, and to protect people from, the potential risks of PFAS. The petitioners’ request that EPA leverage its authorities to compel development of much needed new information on PFAS underscored the need for robust testing on PFAS, and played a key role in advancing the Agency’s plans for a National PFAS Testing Strategy, a pillar of the agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap that will lead to improved health protections for all communities.

“Communities in North Carolina and across the country deserve to know the potential risks that exposure to PFAS pose to families and children,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “By taking action on this petition, EPA will have a better understanding of the risks from PFAS pollution so we can do more to protect people. This data will also help us identify the sources of pollution so we can hold those accountable for endangering the public. EPA is fully committed to addressing this longstanding pollution challenge, and today we take another critical step forward to protect the water, air, and land we all depend on.”

EPA plans to require PFAS manufacturers to provide the agency with toxicity data and information on categories of PFAS. EPA expects to exercise its TSCA section 4 order authority to require recipients of test orders to conduct and fund the studies. The information gathered as a result of this testing will help EPA deepen its understanding of the impacts of PFAS, including potential hazards. As the agency learns more about the impacts of PFAS, EPA will continue to take action to protect human health and the environment.

In October 2020, the Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear, Democracy Green, Toxic Free NC, and the NC Black Alliance submitted a petition asking EPA to require health and environmental impact testing on 54 chemical substances that the petition identifies as PFAS manufactured by The Chemours Company in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The previous Administration denied this petition in January 2021, and the petitioners requested that the Agency reconsider its denial in March 2021, which EPA agreed to do in September 2021, in light of the change in administration and in policy priorities concerning PFAS. 

In October 2021, EPA announced a National PFAS Testing Strategy which identifies priority substances for the first of several described phases of an iterative testing approach based on grouping of chemicals by chemistry features and available toxicity data. These substances include many of the chemicals identified in the petition, but also additional PFAS which will inform a wider universe of categories of PFAS where key data is lacking.  For example, the first phase of testing on 24 PFAS is expected to provide data that can be extrapolated to 2,950 PFAS that belong to the same categories as the 24 individual substances.

Today, EPA has granted the petition and will exercise its TSCA authorities to compel development of information on PFAS.  In summary:

  • Near-Term Testing Covers 30 of 54 Petition Chemicals – Under the Testing Strategy, EPA’s first test orders for 24 categories of PFAS about which the least is known will provide human health hazard data that cover 30 of the 54 petition chemicals.
  • Subsequent Testing May Cover nine of 54 Petition Chemicals – An additional nine PFAS identified in the petition belong to one other category included in the Testing Strategy.  EPA is conducting more in-depth analyses of the sufficiency of the existing data, which will inform later phases of testing.
  • Remaining 15 of 54 Petition Chemicals – 15 chemicals identified in the petition do not fit the definition of PFAS used in developing the Testing Strategy. EPA has determined that there is robust data on some of them available to the Agency. EPA is conducting more in-depth analyses of the existing data, which will inform later phases of testing.
  • Mixtures Studies – EPA will address PFAS mixtures by using the toxicity of the individual substances to predict the toxicity of the mixture, an approach which is consistent with the current state-of-science on PFAS. EPA is proceeding with development and peer review of these methods as specifically applied to PFAS.
  • Human Studies – EPA is contributing to and reviewing numerous existing ongoing human studies, including studies on potentially exposed workers and communities in North Carolina, and is evaluating how to further advance and expand on these efforts. These include studies of health outcomes for people in communities impacted by industrial PFAS releases, as well studies that explore the connection between chronic health outcomes and PFAS exposures in North Carolina.
  • Analytical Standards – EPA does not believe it is appropriate to require the development or submission of analytical standards with the initial test orders that will be issued under the Testing Strategy and lacks the ability to order the submission of all analytical standards in the manner requested. Nonetheless, EPA has requested comment on whether to require the submission of existing analytical methods for PFAS under a separate rulemaking that the Agency expects to finalize next year.

EPA will also continue to work to address ongoing PFAS contamination through the actions outlined in the PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

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