E.P.A. to Designate PFAS, or ‘Forever Chemicals,’ as Hazardous

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said it would designate the two most commonly detected toxic substances as “permanent chemicals,” which have been linked to cancer and found in everything from drinking water to furniture, is a toxic substance.

The move does not ban the chemicals, known as PFAS, but the proposed rule is one of the most significant actions the EPA has taken to date on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds. It requires companies to assess and report to the government when chemicals seep into water or soil, and can hold companies accountable for any cleanup costs.

These compounds are among more than 4,000 man-made chemicals commonly referred to as “permanent chemicals” because they break down slowly, leach into water and soil, and can persist in the human body after eat right. Manufacturers have agreed to phase out the use of chemicals – but as its nickname suggests, “permanent chemicals” are still being detected in products and people. They have been linked to certain cancers, low birth weight babies, thyroid disease, and other health effects.

“Communities have suffered for too long as a result of their permanent exposure to these chemicals,” said Michael S. Regan, administrator of the EPA. He said the rule would “both help protect communities from PFAS pollution and seek to hold polluters accountable for their actions.”

The agency signaled it may also regulate other PFAS chemicals in the future, saying it will issue an enhanced rule-making notice later this year to invite comments on the designate other compounds as hazardous.

Republican lawmakers have criticized the regulation, saying it would place an undue burden on businesses because PFAS chemicals have been found in a wide range of products including carpets and clothing. absorbent and food packaging, including some microwave popcorn bags. In a scientific ruling earlier this year, the EPA found no safe levels for the chemicals and lowered the health risk threshold to near zero, replacing 2016 guidance that had placed them at 70 parts per trillion. .

Shelley Moore Capito, Senator from West Virginia and the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the EPA, said: undesirable consequences that today’s proposal could cause. Prioritize technology that can remove and destroy compounds over problems for manufacturers.

She said in the report.

Under the proposed rule, the EPA would designate the two compounds as hazardous under the Superfund law, which would allow the agency to require polluting companies to clean up environmental hazards. Agency officials said the reporting requirements would provide the federal government with “improved data and the option to request cleanup and recover cleanup costs to protect public health and encourage incentives.” better waste management.”

The Environmental Working Group, an environmental organization, last year identified 41,828 industrial sites and cities in the United States that they said were known or suspected to still use PFAS.

The US Chamber of Commerce said it and a coalition of more than a dozen trade groups representing clothing and footwear manufacturers, oil companies and the paper and packaging industries oppose regulation. this.

“It would slow the current cleanup process, impose significant liability and compliance costs, and lead to unintended consequences without effectively addressing the challenges posed by PFAS,” said the Chamber. out”.

Environmental activists say the regulation is long overdue. Mark Ruffalo, the actor and activist, released a statement saying the move would hold chemical polluters accountable. “We have all been paying for decades – in the form of higher health care costs and higher drinking water bills – for one of the greatest environmental crimes in history,” he said. .

The EPA said it will publish the proposed rule in the federal register in the coming weeks, and then the public will have 60 days to comment before the plan can be finalized.

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