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Persistent Pollutants

EPA adds 160 PFAS to Toxics Release Inventory

Companies will have to report emissions

by Cheryl Hogue
January 21, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 4


US businesses that emit any of 160 types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to air, water, or land will have to report those releases to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency unveiled on Jan. 16 the list of PFAS substances that it added to the Toxics Release Inventory as required by a military spending law (Public Law 116-92) enacted in December. Companies will have to report their releases of the listed PFAS for calendar year 2020, the EPA says. The agency will then make the information available to the public.

Gathering information about which facilities emit PFAS—and how much—is the first step toward restricting those releases, says Scott Faber, senior vice president at the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization.

The list includes PFAS no longer made in the US, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). Also on the list are the pesticide sulfluramid, which breaks down into PFOS, and Chemours’s GenX surfactant, which is a replacement for PFOA as a fluoropolymer processing aid. Other listed PFAS are less widely known, such as perfluorohexadecyl iodide and the potassium salt of nonafluorobis(trifluoromethyl)cyclohexane sulfonic acid.

Nearly all of the newly listed PFAS substances meet the two criteria in the military funding law, the EPA says: each is listed on the agency’s list of chemicals that were active on the US market as of February 2019, and each is covered by a regulation that requires companies to get EPA approval before any significant new uses of the chemical begin.

Additions to the list could follow. Some companies have claimed that the identities of some PFAS are trade secrets and exempt from public disclosure. Under the new law, the companies must substantiate or reassert those claims for the EPA to review whether the chemicals qualify for protection from disclosure.


This story was revised on Jan. 23, 2020, to add comment from Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group.


When adding protected PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory, the EPA must do so “in a manner that does not disclose the protected information,” the law says. For instance, the EPA may decide to lump reporting of many PFAS together in a class for release reporting.


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