The US Environmental Protection Agency wants to know who is using per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), how the chemicals are being used, and in what quantities.
Under a final rule released Sept. 28, the agency will require manufacturers and importers of PFAS and PFAS-containing articles to provide information on uses, amounts produced, byproducts, potential toxicity and exposures, and disposal methods for PFAS in their products or processes.
Companies must submit the information to the EPA for each PFAS chemical for each year the substance was manufactured or imported since Jan. 1, 2011, “to the extent the information is known or reasonably ascertainable.”
The rule gives manufacturers 18 months to provide the information. Small manufacturers have 24 months to report PFAS in imported articles.
“The data we’ll receive from this rule will be a game-changer in advancing our ability to understand and effectively protect people from PFAS,” Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, says in a statement.
The EPA is using its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to obtain the PFAS data. The agency is required to do so under a provision in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
PFAS are persistent in the environment and accumulate in people and wildlife. Some of them are toxic.
The EPA broadened the definition of PFAS in the final rule to include about 100 chemicals that were not included in the proposed rule. The agency says the additional substances are likely to be persistent in the environment. The substances include PFAS with nonadjacent fluorinated carbons, PFAS with unconnected CF2 or CF3 moieties, and high-molecular-weight fluoropolymers.
Altogether at least 1,462 PFAS are subject to the new reporting requirements, according to the EPA.
The American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, says the rule is “another step in the concerning trend of regulatory overreach by this EPA.” The group claims that the EPA underestimated the reporting burden on industry and the associated costs. “This program represents an unprecedented request for information, both in terms of the amount and type of data requested as well as the number of years subject to reporting.”
Other stakeholders say the rule presents both risks and opportunities for manufacturers. “While the EPA’s final PFAS reporting rule creates new financial, operational, and supply chain challenges, it also provides even greater momentum for manufacturers to build supply chain transparency,” says Cally Edgren, senior director of sustainability at Assent, which helps manufacturers collect and manage supply chain data.
The firm estimates that the cost for companies to comply with the PFAS reporting rule will be more than $800 million.