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Persistent Pollutants

US EPA evaluating whether to require reporting of PFAS releases

Agency seeks input on which substances should be candidates for the Toxics Release Inventory

by Cheryl Hogue
November 26, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 47

Photo shows a leg in a boot pushing down on a shovel in dirt.
Credit: Jurga Jot/Shutterstock
The EPA is validating analytical methods for detecting PFAS in soil.

In a move that could impact the fluorochemical industry and its customers, the US Environmental Protection Agency is weighing whether to require facilities to report their annual emissions of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The agency is asking the public for feedback on which of 600 PFAS in US commerce it should consider for such reporting under the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

Researchers have identified a number of PFAS in drinking water supplies across the US. The handful of PFAS that have been studied adversely affect the livers and thyroid hormones of laboratory animals.

In a Nov. 25 announcement, the EPA said it will consider lower reporting thresholds for releases of PFAS than is standard under TRI. For most materials on the inventory, companies that manufacture or process at least 11,340 kg of any one of those chemicals or facilities that otherwise use at least 4,536 kg of a substance must file annual reports about their releases. The reporting threshold for substances that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) is 45 kg, and the threshold for chemicals that score very high in both persistence and bioaccumulation is 4.5 kg. For dioxins and dioxin-like compounds, the threshold is 0.1 g.

The agency is asking for feedback on which threshold to use for PFAS. “Certain PFAS may have persistence and bioaccumulation properties similar to other PBT chemicals where even small amounts of release present a concern,” the agency says.

In addition, the EPA says it is validating analytical methods for detecting PFAS in water, soil, and sediments, as well as in wastewater sludge, also known as biosolids.



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