WASHINGTON — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host a National Leadership Summit in May to take action on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), a category of man-made chemicals widely used to give products, including textiles, stain-resistant and waterproof properties. Using information gleaned from the summit, the EPA plans to develop a PFAS Management Plan for release later this year.
PFASs, also known as highly fluorinated substances, have properties that enable them to cause a negative impact on the environment. They are extremely persistent and some are mobile in the environment. Many of them accumulate in living organisms and have documented toxicity.
Europe has, arguably, been a ahead of the curve compared to the US in terms of addressing issues posed by PFAS. In a survey carried out in 2015, the Swedish Chemicals Agency estimated there are over 3,000 PFASs on the global market, but only a few are registered under REACH, the EU chemicals regulatory body. This is because PFASs are often used in low volumes therefore requiring only limited information under REACH. PFASs can also enter the EU via imported articles (such as textiles).
“EPA’s leadership summit will bring together stakeholders from across the country to build on the steps we are already taking and to identify immediate actions to protect public health,” said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. “Through this event, we are providing critical national leadership, while ensuring that our state, tribal, and local partners have the opportunity to help shape our path forward.”
“The states have been on the front lines of addressing PFAS issues, so ECOS is glad to see EPA recognise their urgency and engage the states early in its process,” added ECOS executive dirctor Sambhav Sankar. “Many states cannot take action on PFAS issues until EPA makes a regulatory determination, and all states would like to see continued federal research and leadership in this area.”
“It is critical that responding agencies at all levels are effectively communicating and coordinating efforts to protect the public’s health,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. “We need a national effort to review the expanding scientific research on these contaminants, as well as possible responses and remediation. Having a national dialogue on this growing concern could be instrumental in establishing standards, protocols and best practices that will allow all state and federal partners to comprehensively address these contaminants across the country.”
The National Leadership Summit will be hosted in Washington, D.C. on May 22-23, 2018.
EPA has also updated the PFAS website to highlight ongoing work by the Agency, including the development of additional toxicity values, analytical methods, and treatment options for PFAS in drinking water.
Last year, the Nordic Council, an inter-governmental body with representation from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, claimed urgent regulatory action is required on PFASs.