The EPA, in a new step to regulate PFAS, has added 172 PFAS to the list of chemicals required to be reported to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) when released to the environment. The TRI is an important tool that provides the public with information about the use of certain chemicals by tracking their management and associated activities. However, there is an exemption for polluters that would allow circumventing the new measure, informs The Guardian.
PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances), nicknamed “forever chemicals”, are associated with adverse health effects and have been found in drinking water across the U.S. They do not break down in the environment and accumulate in the human body.
In late 2019, the U.S. Congress directed the EPA to regulate the reporting of some of the thousands of existing PFAS. Polluters have to report any release of 100 pounds or more of the chemicals into a water course. But the new EPA regulation also allows bypassing the requirement, providing no single PFA in a mixture release exceeds 1% of the total. Known as the de minimis exemption, it eludes reporting requirements for chemicals in a mixture below a certain per cent, set at 0.1% for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), as a carcinogen, and 1% for all other PFAS.
Furthermore, there will be no opportunity for public comment before the EPA finalises the rule; the EPA has justified this saying it “has no discretion as to the outcome”, because the rule is necessary to comply with an act of Congress.
A number of organisations involved in environmental protection oppose the new rule, including the National PFAS Contamination Coalition, comprising grassroots groups that have discovered PFAS in their local water. Cofounder Emily Donovan thinks the EPA should have listed the PFAS as congress intended, so that communities could see how companies are releasing the chemicals.
The new requirement to report is a small step in what authorities must do to protect people from PFAS contamination, according to health experts.