Managing Potential PFOA Risks
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Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a persistent, man-made chemical that animal studies have shown can cause systemic and developmental toxicity. It has been found in human blood and it remains in the body for years. The Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) began investigating PFOA in 2002 to determine the risk it may pose to humans and the environment and what, if any, actions could be taken.
OPPT has taken action to help minimize the potential impact of PFOA and related chemicals on the environment. In January 2006, former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson initiated the 2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program, in which eight major companies in the industry committed to voluntarily reduce facility emissions and product content of PFOA and related chemicals on both a domestic and a global basis by 95 percent no later than 2010, and to work toward eliminating emissions and product content of these chemicals by 2015. Companies submitted their baseline year emissions and product content data in October 2006. Progress reports are due annually on October 31.
OPPT and EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance work together to take enforcement actions under TSCA when necessary. Two such significant actions in connection with PFOA were the $10.25 million settlement between EPA and DuPont reached in December 2005 and the $1.5 million settlement between EPA and the 3M Company reached in April 2006.
OPPT is a key player in raising awareness on PFOA-related issues internationally working with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). For example, the United States and Germany are developing a draft hazard assessment on PFOA. OPPT also participated in developing the OECD workshop on PFOA and related chemicals.
- In August 2007, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control report showed significant reductions in human blood levels of perfluorooctyl sulfonates (PFOS) and PFOA from 1999-2000 compared to the most recent data in 2003-2004 in a representative sample of the U.S. population. The geometric mean for PFOA in human blood was reduced by 25 percent over this period and PFOS was reduced by 32 percent. The report concluded that these reductions were most likely related to changes brought about by EPA efforts on these chemicals and other related efforts by government and industry.
- Eight major companies participating in the PFOA Stewardship Program reported significant drops in the release of PFOA and related chemicals, putting industry on target to meet the 95 percent reduction goal in PFOA emissions and product content by 2010. Further reductions are anticipated by 2015. These first annual progress reports were submitted to EPA in October 2007, and were measured against baseline data submitted in October 2006. In February 2008, OPPT released summary tables of 2007 progress reports. In December 2008, OPPT released summary tables of 2008 progress reports.
- OPPT entered into two enforceable consent agreements (ECAs) with industry in July 2005 to determine whether incineration of telomers and fluoropolymers could be a source of PFOA. Phase I of the ECA process was successfully completed for both ECAs by the end of 2007. The final reports on incineration results are expected in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
As an outgrowth of the ECA process, OPPT is working with ORD to determine whether telomeric polymers can biodegrade to PFOA and to determine whether fluoropolymer and telomer-treated articles can release PFOA as they age.
- In October 2007, OPPT issued a final Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for 183 perfluoroalkyl sulfonate (PFAS) chemicals that were not included in prior perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS)-related SNURs.
- In 2007, 3M began a peer consultation process, developed under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Agency to assess 3M's environmental monitoring at a fluoropolymer facility. DuPont also has a similar MOU with the Agency, and has been conducting environmental monitoring throughout 2007. DuPont's peer consultation process is expected to commence in 2008.
- EPA continues to monitor DuPont's efforts to develop a method to purify certain fluorotelomer-based products as part of the Biodegradation Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP). The Biodegradation SEP is part of the $10.25 million settlement with DuPont. The Biodegradation SEP, valued at $5 million, was designed to investigate the biodegradation potential of certain chemicals to breakdown to form PFOA. Nine of DuPont's commercial fluorotelomer-based products in commerce prior to the settlement are being evaluated. Using two types of biodegradation studies, the SEP will help the public to better understand the inherent degradation potential of fluorotelomer-based products to form PFOA and the behavior of such products when released to the environment.