EPA Aggressively Working to Increase Research and Understand PFAS
EPA researchers work to find solutions to address PFAS in communities across the nation
WASHINGTON (May 13, 2020) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues its focus on taking concrete action to address polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and protect public health. Building on the work outlined in the February 2019 PFAS Action Plan, the agency is expanding its research efforts and capabilities by launching its PFAS Innovative Treatment Team (PITT).
"Our researchers are at the forefront of addressing PFAS issues to protect our nation’s communities,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our world-class scientists are continuing their work under the PFAS Action Plan to understand and identify the potential health risks associated with these emerging chemicals of concern. This new approach will allow the agency to expand its efforts to develop innovative techniques to test for, remove, and destroy PFAS.”
The PITT is a dedicated and full-time team that brings together a multi-disciplined research staff that will concentrate their efforts and expertise on a single problem: how to remove, destroy, and test PFAS-contaminated media and waste. Using the lean organizational, management and R&D philosophies developed as part of Kelly Johnson’s Skunk Works and NASA’s Swamp Works, the PITT will operate in a work environment designed to break down administrative and procedural barriers in an effort to facilitate faster results.
PFAS chemicals have a very strong carbon-fluorine chemical bond that leads to persistence in the environment and makes their complete destruction difficult. Over the next few months, the PITT will work to achieve the following ambitious goals:
- Assess current and emerging destruction methods being explored by EPA, universities, other research organizations, and industry.
- Explore the efficacy of methods while considering by-products to avoid creating new environmental hazards.
- Evaluate methods’ feasibility, performance, and costs to validate potential solutions.
This work will add practical knowledge to EPA’s efforts under the PFAS Action Plan. States, tribes, and local governments will be able to use this information to select the approach that best fits their circumstances, leading to greater confidence in cleanup operations and safer communities. The results of this rapid research project are expected later this year.
Besides the innovative work of PITT, EPA and its researchers continue to work hard in many other areas to help the nation address PFAS and protect public health. This work includes:
- Validating methods to detect and quantify PFAS in various environmental media, such as water, air, and biosolids. EPA has already released a number of these methods, including Methods 533 and 537.1 that together can measure 29 PFAS substances in drinking water.
- Evaluating treatment technologies that remove PFAS from drinking water. For example, researchers are investigating the effectiveness of point-of-use systems and have recently published research on commercially-available systems that use both reverse osmosis and granular activated carbon.
- Developing standard human health toxicity reference values for certain PFAS where sufficient scientific data exist. For example, researchers are working on a toxicity assessment for PFBS, GenX chemicals, and five other PFAS chemicals, which will help states, tribes, and local communities understand the toxicity of these substances so that they can make more informed choices to protect the public’s health.
- Providing technical assistance to states and tribes as they work to address a variety of PFAS challenges.
- Funding external researchers to better understand the potential impacts of PFAS on water quality and availability in rural communities and agricultural operations across the United States.
EPA and its scientists in the Office of Research & Development are working hard to protect the health of Americans. This is just a small sampling of their work. To see a detailed list of their efforts and when these research products are expected, please see: https://www.epa.gov/chemical-research/status-epa-research-and-development-pfas.
For more information on EPA’s PFAS Action Plan, please see: https://www.epa.gov/pfas.