EPA Continues to Act on PFAS, Proposes to Close Import Loophole and Protect American Consumers
WASHINGTON (February 20, 2020) – Today, as part of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan, the agency is proposing regulations on imported products that contain certain persistent long-chain PFAS chemicals that are used as surface coatings. While EPA believes the use of these chemicals as surface coatings in imported goods has been phased out, this supplemental proposal would ensure that any new uses are reviewed by EPA before any products containing these chemicals could be imported into the United States again. As part of the agency’s review, EPA has the authority to place restrictions on the import of products containing these chemicals as part of a surface coating.
“Today’s action would close a loophole that currently allows new uses of products that include certain PFAS chemicals as part of surface coatings that have been phased out in the United States to be imported into our country,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This action, along with many other critical steps we’ve taken over the past year, continues to demonstrate EPA’s commitment to protecting public health and aggressively addressing these chemicals in the United States.”
EPA’s proposal supplements a previously proposed rule on PFAS imports by clarifying the categories of products that would be covered under the significant new use rule (SNUR). The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) provides EPA the authority to regulate products that are imported as an article, meaning goods that are imported as a component of another product. By clarifying the previously proposed rule, the agency is aligning its regulations with the Lautenberg Act amendments to TSCA.
When finalized, this rule will prevent products like furniture, automobile parts, electronics, and household appliances that could contain these PFAS as part of a surface coating from being imported into the United States unless EPA reviews the uses and determines whether it is necessary to put in place restrictions to address any unreasonable risks. This action also levels the playing field for companies that have already voluntarily phased-out the use of long-chain PFAS chemicals under EPA’s PFOA Stewardship Program by preventing new uses of these phased-out chemicals to begin again.
Upon publication of the Federal Register notice, EPA will accept public comments on this proposal for 45 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2013-0225 on www.regulations.gov.
Background on the PFAS Action Plan
PFAS are a large group of man-made chemicals used in consumer products and industrial processes. In use since the 1940s, PFAS are resistant to heat, oils, stains, grease, and water—properties which contribute to their persistence in the environment.
The agency’s PFAS Action Plan is the first multi-media, multi-program, national research, management, and risk communication plan to address a challenge like PFAS. The plan responds to the extensive public input the agency received during the PFAS National Leadership Summit, multiple community engagements, and through the public docket. The PFAS Action Plan outlines the tools EPA is developing to assist states, tribes, and communities in addressing PFAS.
EPA is taking the following highlighted actions:
Highlighted Action: Drinking Water
- EPA is committed to following the national primary drinking water regulation rulemaking process as established by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
- On December 3, 2019, EPA sent its preliminary determinations for at least five contaminants, including PFOA and PFOS, listed on the fourth Contaminant Candidate List, to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review.
- The agency is also gathering and evaluating information to determine if regulation is appropriate for other chemicals in the PFAS family.
Highlighted Action: Cleanup
- On December 19, 2019, EPA issued Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with PFOA and PFOS, which provides cleanup guidance for federal cleanup programs that will be helpful to states and tribes.
- EPA has initiated the regulatory development process for listing perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Highlighted Action: Monitoring
- EPA will propose nationwide drinking water monitoring for PFAS under the next UCMR monitoring cycle.
Highlighted Action: Toxics
- On September 25, 2019, EPA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory toxic chemical list.
- On February 20, 2020, EPA issued a supplemental proposal to ensure that new uses of certain persistent long-chain PFAS chemicals in surface coatings cannot be manufactured or imported into the United States without notification and review under TSCA.
- On February 20, 2020, EPA released an updated list of 172 PFAS chemicals subject to Toxics Release Inventory reporting as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
Highlighted Action: Surface Water Protection
- EPA is exploring data availability and research to support the development of Clean Water Act human health and aquatic life criteria for certain PFAS, as data allows.
- EPA is examining available information about PFAS released into surface waters by industrial sources to determine if additional study is needed for potential regulation.
Highlighted Action: Biosolids
- EPA is in the early scoping stages of risk assessments for PFOA and PFOS in biosolids to understand any potential health impacts.
Highlighted Action: Research
- On November 22, 2019, EPA announced availability of $4.8 million in funding for new research on managing PFAS in agriculture.
- EPA continues to compile and assess human and ecological toxicity information on PFAS to support risk management decisions.
- EPA continues to develop new methods to test for additional PFAS in drinking water.
- The agency is also validating analytical methods for surface water, ground water, wastewater, soils, sediments and biosolids; developing new methods to test for PFAS in air and emissions; and improving laboratory methods to discover unknown PFAS.
- EPA is developing exposure models to understand how PFAS moves through the environment to impact people and ecosystems.
- EPA continues to assess and review treatment methods for removing PFAS in drinking water.
- EPA is working to develop tools to assist officials with the cleanup of contaminated sites.
Highlighted Action: Enforcement
- EPA uses enforcement tools, when appropriate, to address PFAS exposure in the environment and assists states in enforcement activities.
- EPA has already taken actions to address PFAS, including issuing Safe Drinking Water Act orders and providing support to states. See examples in the PFAS Action Plan.
Highlighted Action: Risk Communications
- EPA is working collaboratively to develop a risk communication toolbox that includes multi-media materials and messaging for federal, state, tribal, and local partners to use with the public.