On January 21, 2015, EPA published proposed Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) under the Toxic Substances Control Act for long-chain perfluroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) and perfluroalkyl sulfonate (PFAS) substances. The SNURs would require manufacturers, importers and processors to submit a Significant New Use Notice (SNUN) before commencing the identified significant new uses. Comments must be submitted no later than March 23, 2015.
PFAS chemicals are used in specialty chemical formulations in a variety of applications, including firefighting foam. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a LCPFAC chemical, is used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers. Fluoropolymers are used in the manufacture of nonstick surfaces (as for cookware), molded automotive parts and other applications. It is likely that EPA will receive comments regarding ongoing uses that should not be subject to the SNUR, at least as to the manufacture, importation and processing of PFOA and its salts.
EPA regulation of these classes of chemicals have a long history dating back to 2001, when EPA first proposed a controversial SNUR for PFAS based on concerns regarding persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity. With that SNUR, EPA for the first time regulated manufacture and importation as “uses” subject to its SNUR authority. Further, EPA based its broadly scoped SNUR on commitments by U.S. manufacturers to phase out those chemicals, not knowing that several downstream users of PFAS chemicals imported them for critical ongoing uses. Ultimately, although EPA did not back away from its broad interpretation of “use” as including manufacture and importation, it did carve out in the final SNUR ( 40 C.F.R. Section 721.9582) certain industry exemptions from the SNUR based on extensive industry documentation of ongoing uses.
In the current regulatory action, EPA proposes to amend the PFAS SNUR to include “import as part of carpets” as a significant new use requiring a SNUN. Historically, EPA has largely refrained from regulating articles under its SNUR authority. Thus, incorporating articles in SNURs is notable in and of itself, and reflects EPA’s increasing scrutiny of chemicals in products.
In this same regulatory action, EPA also has identified the manufacture, importation and processing of certain categories of chemicals, including LCPFAC and PFOA and its salts, as “significant new uses” in another proposed SNUR at 40 C.F.R. Section 721.10536. Manufacture, importation and processing as part of carpets or to treat carpets are also encompassed by this SNUR, with respect to certain identified categories of LCPFAC.