Congress has been urged by a US based NGO to suspend the introduction of new per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pending the release of information about their toxicity in the environment. The request was triggered by a review of chemical data reporting that revealed that the number of PFAS found in large quantities in the United States has soared. According to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the number of PFAS classes has climbed from 786 in 2002 to 118 during the period from 2012-2015.
This spike comes as a result of an industry pledge to limit the use of two long-chain substances – PFOS and PFAS. PEER expressed concern that the influx of new, substitute (short-chain) PFAS into the market at a rapid rate (after this voluntary reduction) will hamper the ability of health agencies to properly assess the toxicological properties of the chemical.
Notwithstanding regulation of PFAS under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the solution, according to PEER, is to implement a moratorium on new PFAS. The group has also suggested that manufacturers agree to fund a research initiative for evaluating the toxicology of these chemicals by experts who do not have industry connections. Many environmental experts agree: permitting the chemicals industry to introduce alternative variations without sufficient testing can pose serious risks to health and safety. Other organizations, such as the American Chemistry Council, maintain that PFAS cannot be managed as one single class of chemicals given their variations.
PFAS are used in fire retardants, furniture, and food packaging. The EPA has been criticized for addressing possible human health and environmental risks from PFAS almost exclusively in drinking water and ignoring these other sources. Advocacy groups have urged the EPA to develop more comprehensive measures and firmer deadlines to address the entire class of PFAS chemicals.
Legislation focusing on PFAS contamination was introduced in Congress, including the PFAS Action Act, which mandates designation of PFAS chemicals under the Superfund toxics law, and the PFAS Detection Act, which would allocate millions of dollars for new PFAS detection technologies.
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