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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manmade chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1940s. PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals”. They are very persistent in the environment and the human body, where they bioaccumulate in blood and organs over time. Most PFAS exposure comes through ingesting food and water that becomes contaminated with PFAS when it migrates into soil, water, and air during use and/or disposal. Studies show that exposure to PFAS may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a number of actions to tackle PFAS contamination, including the development of a PFAS Strategic Roadmap to confront the human health and environmental risks of PFAS. In October 2023, the Agency finalized two new rules to improve reporting on PFAS.
TRI Reporting Requirements
The Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) tracks the management of certain toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to human health and the environment. U.S. facilities in different industry sectors must report annually how much of each chemical is released to the environment and/or managed through recycling, energy recovery, and treatment.
EPA’s new rule designates PFAS as chemicals of special concern for TRI reporting purposes and, correspondingly, eliminates the exemption that allowed facilities to avoid reporting information on PFAS when those chemicals were in small concentrations (i.e., under 100 pounds). However, PFAS are often used at low concentrations in many products. By removing this exemption, covered industry sectors and federal facilities that use any of the 189 TRI-listed PFAS will have to disclose any quantity of PFAS they manage or release into the environment.
By eliminating the de minimus exemption, EPA will receive more comprehensive data on PFAS, including quantities of chemicals released into the environment or managed as waste, to support more informed decision-making.
TSCA Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements
EPA also published a final rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that will require any entity that has manufactured or imported PFAS in any year since 2011 to report information on its uses, production volumes, disposal, exposures, and hazards.
Specifically, these facilities will have 18 months following the effective date of the rule to report the following data to EPA for each PFAS chemical substance or mixture:
- Covered common/trade name, chemical identity, and molecular structure.
- Category(ies) of use.
- Total amount manufactured or processed, amounts for each category of use, and estimates of the respective proposed amounts.
- Descriptions of byproducts resulting from manufacture, processing, use, or disposal.
- Information regarding environmental and health effects.
- Number of individuals exposed and reasonable estimates of the number of individuals who will be exposed in their workplace and the duration of exposure.
- Manner or method of disposal.
This rule is intended to help EPA better characterize the sources and quantities of manufactured PFAS in the U.S. by creating the largest-ever dataset of PFAS manufactured and used in the U.S.
How This Impacts You/What You Need to Do
Federal and state initiatives and regulations to manage PFAS are rapidly growing. KTL does not see the challenges associated with PFAS going away any time soon. If anything, we anticipate more facilities will be directly impacted by mitigation efforts and regulatory action to support EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, such as those outlined above.
It is important for facilities to have a good understanding of PFAS and PFAS-containing chemicals used onsite, as reporting requirements now apply regardless of the quantity used. Implementing a chemical inventory management system that documents and manages PFAS data can make reporting more efficient and help ensure the facility meets these new requirements. Proper usage strategies, a comprehensive environmental management system (EMS), and a forward-thinking Emergency Response Plan will also remain vital tools for companies potentially dealing with PFAS to effectively manage the associated risks.