State of Washington Regulates PFAS In Lieu of Cosmetics Ban

A proposal in Washington state has stalled in the state House, after passing their Senate, that would have banned cosmetics that contain phthalates, formaldehyde, and PFAS.   The proposal, Senate Bill 5703, states that legislature finds certain chemicals in cosmetic products to be linked with various negative health effects, such as cancer, birth defects, and damage to the reproductive system. It further states that if enacted, it would have prohibited the sale and distribution of any cosmetics containing these and an additional 31 different substances such as ortho-phthalates, phenolic compounds, parabens, and lead compounds beginning January 1, 2025.

Although Senate Bill 5703 did not progress, the governor did sign into law House Bill 1694, which allows the state department of ecology to recognize and regulate consumer products containing PFAS.  The bill gives the ecology depart the authority to restrict PFAS product to any limit.   The state’s department of ecology is directed to determine an initial set of regulatory actions regarding PFAS consumer products by June 1, 2024 and must adopt rules to implement the initial set of determinations of regulatory actions by December 1, 2025.  Washington has also created a $266,00 fund for identifying and testing cosmetics for the purpose of determining which cosmetics present harmful effects.

Washington is not the first state to ban hazardous substances from cosmetics.  In 2020, California passed a ban on cosmetics containing harmful substances, identifying some PFAS chemicals.  Maryland took the same course of action in 2021.  In addition, several other states, such as New Hampshire, Minnesota, Michigan, and Maine have begun drafting legislature to restrict PFAS in cosmetics.

PFAS Found in L’Oréal Cosmetics

A class action lawsuit has been filed in a New York federal court alleging that L’Oréal USA failed to disclose its Waterproof Mascara Products contain PFAS. Third-party testing revealed that PFAS are present in several of L’Oréal’s waterproof mascaras. PFAS are commonly found in cosmetics because of their durability, spreadability, and waterproof and oilproof properties While PFAS are largely unregulated in cosmetics at the federal level although the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) Office of Cosmetics and Colors has authority to do so under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, consumer demand for PFAS-free products has led companies such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty to designate PFAS-free brands as “clean” beauty brands.

The Complaint states that since at least 2018, the company has misleadingly and fraudulently advertised its Waterproof Mascara Products. Plaintiffs allege that the mascaras were labeled as safe, effective, and high quality, utilizing phrases such as “ophthalmologist tested’ and “hypoallergenic,” yet packaging and ingredient lists failed to disclose the presence of PFAS.

According to the Complaint, L’Oréal, with exclusive knowledge of the formulas, ingredients, and suppliers, knew or should have known the waterproof mascara products contained or had a material risk of containing PFAS. Additionally, Plaintiffs assert that L’Oréal should have known that the presence or material risk of PFAS was a material consideration to consumers. The Complaint alleges that had consumers been aware of the presence of PFAS they would not have purchased the products or would not have purchased them at a premium price.

The case is Hicks v. L’Oreal USA Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 1:22-cv-01989, 3/9/22.

EPA Takes Steps to Regulate PFAS in Commerce

On March 16, 2022, EPA announced that the Agency would be taking two steps to further regulate PFAS in commerce. First, EPA notified manufactures of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) that they are obligated to comply with existing TSCA requirements to prevent unintentional PFAS contamination. Second, EPA stated that the Agency will remove two types of PFAS from the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL).

EPA provided notice that manufacturers, importers, processors, distributors, users, and other entities who engage in the disposal of HDPE containers and other plastics containing fluorinated polyolefins must adhere to the significant new use notice requirement under TSCA. This notice was provided via an open letter to the HDPE industry that was initially posted on March 16, 2022, and then reissued with minor revisions on March 24, 2022.  Here, EPA reminded the HDPE industry that the process of fluorination can lead to the unintentional manufacture of PFAS (e.g., byproducts).  Furthermore, EPA stated that the manufacture of certain PFAS, including long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylates, via fluorination of polyolefins is considered a significant new use under TSCA because the byproducts exemption provided at 40 CFR § 721.45(e) does not apply. Specifically, this exemption does not apply because these PFAS are not “used only by public or private organizations that (1) burn it as a fuel, (2) dispose of it as a waste, including in a landfill or for enriching soil, or (3) extract component chemical substances from it for commercial purposes.” Therefore, a significant new use notification (SNUN) must be submitted to EPA at least 90 days before initiating such use so that the Agency can review the potential risks of this new use before industry can place the product into the stream of commerce.

The two PFAS that EPA will be removing from the SCIL, CASRN 449177-94-0 and 452080-67-0, were initially placed on the list in 2012.  In October of 2021, EPA began revisiting its previous PFAS endorsements pursuant the PFAS Strategic Roadmap. These two chemicals were subsequently removed from the list based on “a growing understanding of the toxicological profiles for certain PFAS, and incomplete information on the potential health and environmental effects of these substances.” Henceforth, these products that contain these PFAS will not be eligible Safer Choice certification. In addition, existing products containing these substances, that have received the Safer Choice certification, must be reformulated to maintain said certification.

EPA Implements Collaborative Research Program to Support PMN Reviews

On February 24, EPA announced a new effort “to modernize the process and bring innovative science to the review of new chemicals.”  In addition, the effort is expected to “increase the transparency of the human health and ecological risk assessment process.”  The Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) is collaborating on this effort with the Agency’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and other federal entities including the National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The draft Strengthening the Science and Process to Evaluate New Chemicals Under TSCA; TSCA New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program: Problem Statement, Vision and Action Plan was released for public comment on March 9.  Written comments will be accepted through April 26, 2022.  In addition, stakeholders may comment at a virtual public meeting on April 20 and 21, 2022.  Instructions for registering for the meeting are available here.

EPA explains that the Collaborative Research Program (CRP) “will refine existing approaches and develop and implement new approach methodologies (NAMs) to ensure the best available science is used in TSCA new chemical evaluations.”  Components of this effort include:

  • Updating the methodology for using data from analogous chemicals to determine potential risks from new chemicals where health effects data on the new substance are not available.
  • Updating and augmenting the models used for predicting a chemical’s physical-chemical properties and environmental fate/transport, hazard, exposure, and toxicokinetics.
  • Developing a decision support tool to integrate the information streams used in new chemical risk assessments into a final risk assessment.

The docket for this effort is EPA-HQ-OPPT-2022-0218.

 

IRIS Review of PFHxA and its Related Salts

EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program is developing assessments for five PFAS:  perfluorobutanoic acid [PFBA], perfluorohexanoic acid [PFHxA], perfluorohexane sulfonate [PFHxS], perfluorononanoic acid [PFNA], perfluorodecanoic acid [PFDA], and their associated salts.  On February 2, EPA released the draft IRIS assessment for PFHxA.

The IRIS assessment followed a systemic review protocol that outlines the related scoping and problem formulation efforts, including a summary of other federal and state assessments of PFHxA. The protocol also lays out the systematic review and dose-response methods used to conduct the review.

The review found that PFHxA exposure is likely to cause hepatic, developmental, and hematopoietic effects in humans.  In addition, the review reported that current evidence suggests that PFHxA exposure might cause endocrine effects in humans.

Litigation Over the De Minimis Concentration and Alternate Threshold Exemptions in the PFAS TRI Reporting Rules

On January 20, 2022, the National PFAS Contamination Coalition, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists (collectively the “Coalition”) filed a complaint in the District Court for the District of Columbia challenging two final rules promulgated by EPA related to TRI PFAS Reporting.  Specifically, the Coalition asserts that two rules violate the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA) by allowing two exemptions to the Act’s PFAS reporting mandate — the de minimis concentration and alternate threshold exemptions.  These rules are “Implementing Statutory Addition of Certain Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances; Toxic Chemical Release Reporting” (85 Fed. Reg. 37,354) and the “Implementing Statutory Addition of Certain Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) to the Toxics Release Inventory Beginning With Reporting Year 2021” (86 Fed. Reg. 29,698) (collectively the “TRI PFAS Rules”).

According to the Coalition, allowing the de minimis exemption means that PFAS otherwise subject to the rule “will not be reported to the TRI because they are used in mixtures in low concentrations —even where the total amount of the PFAS manufactured, processed, or otherwise used is well over the 100-pound threshold set by Congress.”  The compliant further explains that the alternate threshold exemption permits covered facilities that release and disposal of less than 500 pounds per year of a TRI-listed PFAS to submit “a bare-bones certification rather than the detailed toxic chemical release form, reducing the information disclosed to the public.”

Adopting these rules without allowing for notice and opportunity for comment, promulgation violated the notice and comment provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, according to the Coalition.  The Coalition further asserts that the NDAA did not authorize EPA to allow an exemption for de minimis concentrations.  Nor, according to the Coalition, does the NDAA allow for alternate threshold exemptions.  The Coalition argues that “the TRI PFAS Rules are also arbitrary and capricious because they are premised on the idea that communities do not need to know about releases of small amounts of toxic chemicals, or even releases of large amounts where the chemical of concern is present in low concentrations, flouting evidence that exposure to even extremely low levels of PFAS is dangerous.”

The complaint argues that Plaintiffs’ members are deprived of critical information by the de minimis concentration and alternate threshold exemptions.   According to the Coalition, the exemptions deprive Plaintiffs of knowledge about the toxic air and water pollution that they and their families are exposed to, which impairs their ability to advocate for stronger protections from that pollution.  The absence of these data also impairs Plaintiff’s ability to “conduct the research and analysis needed to inform communities and guide policy development.”

As previously posted, EPA complied a roadmap outlining key actions and commitments on PFAS for 2024.  This roadmap states that EPA intends to propose a rulemaking in 2022 to remove the “de minimis eligibility” from supplier notification requirements for Chemicals of Special Concern for TRI reporting, and categorize PFAS as such.

Recent State Activity on PFAS Regulation

Since January 2022, many states have passed and proposed dozens of laws regulating PFAS substances.  These legislative efforts address topics including setting drinking water standards for PFAS, banning PFAS in consumer products, banning or restricting the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS, and adding PFAS substances to toxic and hazardous substances lists.

Virginia and Washington will soon adopt regulations establishing maximum contaminant levels for drinking water.  Indiana and Rhode Island have also proposed doing so.  California is considering legislation that would establish a Central Basin Communities water fund that would, in-part, offset treatment costs of PFAS-contaminated public water systems.

Minnesota, California, and Rhode Island have proposed legislation that would ban the use of PFAS in consumer products.  Products that would be subject to these bans range from cosmetics and cookware to carpets and clothing.

Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maine, and Louisiana have passed laws banning or restricting the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS.  Rhode Island and Ohio have proposed legislation that would restrict the use of firefighting foams.

Minnesota has added PFAS substances to its list of Toxic and Hazardous Substances.  California has added PFAS to the list of substances subject to Prop 65.  A Rhode Island bill would include PFAS in the definition of “hazardous substances” for purposes of industrial property remediation.

Legislative efforts have also addressed notice requirements.  Maine enacted legislation that requires manufacturers to provide notification if any personal, residential, commercial, or industrial product contains PFAS.  A bill pending in the California General Assembly would create a publicly accessible registry of products containing PFAS.  The bill would also require manufacturers to register PFAS-containing products.  A Minnesota bill would require manufacturers of products for sale in the state that contain intentionally added PFAS to provide written notice of the PFAS, its amount, and its purpose.

Other legislative proposals would enact the following:

  • A prohibition on products containing PFAS from being classified as recyclable.
  • A requirement for state-owned solid waste disposal facilities to establish leachate treatment to reduce PFAS.
  • A requirement for screening for PFAS in sludge or sludge-derived compost that is applied to land.
  • A requirement to adopt groundwater quality standards for certain PFAS.
  • A prohibition on the sale of products labeled as “compostable” or “home compostable” if it has a total organic fluorine concentration greater than 100 parts per million (ppm).

Four PFAS Added to TRI

On January 28, EPA announced the addition of four per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) list.  These additions were prompted by the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Section 7321 of the NDAA provides a framework for adding PFAS to the TRI.  Specific PFAS were added to the TRI by the act including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and its salts. These were added to the TRI list on January 1.

The NDAA mandates the addition of other PFAS substances to the TRI list when they are the subject of certain regulatory actions.  Such actions include finalizing a toxicity value, issuing a significant new use rule (SNUR), and the addition of a PFAS substance to an existing significant new use rule.  The reporting requirement goes into effect January 1 the year following the regulatory action.

In April 2021, EPA finalized a toxicity value for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) (CASRN 375-73-5) and potassium perfluorobutane sulfonate (CASRN 29420-49-3). These two PFAS substances are being added to the TRI list because EPA finalized a toxicity value. PFBS-based compounds are replacement chemicals for PFOS, a chemical that the primary U.S. manufacturer voluntarily phased out by 2002.

A third PFAS, a substance being regulated by an existing SNUR, was designated as “active” on the TSCA Inventory.  Therefore, this substance has also been added to the TRI.

The fourth PFAS is a substance for which EPA had to review CBI claims before adding it to the TRI list: CASRN 203743-03-7.  The NDAA provides for Agency review of any CBI claims before adding any PFAS to the TRI list whose identity is listed on the confidential Inventory.  For this substance, CBI claims were “declassified.”

Reporting requirements for these PFAS substances are in effect for 2022.  Facilities that manufacture, process or otherwise use more than 100 pounds of any listed PFAS substance during 2022 are required to submit an EPCRA Section 313 report.  Reporting for calendar year 2022 is required by July 1, 2023.  Reports are submitted through EPA’s CDX TRIMEweb.

New Jersey PFAS Litigation Against 3M, DuPont, and Others to Continue

New Jersey litigation against Dupont, Chemours, Corteva, and 3M over PFAS contamination will proceed following a federal district court ruling on a 3M motion to dismiss in December 2021.  The case involves contamination of four different sites in New Jersey, two of which were at issue in the motion to dismiss — 3M is not a defendant in the litigation over the other two sites.  Claims against 3M were brought under New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act (the “Spill Act”) and under New Jersey common law.

Spill Act

In its assessment, the Court explained that the Spill Act provides that generally “any person who has discharged a hazardous substance, or is in any way responsible for any hazardous substance, shall be strictly liable, jointly and severally, without regard to fault, for all cleanup and removal costs no matter by whom incurred.” It went on to say that although the Spill Act does not define the phrase “in any way responsible for any hazardous substance,” that the Act, does, however, instruct that it is to “be liberally construed to effect its purposes.” The Court further found that another court in this district had considered a motion by 3M to dismiss another Spill Act claim in Giordano v. Solvay Specialty Polymers USA, LLC, and had found that the plaintiffs in that case had sufficiently alleged that 3M was “in any way responsible for the contaminated water supply.”  It then held that Giordano was persuasive and found that the State had sufficiently “pled that 3M is ‘in any way responsible for’ the discharge of hazardous substances at both of the Sites at issue.”

Failure to Warn

New Jersey also argued that 3M owed a duty to warn the State that 3M’s PFAS-containing products could endanger New Jersey’s citizens and environment.  The State asserted that this duty arose under common law from its role as parens patriae, which is the State’s authority to act for citizens who cannot protect or advance their own interests, and the duty as trustee of New Jersey’s environment and natural resources.

The Court explained that to determine whether a duty exists at common law, the New Jersey Supreme Court first asks whether it was foreseeable that a party’s conduct was capable of harming another.  And then, where foreseeability has been established, the New Jersey Supreme Court assesses “the relationship of the parties, the nature of the attendant risk, the opportunity and ability to exercise care, and the public interest in the proposed solution

To assess foreseeability, the court, assessed whether it was foreseeable to 3M that its products could harm the State of New Jersey’s citizens and natural resources.  Analyzing the question in the context of a motion to dismiss, the Court presumed that New Jersey’s allegations and all reasonable inferences therefrom were true and found that the State has adequately established foreseeability of the harm.  The court then found that 3M did owe a duty to the state, explaining that “the Court again notes that the New Jersey Supreme Court has instructed that whether a duty exists ‘devolves to a question of foreseeability of the risk of harm to that individual or identifiable class of individuals.’  The New Jersey Supreme Court did not limit its inquiry to those with whom a defendant had a relationship.” And that, “New Jersey courts have not limited the duty to warn to those with whom a defendant has a direct relationship.”  Furthermore, the Court found that the public interest also favors finding of a duty as the prevention of far-reaching environmental and human harm is of paramount public concern.  The Court then held that the State had plausibly alleged a failure to warn and denied 3M’s motion to dismiss.

Design Defect

Finally, the Court found that New Jersey had adequately stated a claim for design defect claim.  The Court explained that “to state a claim for design defect under New Jersey law, a plaintiff must plead either that the product’s risk outweighs its harm, or that an alternate design exists.”  Because the State had alleged that “PFOA and PFOS have characteristics that cause extensive and persistent environmental contamination,” that “PFOA and PFOS contamination presents a serious threat to public health through drinking water,”  that PFAS exposure “has been linked to several diseases, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, and pregnancy-induced hypertension and low birth weight,” that the PFAS used at the sites “were defective in design and unreasonably dangerous” for similar reasons, and that “the foreseeable risk to public health and welfare posed by 3M’s PFAS outweighed the cost to 3M of reducing or eliminating such risk,” the Court held that New Jersey had “managed to plead enough facts to eke out a claim for a design defect.”

US District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez issued the unpublished opinion.

Update on Roundup Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court

Roundup has been the subject of countless lawsuits.  One critical case is Monsanto v. Hardeman, 21-241.  Bayer has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for relief.  Recent Court action suggests that the Supreme Court might hear the case.  In December the U.S. Supreme Court solicited the Biden administration’s opinion on whether to hear Bayer AG’s appeal of a $25 million award to Edwin Hardeman.  Hardeman asserts that decades of exposure to Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Bayer contends that the Ninth Circuit wrongly affirmed the district court’s decision.  The company argues that the Ninth Circuit wrongly decided that FIFRA did not preempt Hardeman’s state-law failure-to-warn claim, despite EPA’s conclusion that such a cancer warning would be false and therefore prohibited by FIFRA.  The company asserts that ruling contravenes the Supreme Court’s holding that any state labeling requirement not “genuinely equivalent” to a FIFRA labeling requirement is preempted. Bates v. Dow Agrosciences LLC, 544 U.S. 431, 454 (2005).

Bayer further argues that the Ninth Circuit wrongly affirmed the admission of expert opinions that glyphosate can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and caused Hardeman’s cancer specifically, even though those opinions rested on “little more than subjective intuitions” in conflict with Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993), which requires trial courts to play “a gatekeeping role” to ensure that expert opinions are reliable, and with Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which requires expert opinions to be the product of “reliable principles and methods,” “reliably applied … to the facts of the case,” Fed. R. Evid. 702(c)-(d).

The following groups have filed amici briefs in the case: CropLife America, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Atlantic Legal Foundation, Lawyers for Civil Justice, Product Liability Advisory Council, Inc., Retail Litigation Center, Inc., and Washington Legal Foundation. In response to the Supreme Court announcement, Bayer released a statement declaring that “[n]ow that the Supreme Court has requested input from the Solicitor General in this case, we will not entertain any further settlement discussions with plaintiff lawyers that are representing a substantial number of Roundup claims.”

It is expected that, before the current Court term ends in late June, the justices will probably say whether or not they will hear the case.