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 Releases Final Scope Document for Manufacturer-Requested Risk Evaluation of D4

On March 7, 2022, EPA published the final scope of the risk evaluation for octamethylcyclotetra-siloxane (D4). This risk evaluation may affect producers of goods comprised of and/or utilizing the following: adhesives, sealants, synthetic rubber, electrical equipment, appliances, paint, ink/toner, aircraft maintenance components, automotive care components, cleaning products, fabrics/textile products. This is not intended to serve as an exhaustive list. The publication of this risk evaluation originated from a request made by the American Chemistry Council’s Silicones Environmental, Health, and Safety Center (SEHSC). The scoping document addresses conditions of use, exposures, hazards, and potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations.

Conditions of Use

Conditions of use for D4 risk evaluation can be sub-divided into the following life cycle stages: manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, industrial use, commercial uses, consumer uses, and disposal. EPA’s evaluation will address each of the aforementioned life cycle stages. Notably, processing is the most nuanced of these stages. Specifically, the processing stage is comprised of three subcategories: processing as a reactant; incorporation into formulation, mixture, or reaction product; and repackaging.

Exposures

In the forthcoming risk evaluation, EPA will evaluate human and environmental exposures as well as releases into the environment resulting from these conditions of use identified in the scoping document. The evaluation will contemplate the physical and chemical properties of D4; environmental fate and transport processes, exposure pathways, and potential human and environmental receptors; releases to the environment; environmental exposures (both aquatic and terrestrial); occupational exposures; consumer exposures; and general population exposures.

Hazards

Regarding environmental hazards, EPA will assess the following potential hazard effects of D4 to aquatic and terrestrial organisms including: absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (collectively referred to as “ADME”), developmental, gastrointestinal, mortality, neurological, nutritional, metabolic, reproductive, and respiratory. The scoping document notes that D4 can degrade into dimethylsilanediol (DMSD) under certain environmental conditions. Accordingly, EPA has indicated that it may factor toxicity information regarding DMSD into its risk evaluation.

With respect to human health hazards, EPA intends to examine the relation of D4 exposure to the following: ADME, cancer, endocrine, gastrointestinal, hematological, immunology, hepatic, mortality, neurological, nutritional/metabolic, ocular/sensory, renal, reproductive, developmental, respiratory, and skin/connective tissue. The scope of EPA’s assessment of the human health hazards of D4 may also contemplate hazards associated with exposure to DMSD as mentioned above.

Potentially Exposed or Susceptible Subpopulations (PESS)

In accordance with the requirement of TSCA section 6, the following groups will be considered potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations in the D4 risk evaluation: children, women who may become pregnant, workers, occupational non-users (ONU), consumers, bystanders, fence line communities, and indigenous and native populations. Environmental justice considerations will also be factored into the PESS analysis. These considerations will follow the best practices discussed within EPA’s Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis.

EPA Releases 2020 TRI National Analysis

In March 2022, EPA released the 2020 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis, showing a decline of 10% for environmental releases of TRI chemicals from the previous year.  EPA states that part of the reason for making the information public is to incentivize companies to reduce pollution.  EPA is also offering $23 million in grants to states and Tribes for developing and providing businesses with aid in adopting pollution prevention practices.

The National Analysis now includes a map information for individuals to display international transfers of chemical waste by different facilities. This information includes the facility that shipped the waste, country of destination, and how the country managed the waste.  Along with these data, users can view greenhouse gas emissions for electric utilities, chemical manufacturing, cement manufacturing, and other industrial sectors.  The mapping tool also provides data for local communities within each state.

Facilities in the 2020 TRI National Analysis used recycling, energy recovery, and treatment as methods to prevent the release of more than 89 percent of the chemical-containing waste that they created and managed. Air pollution was also decreased by 52 million pounds from YEAR.  EPA encourages facilities to use the Agency’s Pollution Prevention Search Tool to discover additional methods of reducing pollution.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act added 172 PFAS to the list of TRI reportable substances.  The 2020 National Analysis was the first to cover reporting of these chemicals.  Nine thousand pounds of the 800,000 pounds of PFAS that were produced in 2020 were reported as releases, with most of the releases coming from the chemical manufacturing sector.  EPA continues to focus on PFAS by contacting facilities that may have reporting errors and those that did not report but were expected to. EPA plans to propose a rulemaking in the summer of 2022 to remove the de minimis exemption for PFAS, which allows facilities to disregard certain minimal concentrations of chemicals. EPA expects the removal of the de minimis exemption will result in more data on releases in future TRI reporting for an expanded perspective on the releases these substances.

Chemours Securities Fraud Litigation to Continue

The New York State Teachers’ Retirement System and others (Teachers) will be able to continue pursuing claims that Chemours kept investors in the dark about the billions in potential environmental liabilities.  On February 24th, a federal judge in Delaware ruled that Teachers’ claims of securities fraud plead sufficient facts to survive Chemours’ motion to dismiss.  Specifically, plaintiffs allege that Chemours financial statements “dramatically mischaracterized Chemours’ true financial condition and vastly understated Chemours’ liabilities from decades of environmental pollution.”

The court found that starting in February 2017, Chemours disclosed that “higher clean-up costs that might result ‘under adverse changes in circumstances, although deemed remote.’ … once Chemours chose to make that disclosure-even if not required by [Generally Accepted Accounting Practices] GAAP or otherwise-it had to speak truthfully … [and that] a reasonable investor could have plausibly inferred from the language Defendants used to ‘provide’ in the challenged SEC reports Chemours’ ‘higher clean-up costs’ that Chemours was disclosing its maximum potential remediation liabilities.”  The court explained that “the question then is whether Plaintiff has alleged in the Complaint facts sufficient to plausibly imply that Defendants did not in fact believe that Chemours’ s environmental remediation liabilities were capped at the sums disclosed in the SEC reports.”

Teachers drew on two sources to supports their claim that Chemours did not in fact believe that its environmental remediation liabilities were capped at the sums disclosed in the SEC reports.  First, Teachers argued that Chemours “specifically itemized” $2.5 billion of inherited liabilities as of the time it was spun-off from DuPont, in a complaint against DuPont in a 2019 Delaware Chancery Court Complaint – in that unrelated case, Chemours asserted that “DuPont violated New Jersey law by spinning off Chemours on the basis of underestimated environmental liabilities without providing the State with the ‘financial assurance necessary to ensure’ that the necessary clean-up can be done.”  Second, Teachers asserted that a 2018 internal evaluation of total environmental remediation costs company-wide identified costs of more than $2 billion.  The court held that Chemours’s allegations in the Chancery Court Complaint do not plausibly imply that the company made false representations about its maximum potential environmental remediation liabilities in the challenged SEC reports.  However, it also found that “a rational juror could plausibly infer from the [internal evaluation] that … Defendants believed that Chemours’ s environmental remediation liabilities were approximately two billion dollars,” a significantly greater amount than Chemours had said its liabilities were; that is, that Chemours had made false statements about liability.

Chemours argued that “even if Plaintiff had identified any error in Chemours’ environmental liability disclosures, they would nevertheless be inactionable because they were accurate statements of opinion.” However, the court held that “statements of opinion … are ‘actionable under the securities laws if they are not honestly believed and lack a reasonable basis.’”  In addition, the court explained that Teachers’ allegations plausibly implied that Chemours did not consider the maximum remediation liability disclosures accurate, and therefore, those disclosures could be actionable opinions.

The court also held the Teachers had adequately pleaded its claims against Chemours’ President and CEO and the company’s Senior Vice President and COO (previously its CFO) for the two to continue as defendants in the case.

 

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.

EPA Announces Order for PFAS Testing – Response to Petition from Public Health and Environmental Justice NGOs

On December 28, 2021, EPA announced that the Agency was granting a petition from several North Carolina public health and environmental justice organizations to require companies to conduct health and toxicity testing of certain PFAS.  In its announcement, EPA explained that the petitioners’ request “plays a key role in advancing the Agency’s plans for a National PFAS Testing Strategy.”

The National PFAS Testing Strategy requires PFAS manufacturers to provide EPA with toxicity data and other information on categories of PFAS.  This approach breaks the thousands of PFAS into categories based on characteristics and assesses what data are presently available for each category.  The test data will eventually be used to inform regulatory efforts to protect human health and the environment.

The petition asking the Agency to require testing on the health and environmental impacts of 54 PFAS was first submitted in October 2020.  The petition was submitted by the Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear, Democracy Green, Toxic Free NC, and the NC Black Alliance.   The petition identified the 54 substances at issue as PFAS manufactured by the Chemours Company.   In January 2021, the previous Administration denied the petition.  In March 2021, the petitioners asked EPA to reconsider its denial.  In September 2021, EPA agreed to do so “in light of the change in administration and in policy priorities concerning PFAS.”

In granting the petition, EPA is requiring testing under the National PFAS Testing Strategy.  EPA’s first test orders under the Testing Strategy, for 24 categories of PFAS, will provide human health hazard data that covers 30 of the 54 petition chemicals.  Nine of the PFAS identified in the petition belong to a single category included in the Testing Strategy.  EPA is assessing if the existing data is sufficient and will likely order testing in the future.  EPA explained that the 15 remaining petition chemicals do not fit the definition of PFAS used in developing the Testing Strategy.  However, the Agency will analyze available data on these substances to inform later phases of testing.

In response to the petition, EPA also announced that the Agency is taking part in and analyzing many ongoing human studies on PFAS.  This includes evaluations of potentially exposed workers and communities in North Carolina.

The petition requested the development or submission of analytical standards with the test orders.  In response, EPA is requesting comment on whether to require the submission of existing analytical methods for PFAS.  This would occur through a future PFAS rulemaking.

The Agency’s press release on the petition quotes Administrator Michael S. Regan: “By taking action on this petition, EPA will have a better understanding of the risks from PFAS pollution so we can do more to protect people.”