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.”