EPA has proposed another Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) chemical substances, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts. Under the proposal, significant new uses that would require filing a 90-day notice with EPA include: manufacturing, importing, or processing “an identified subset of LCPFAC chemical substances for any use that will not be ongoing after December 31, 2015, and all other LCPFAC chemicals substances for which there are currently no ongoing uses.” In addition, EPA is continuing its trend in making the articles exemption inapplicable for these substances when imported as part of an article.
In the same proposed rule, EPA also proposes amending a SNUR for perfluorylalkyl sulfonate (PFAS) substances to make the articles exemption inapplicable for importing PFAS substances as part of carpets.
The affected chemicals are used in a variety of industrial applications and consumer goods, including cleaners, textiles, paper and paints, fire-fighting foams, and wire insulation. Their risks to human health and the environment include toxicity, persistence in the environment, and bioaccumulation in humans and animals. The chemicals are found in the blood of the general U.S. population and studies indicate that they may cause reproductive, developmental and systemic effects.
EPA’s proposal targets LCPFAC chemicals containing PFOA and its higher homologues, including the salts and precursors of these substances. Based on data from the 2012 Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule, the LCPFAC substances identified in the proposed SNUR are known to have current or recent ongoing uses. Noting that it is not the agency’s intention to regulate fluoropolymers in this rule, the proposed SNUR’s definition of the LCPFAC category includes a perfluorinated carbon chain length upper limit of 20. However, certain LCPFAC substances intentionally used in fluoropolymer formulation would be subject to reporting for the designated significant new uses.
The proposal defines PFAS substances to mean “a category of perfluorinated sulfonate chemical substances of any chain length.” For PFAS substances, EPA proposes modifying an existing SNUR for the chemical substances listed at 40 CFR 721.9582(a)(1).
The proposed rule is just the latest step in the agency’s ongoing work to regulate perfluorinated chemicals. The SNUR supports EPA’s 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program, a voluntary initiative launched in 2006 with the major global manufacturers of LCPFAC substances. The Stewardship Program aims for a complete emissions and product content phaseout of these chemicals by 2015, and the most recent progress reports on the Program for the years 2014 and 2013, released last week, finds that the participating companies are on track to meet this goal. EPA notes that the SNUR for LCPFACs is proposed “in part in anticipation of this 2015 phase-out deadline.” In addition, the SNUR is consistent with EPA’s 2009 LCPFAC Action Plan. In October 2013, EPA finalized another SNUR on LCPFACs in carpets and PFAS, and earlier SNURs regulated PFAS and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).
Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted through March 23, 2015. In particular, EPA seeks to confirm through comments on this action whether use (including in articles) of the affected chemicals – or related ones – is still ongoing and will cease by the 2015 deadline. The agency notes that the proposed SNUR would not affect any ongoing uses of the chemicals except those that will be phased out by the end of 2015, although “uses not already ongoing as of the publication date of this proposed rule, and ongoing uses that will be phased out by the end of 2015, would not be considered ongoing uses if they later arise, even if they are in existence upon the issuance of a final rule. Furthermore, uses that are ongoing as of the publication date of this proposed rule would not be considered ongoing uses if they have ceased by the date of issuance of a final rule (see Units IV. and VI. for further discussion of what constitutes an ongoing use).” EPA also requests comment on whether PFAS substances are currently imported as part of carpets.