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.